Physical Steps for Mental Health

For some strange reason, the news hit me like a punch in the gut. I hadn’t even known the man, but Anthony Bourdain’s passing somehow elicited in me a very strong response. But why?

I, like most women, love a bad boy. I had watched his show No Reservations for years, envious of the exotic places he visited and fascinated by his narration of each show. He seemed to be able to connect deeply with the people he encountered. His words seem to flow seamlessly through him, evoking feelings of hunger, lust and longing. And come on, Anthony Bourdain was cool. He seemed effortlessly able to blend in wherever he may be. A talented chef, a brilliant writer, and unbeknownst to most of the world a man who was suffering tremendous pain. Enough so, that he took his own life.

The Nature of Suffering

Buddhists know that life is suffering, it is the very foundation of their religion. Monks find solitude in the mountains, away from family, never to marry. They give up all worldly possessions. Why? Because all of those listed above bring pain. Those we love will eventually pass away, causing gut wrenching agony. Wanting of material possessions brings suffering as those who are never satisfied with what they have are suffering. The monks try to find Nirvana by meditation and solitude.

Why is this happening?

Suicide has become an epidemic in the United States. Dr. N. Michael Baddar, Medical Director of In and Out Express Care and I & O Medical Centers, has an idea why. “Americans are all about themselves, the ‘I’, but if you go to say Sweden, they are all about ‘we’. The way of thinking here is that it’s every man for himself whereas elsewhere it is about community. Americans are a very lonely people.” There are not enough support structures in place to help those who need it here. Mental health treatment is often not covered by insurance. And Americans are suffering because of it. It’s tragic to think that someone thinks that killing him/her self is a more viable option than going to seek help for their mental health issues.

Endurance training and depression

Being an endurance athlete, I had long ago discovered that a long run, bike ride or swim can cure what ails you. After a good training session, a feeling of satiation would come over me. I would reach a point of exhaustion that made it impossible to be depressed or obsessed or whatever was on my mind that particular day. Whatever was troubling me seemed to fall away, replaced with the glorious satisfaction of a good workout, a job well done. A cold Coca-Cola with ice and 1/2 of a pizza and all was right with the world. And my sleep on these days was sound, not marred by racing thoughts that would so often keep me awake.

Small steps

Were you aware that exercise helps with depression? There are simple things we can all do on our own to take control of our mental health. The simple act of going out for a quick three-mile run before work, clears the mind, lowers blood pressure, stabilizes mood and releases endorphins. If you don’t like to run, go for a walk on the beach. The sound of ocean waves has been scientifically proven (Blue Mind) to relax the human brain. Play a round of golf, go for a bike ride, take out your paddle board or surfboard and spend some time on the water. All of these things help get you out of the cycle of depression and center you, letting you focus on positive things. Every one of us is awesome in some way. You’re beautiful. You’re special. You’re wanted. You’re never alone. You do matter. You would be missed. Step away from this screen and get moving. Do something for yourself. Take control of your life because you only get one. If you do it right, once is enough.