Warning: This post is heavy on opinions, light on actual facts. Proceed.

So, while reading my favorite online news source yesterday, The Daily Mail, there was an article on how one woman beat her long-term depression with Zumba.

I. Love. This. Article.

We health and wellness bloggers talk a lot about intuitive eating and the like, but what about ‘intuitive being’? (I made that up, don’t google it, it’s not a thing. I’ll explain.)

I speak from experience when I say we all go through our ups and downs. Sometimes for longer periods of time than normal and sometimes those lows are lower than they should be. But why? Are our bodies and brains trying to tell us that something is inherently wrong with our lives, and that we need to take action, similar to how we get light-headed, cranky and stomach aches when we’re really hungry and need to eat?

Personally, I think so.

But the answer most doctors will give you is a pill. And if that pill doesn’t work, hey here’s another pill that will help that pill, however now you’re going to need another pill to combat some of the side effects of that pill, including but not limited to, depression. Sooo, here are 2 more pills, 1 pill to take care of the side affects of the 3rd pill and one to take care of the other side effects that result from combining those 4 pills. And wait before you go, here, take one more pill for good luck.

thats enough big pharma

Now, for the record I am NOT anti-pharmaceuticals in any way. In many cases, chemical imbalances should be treated chemically. BUT exercise is a great way to combat that sinking feeling for 2 big reasons:

1. Exercise builds strength and confidence. When you accomplish physical goals, it gives you a sense of control over your life. That new found control gives you the confidence you need to fix all the other parts of your life that need fixing.

And 2. Exercise releases endorphins and pumps the brain full of those feel good chemicals pills try to synthetically recreate.

Unfortunately, when we start to feel down in the dumps what’s the first thing that we tend to drop from our schedules? Yep, our workouts. Let’s try not to do that.

The moral of the story: Find an exercise you love to do and do it often. If you’re struggling with depression, it’s going to be a battle, uncomfortable and not all pleasant no matter what you do. But I think working to overcome it is better in the long run than numbing it. As they say in The Princess Bride: “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Have you ever been through an especially low period? (Several)

How do you feel about anti-depressants?

How do you pull yourself up when you’re down?

50 Thoughts on “Unsolicited Advice From A Non-MD

  1. I agree completely! Sometimes even when you do not feel like working-out just showing up is the workout and thats OK. A very short workout or not the 100% effort workout is far better then nothing at all…especially for a well needed mood booster! AND it is REALLY OK not to feel elated every second of every day as long as you remain kind to others!
    carlotta recently posted…HypocrisyMy Profile

    • I completely agree! just because you’re not in the best mood all the time doesnt mean there’s something wrong with you. in fact there would be something wrong if that was the case :)

      • I could not agree more with the “show up – do work” method (as I like to call it). Not every day is a give-it-110%-all-out-workout-day. But getting to the gym or on that dusty treadmill is sometimes enough. Do what you can on days like this, then do a little better tomorrow. You will feel better when your done working out. Great post, sometimes these things just need to be said.
        Tom T. recently posted…Product Review: FAGE Split CupsMy Profile

  2. Thankfully, I don’t know very much about antidepressants. However, I am a huge advocate for homeopathic remedies and medicine. Working out, eating right, lots of laughing, and meditation can totally be a cure in my book. I watched a documentary called Fat Sick and Nearly Dead about people who had serious health problems that “miraculously” disappeared when they started juicing and exercising. So while pills and medication are in some cases completely necessary, I think our society has come to rely on them as an easy and quick fix that allows them to maintain their current potentially unhealthy lifestyle.
    Her Happy Balance recently posted…Friday Favorites! (7/26/13)My Profile

  3. 110% agree with you (and Leslee!). That’s my main qualm with the medical field these days–people go to doctors for pills, and then afterwards, they usually go right back to what they were doing: eating unhealthily, eating too much, and not exercising, and then getting all sorts of illnesses and diseases. When I was shadowing, some of the patients had medication lists miles long for things like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, things that could be fixed with a healthy diet and exercise.
    Beth @ Mangoes and Miles recently posted…Wild West Adventure: Days 2 & 3ish, Yellowstone Part 1My Profile

    • precisely! and one of my friends who is a doctor gets really frustrated with people who don’t want to put in the work. Like, a lot of their ailments could be treated with a healthy lifestyle but they want the pills instead. its hard to be a doctor nowadays!

  4. I’ve definitely been through a low two years of my life and I can tell you the happier days are the days I’m able to move around more. Even small walks make a HUGE difference in my mood! I do believe some anti-depressants are needed in order to sort out chemical imbalances, but doctors due prescribe A LOT of medications like they are candy. It’s ridiculous sometimes!

    • Yes! i went through a low phase in my mid-twenties and the only thing that really worked to pull me out was exercise. it was a long process but for me personally, it was worth the effort.

  5. This is the best health & wellness advice EVER! There are countless studies that prove the positive impact exercise has on our mental & physical well being. There are even studies that link physical activity to better sex lives. Woohoo!

    You’re absolutely right that some conditions warrant prescription medications to correct a chemical imbalance, and you should trust your doctor in those situations. But to beat a case of the crummies, there’s nothing like gettin’ your sweat on to turn that frown upside down! Throw in some sunshine & Vitamin D, and you’re golden…literally & figuratively!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted…Links for Runners, Rockers & Other Awesome PeopleMy Profile

  6. I’m very anti-pills, even for little things like headaches. I’m a huge believer in taking care of your mind and body first and foremost. While I know a lot of people really do need anti-depressants, they’re often way over-prescribed! And since we’re quoting today, in the words of Elle Woods: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” My husband is happy that I’m an avid gym-goer! :-)
    Kelly @ Kelly Runs for Food recently posted…Friday RunMy Profile

    • OMG- I HAD THAT QUOTE IN MY POST!! LOL i think we’re psychic :) i had it in the beginning, and then took it out because, well, i dont know why. it just made my day you broke out the elle woods!!

  7. Such an interesting topic to post on! I think that we live in an extremely over-medicated society. You have a problem? Take this pill to solve it! When I was in my ED, it was suggested that I should go on an anti-depressant that would increase my appetite. Umm…no. Just making me hungrier when I refuse to eat? Not really the best way to go about it. Of course, it was a mix of therapy and determination that I needed, not a damn pill. Pills are the easy way out, when something else would be harder (therapy, or the example you give of exercise) but would actually solve the problem at it’s root instead of forcing your brain to release chemicals to cover it up.

    • Oh I completely agree! i love therapy! during my low points, I had a great therapist- it was the combination of that and regular exercise that really did the most good for me personally.

  8. I love the idea of “intuitive being”. I think as a society we are so over influenced by medication and not in a positive way, for the most part.
    This is a really great topic, but there are somethings I may disagree on. For one, I have panic disorder, and without taking my medication I would honestly be in the hospital nearly daily because of the negative effects I get from it, and for now medication helps me but I’m hoping one day I’ll be able to give it up.
    I totally understand that pills are practically the “easy way out” but I’ve been dealing with this for years, even seeing therapists multiple times per week and for now this is the only way I can deal with it.
    But, I do believe most things can be somewhat fixed if people focus on making healthier choices with food and exercise.
    Lisa recently posted…Friday RandomsMy Profile

    • oh i TOTALLY agree. and i hope i didnt push a “pills are the easy way out” agenda because i truly don’t see them that way in all cases. In your case and the case of SO many others, they HELP you get better. and thats why they’re there. its the over-prescribing thats happening in this country that almost discounts the people who really benefit from them, which, in itself is another downside.

  9. Great discussion to raise, Charlotte! To an extent I think taking pills is an easy way out and doesn’t get to the root issue. Rather than avoid them completely, I think they should be merely part of the solution, not the be all end all.
    Khushboo recently posted…Friday Favorites 07/26My Profile

    • YES- completely. in some cases, they are a necessary part of healing. like, in order to get to the point where you even can make progress, they can be very effective. and hopefully doctors can differentiate who truly needs them.

  10. Charlotte, I could not agree with you more! I completely agree that exercise can help you deal with stress and depression in your life. I’ve never been on medication for depression or anxiety despite going through several stressful periods in my life and I think in a large part that is due to my regular workouts. Plus Zumba is so much fun!!
    FitBritt@MyOwnBalance recently posted…Who Says You Can’t Look Great When You Sweat? (Athleta Giveaway!)My Profile

    • same! i credit diet and exercise with pulling me out of some rather deep holes in my mid-twenties. i know everyone is different, but that worked for me.

  11. Dito to everything you said…I’m not much of a pill lover/promoter either
    Michelle @ 3cheaprunners recently posted…McDonald’s Double Dip & Getting on the T25 TrainMy Profile

  12. Great points, and I love that you acknolwedge some things do need to be dealt with chemically. Very true.
    On the other hand, for those slumps or low periods we fall into, exercise can most definitely play a huge part in getting us out of them and making us feel better.
    When I’m down, exercise is one of the only things that makes me feel better and clears my mind, especially outdoor activity.
    Great conversation for a Friday!
    Abby @ Change of Pace recently posted…The drafter became the drafteeMy Profile

    • Exactly- everyone is different, and in some cases, medication is necessary and beneficial, but nowadays it seems like almost anything counts as an excuse for an Rx, and that doesnt help most people.

  13. Absolute no to pills, doesn’t help, even if does, there are multiple side effects.
    I love your article. I think the best way is to watch Lucy’s Show and do some yoga. Trust me you are good to go.
    It’s hard, when we are , but we don’t pull ourselves up, no one will.
    I also love your introduction, awesome,,,add me to that club:)..Nice to meet you.

    • Nice to meet you too! i LOVE this- “but we don’t pull ourselves up, no one will.” that is essentially the motto by which i live my life. its so true.

  14. Good job Charlotte. I really do agree with you. Unfortuntaely, I think way too many “conditions” in our society are overdiagnosed and covered up with drugs to treat the symptoms, when nothing ever gets said about the actual underlying cause.
    Sarah @ Sweet Miles recently posted…Pro Compression Sock ReviewMy Profile

    • exactly, in so many cases, the depression is the symptom rather than the problem- and taking pills is like trying to cure a stomach ache due to hunger with a tylenol. it might numb the pain a bit but its not fixing the problem.

  15. I think that it really depends on the person!

    But personally (and I’ve had experience) I think there are other options
    Jocelyn @ Peace Love Nutrition recently posted…5 Things Yoga has Taught me about LifeMy Profile

    • I couldn’t agree more! I think that for some people, a pill might be very beneficial, but its also good to explore other options in healing. Really well said.

  16. I completely agree with you. Doctors are so quick to medicate every ailment these days and I think exercise and a healthy diet could probably cure more than half of the health problems our society faces. Pssh. We should be doctors. We’d be like, “Oh, you don’t feel good? Go do some burpees and all will be right again.” :)
    Sarah @ making thyme for health recently posted…BBQ Tempeh Sandwiches with Apple SlawMy Profile

  17. While I think we do over-medicate, and are attempting to fix the symptoms not the problem itself, I do think that in some instances anti-depressants are necessary. Although I’ve gotta say I’m still very much on the fence about it.

    I think we all know what those low periods feel like – and how sometimes when you are in them, the mind can play tricks on you, leading you to think that life is not worth living. If anti-depressants could help somebody out of that hole (which is so dark I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy) that I’d support that.
    Mitchell recently posted…A Lad of LeisureMy Profile

    • great point- you’re absolutely right- sometimes anti-depressants can be life saving. and in those cases i’m so glad we have them. and just like pain killers can become addicting after the person no longer truly needs them, i think anti-depressants are proving themselves similar. just goes to show, everything in moderation.

  18. What a well written piece, Charlotte! I have had family members battle depression, who have experienced the side affects from medication. Whilst it initially did work, the dependence became far too extreme, and they became addicted to it, and the vicious unsteady emotional cycle followed. However, a good friend of mine quit anti depression medication cold turkey, and fell in love with crossfit, and it was like his depression disappeared- the endorphins and natural high he got from both the exercise and people around him was like its own anti depressant- but one without negative side affects!
    Arman @ thebigmansworld recently posted…Off the cuff Fridays 26/7/13My Profile

    • oh i’m so happy for your friend! i’ve had friends too who have been on anti-depressants only to have them do more harm than good, which i think was part of the reason i wrote this post. of course sometimes those drugs are necessary, but i find it so uplifting when people fight back against their depression and win.

  19. I think there is definitely a time and place for antidepressants. I haven’t experienced true depression before, but I get very stressed and become a worry wart. I try to put things in perspective, but going on that run helps me sort things out and feel great. Washes my worries away. Love this post. I wish more of my physical therapy clients realized that exercise will cure more than their pill.
    Britt @ BrittsRunningStyle recently posted…Island Boost #PerformanceFuel Review & GIVEAWAY!!!My Profile

    • I completely agree- my main problem is with anxiety and getting my sweat on really has a way of keeping it in check. i wish people didnt put so much faith in their pills too.

  20. Warning: This COMMENT is heavy on opinions, light on actual facts. Proceed. :)

    I completely agree with the article AND your post. Running is my antidepressant. When things go right or wrong, running is ALWAYS there for me. It’s my time with myself where I can think, reflect, sometimes hate how I’m feeling, gripe about how it’s hard, or talk to a friend. Sometimes if I’m not feeling too well or am just having a weird day with my body, running does WAY more than any medication I’ve ever taken. Exercise is an amazing thing!
    Katherine recently posted…The Pirate’s House.My Profile

  21. I definitely think healthy living helps promote a happy attitude. Making smart choices just makes me feel so much better about myself and about my day – and I know many of my friends feel the same!
    Emma @ Culturecopia recently posted…Grad Trip 2013: Exploring Turkey & Greece, part IMy Profile

  22. I struggle here and there with feeling down. My best medicine is going for a run. Once I get started every mile improves my mentality. Also Zumba can definitely help. I rarely tire my hair back in zumba, somehow it helps me relive my cheerleading days. :) great post.

  23. I totally agree! Sometimes drugs are completely necessary (like if you have genetic conditions that cause super high BP or cholesterol), but I also think that for common problems, food, exercise, and talking it out should be the first things people turn to. That’s what I’m hoping to help accomplish with a career in nutrition!
    Alyssa @ Road to RD recently posted…MIMM- Being PositiveMy Profile

  24. Exercise definitely helps my mild depression! As someone who has needed anti-depressants in the past, I think that they do have a time and place. However, I think we as a society are way too dependent on “lifestyle” drugs prescribed because it’s easier to take a pill than change how we live. If you are interested, Our Daily Meds is a great read about the pharmaceutical industry.
    Elle@thewaybyelle recently posted…50 Healthy Food and Exercise Comment Luv BlogsMy Profile

    • thanks for the rec!! i feel the same way- sometimes, anti-depressants are exactly what people need, and you’re living proof that it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be on it forever.

  25. LOVE this post. Unfortunately, I’m super guilty of skipping workouts when I’m feeling down, even though I know that they ALWAYS make me feel better. No matter how crazy my life is, a little sweat always makes things feel just a little more manageable. Finding the motivation to get myself out there? Another story.

    I have mixed feelings towards anti-depressants, though. I’m with you – I agree that chemical imbalances should be treated chemically. However, I do wonder if they aren’t prescribed too haphazardly sometimes and they seem like a really slippery slope…
    Alex @ Brain, Body, Because recently posted…Hello from Saipan!My Profile

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