3 Ways your Mental Health is Sabotaging Your Exercise and How to Stop It

In 2008 my Dad had a heart attack and had to have bypass surgery. He lived out of state at the time and soon after, my siblings and insisted they move back to Indiana so we could be close if something ever happened again. After they moved, my Dad and I began working out together at a local gym. It was such a great time of day, to spend one on one time with my Dad. He has since joined a different gym and we don’t work out as often but those are still some of my favorite memories. It’s safe to say that working out with my Dad on those mornings not only helped my physical health but my mental health as well. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (2020), some of the many physical benefits of working out are improved flexibility, balance, strength and cardiovascular health. Some mental health benefits include lessening of depression and anxiety, as well as improved sleep. We all know there are many benefits of working out, but we usually find many excuses not to do it.

Here are 3 ways your Mental Health is Sabotaging Your Exercise: 

  1. Depression: Especially when people are feeling depressed, they tend to view everything through the depression lens and how doing something or not doing something makes them feel. When this is the case, it makes it difficult to get motivated to do anything, especially working out. 

  2. Anxiety: One of the symptoms of anxiety is feeling jittery, making it difficult to think. This makes it difficult to make plans, especially to workout. It also makes it easy to talk yourself out of working out!

  3. Guilt or Shame: When people know they need to work out and don’t, the guilt and shame cycle starts. When this cycle starts the brain will do all kinds of things to make you sabotage yourself. 

Here are 6 Solutions to get over these mental health roadblocks: 

  1. Give your future self a gift. I use this a lot because it is so applicable to so many areas of our lives. When I’m unmotivated to workout, I think about how much better I’ll feel afterwards, or how nice it will be to spend some time talking with my friend. I use this in other areas too such as cleaning, organizing or tackling a project.

  2. Set a reasonable goal. In previous posts, you know I almost always encourage people to start small and add to the goal as you accomplish a particular goal. Instead of deciding on Sunday you’re going to get up at 5am and workout every single day. Decide that you’re going to workout 3 days that week no matter what. Then when you feel like you’re doing that consistently, add another day. 

  3. The 15-minute rule: I use this one a lot in all areas of life as well. When I’m completely unmotivated to do something, I set a timer for 15 minutes and then I start on the task. I give myself permission to stop after 15 minutes but I almost always finish the task I started. Honestly, the hardest part of doing almost anything is getting started! Especially for Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), they have a very difficult time with transitions and will procrastinate on a task because they’re afraid it might overwhelm them.

  4. Find something you like (or love) to do: HSPs especially get bored easily which means they might even get bored with one type of workout. After my Dad and I had worked out at the same gym for a while, we got bored, so we switched to a new gym that offers a high intensity work out. I just have to brag on my Dad a minute. He is in his mid-70’s and he runs like a boss on the treadmill! Like running without stopping. He’s a beast in these high intensity workouts! Personally, I balance these high intensity workouts with going to my regular gym and doing a less intense workout. There are so many apps, YouTube videos, online personal trainers (check out Trainer Lindsey-her workouts will get your butt and they’re free!) and so much more. I also like finding high intensity treadmill workouts, and following a plan for running and walking for my workout. Spending a little money on an app or gym that you love is completely worth the investment in my opinion! 

  5. Spend some money on good equipment: For the longest time I didn’t have good workout clothes and shoes. But we now have several stores in the area where workout gear is very reasonable. I love having several good workout pants, shoes and shirts. I feel much better going to the gym because I feel more put together and they’re more comfortable. Because you know, they’re made for working out. 

  6. Go with a friend: Almost from the beginning when I started working out over 20 years ago, I went with a friend. This is a great chance to catch up with each other while doing something good for my mental and physical health. Even if my friend can’t go, I try and have a podcast or book ready to listen to so that time goes faster. 

I hope this helps you be kind to yourself as you create good habits for working out. Since Christmas is coming up, you might ask for some of these things as gifts! I try to get a new pair of workout shoes around Christmas time, that way I know when I’ve had them about 6 months and it’s time to replace them. 

As a parent, I know when I’m feeling better about myself, I’m a better parent to my boys. I love helping parents untwist their thinking in all areas of parenting, especially parents of highly sensitive kids! I’m not currently taking new clients right now for therapy but I am still available to work with parents for coaching. I have a new parenting cohort starting in January. In this cohort you’ll get:

A free copy of my workbook for Highly Sensitive Kids

3 90-minute group parent coaching sessions, online once a month for 3 months

1 30 minute one on one phone call with me

1 SOS email

This is a great way to work with me and help you feel better equipped to parent your Highly Sensitive Kid(s)! You can sign up or get more information here

I hope this helps you find the answer to questions about being realistic in making some healthy changes, like exercising regularly, and how it might help improve your mental health.  If you’re still feeling uneasy about this process, please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling. If you are looking for help with depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling.

Centers for Disease Control. (2020, October 7). Benefits of Physical Activity.

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