• jess

HOW TO: Overcome stagnancy! Start hiking to Heal.

Updated: Jun 12

This is a HOW TO post in the Exercise for Trauma Recovery Series.

To check out the full string of posts, click away here:

(No link? Not released yet! Stay tuned or subscribe.)


OVER-exercising for appearance? You're sprinting towards a trauma response

Restrictive eating and your trauma brain

MASTER POST: The key to complex trauma management: Exercising for mental wellness

The difference between exercising for appearance vs mental wellness

Guest post: Wisdom and Photos from Fred

How to make yourself DO IT

Guest Blogger Danny Urbana "Get up and get down and get outside"



Coming up next:

Impromptu LIVE reporting from my trauma hell

(plans change.)


THEN:

The Endless Trauma Loops Series.



Every morning I wake up with the sun. I try to become aware of my surroundings and take a few minutes in bed warming my brain up to the idea of another day.


One of the first thoughts I’ve programmed myself to cycle through is, “Morning exercise?”

Every morning, my body’s response is a resounding, “Fuck you.”


I know that I should. I have all the education and personal experience to realize what a difference early cardio out in nature makes for my mental health and productivity. There’s not a single doubt in my mind that getting outdoors as soon as the sun rises leads to a calmer emotional state, thought organization, and lasting focus for the entire day.

I feel the days and weeks that I’m a lazy turd through means of unshakable brain fog, rumination, tension, restlessness, and self-hate that last from sunup to… whenever I exhaust myself enough to pass out.


And yet, some shitty voice always steps out of the crowd to say, “Maybe not today.”


I feel the days and weeks that I’m a lazy turd through means of unshakable brain fog, rumination, tension, restlessness, and self-hate that last from sunup to… whenever I exhaust myself enough to pass out... And yet, some shitty voice always steps out of the crowd to say, “Maybe not today.”

Might as well roll over, rest my eyes a while longer, spend more time scrolling at news stories I don’t care about, start working as soon as I get up, and find myself completely disheveled with anxiety around 2pm. Right? At that point, I’m too stalled out by anxiety to remedy my lack of exercise and all the parks I frequent are jam-packed with other humans, anyways.


My fate is sealed. It’s going to be a bad day.


Does this sound familiar?


How do YOU choose to fuck yourself over several times a week or more? Maybe through similar means?

Please stop.

If hiking for trauma recovery’s biggest proponent still repeatedly struggles to heed her own damn advice, what chance do others have?


How do you overcome the dread and heaviness to get into the practice?


How do you trick your brain into getting the first uncomfortable trips over with?


How do you convince yourself to keep going back, even when you’re “feeling so great you don’t need it?”


UGH. Let’s count the hacks.






Go in the morning. Period.


My guess is, when you consider exercising you notice an immediate presence of heavy, sticky-feeling sensations in your body. A strong resistance that fills your chest and gut. Guilt and self-shame erupt out of nowhere because you’ve known you were being shitty to yourself all along, and somehow ya did it anyways.


This feeling, in turn, cripples you.


Now there’s NO FUCKING WAY you’re going to get active today. You’re too busy in a shame spiral, headed straight for depression and helplessness. You’ll think about it. You’ll “mean to” do it. And then you’ll punish yourself for 24 hours while you sit on the couch or find busy work to fill every second.


Now there’s NO FUCKING WAY you’re going to get active today. You’re too busy in a shame spiral, headed straight for depression and helplessness. You’ll think about it. You’ll “mean to” do it. And then you’ll punish yourself for 24 hours while you sit on the couch or find busy work to fill every second.

“Whoops, got distracted. Maybe tomorrow though.”


And the shame/anxiety spiral starts all over again. Rinse and repeat. It fills me with stress just thinking about it.


Here’s the ferking truth. You will always have a million reasons why this isn’t the best time.


There's always a way to rationalize why you aren’t ready to go. Why it’ll take more effort than it’s worth. Why you have other priorities to attend to. Why it would actually be ‘’so selfish to go out for a walk.


So, motherfucker, just don’t give yourself a chance to let those justifications dance through your head.


Get the fuck up out of bed, put on yoga pants and sunscreen, grab a water bottle, and walk out the door. It’s that easy.


Sitting around all day immersed in work and household responsibilities and trying to schedule a time to go exercise around everyone’s developing needs? Now that’s difficult.


Get the fuck up out of bed, put on yoga pants and sunscreen, grab a water bottle, and walk out the door. It’s that easy... Sitting around all day immersed in work and household responsibilities, and trying to schedule a time to go exercise around everyone’s developing needs? Now that’s difficult.

And, if you’re honest with yourself, you aren’t going to do it. You’re just building a taller obstacle to stare at all day, full of action-potential, tension, and expectation… before ultimately concluding that the sun is setting and now you can’t find a way around or over it.


Day after day, you set yourself up for failure and internally the dread and disappointment grows. You’re beating yourself up now. You’re despising every jogger you see circling the block. You’ve created new stories about how unfair your life is and how helpless you are, because (insert health concern here). You’ll probably even find yourself turning to snacking to relieve the discomfort – so you’re screwing the pooch in every way possible and fueling the self-shame fire with gasoline.


Don’t do it.


Just wake up and go exercise first thing in the morning. Here’s why:


1) you’ll actually do it.


2) you’ll start your day with incredible satisfaction and relief of actually doing it. Be PROUD of yourself even.


3) your brain will be clean and organized (relatively speaking) and your day will progress with a sense of calm collected focus that you haven’t experienced in years.


4) my opinion; everything is prettier, and everyone you encounter is nicer in the morning. Sets a soft tone for the day. You can practice saying “good morning” to strangers, and meaning it, too.


Go in the morning. Don’t even think about it. Make it a habit. Thank me in a year when you’re doing great and can’t imagine life any other way. Ya welcome.


Bonus: Easily lower the potential for morning frenzy or obstacle overwhelm by preparing your workout gear, water bottle, headphones, keys, etc. the night before. Check the weather forecast at that point and make alterations if necessary. Then, you can be half-asleep and still pull this shit together first thing in the morning. NBD.




Make it a special time for you and everyone you know


It’s easy to say, “do something nice for yourself.” It’s a lot harder to get over the personal shame and blame game and actually make the time.


I want to tell you all the ways you can turn exercise into personally treatin’ yo self, but a large part of me feels like that’s a mistake.


We traumatized populations are, after all, best at punishing ourselves and writing off things we “don’t deserve.” I bet you already do plenty of it. I’m not going to preach something that we inherently can’t wrap our self-hating heads around.


So, first, let’s talk in your native inner language; Asshole.


Let’s mention the ways you’re utterly failing the people you care about. Feel that one, don’t ya?



Do it for them


When you’re in a bad place, you’re going to act like a bad friend/sibling/partner/child/

neighbor/coworker/dog parent/cousin/whateverthefuck.


You’ll try to be there for them. You’ll want to show up in your relationships. You’ll intend to be a great employee, confidant, or caregiver. But your attention will always be split between what you’re avoiding and what’s going on right in front of your face.


Your accrued tensions will bubble over at inappropriate times. Your brain will tune out for important conversations. Your frustrations with the world will become everyone’s frustrations. Your anxiety will be passed along to all your loved ones.


Don’t transmit your unorganized brain and unmanaged mental illness to the people you care about the most.


Don’t transmit your unorganized brain and unmanaged mental illness to the people you care about the most.

That’s it.


You have the tool you need to correct the issue. You just have to decide to go do it. Do it for someone you love if you can’t do it for yourself.


If you can’t carve out an hour or so each morning to correct your thinking and work out the lingering bugs, don’t even bother pretending that you care about your other obligations. If you really did, you would take care of your shit first.


If you can’t carve out an hour or so each morning to correct your thinking and work out the lingering bugs, don’t even bother pretending that you care about your other obligations. If you really did, you would take care of your shit first.

Boom. Guilt yourself with that one (if you must).



Do it for you


But, tough love aside, you deserve nice mornings, focused thoughts, and a calm inner world.

So how can you make the whole morning exercise experience a pleasurable one?


Do this:


Think of it as your time before the world gets to determine your activities. The rest of the day will be packed with working, caretaking, social interactions, and stress. I promise. If the next 23 hours are devoted to other people and other obligations, don’t you think you deserve about 4.17% of your day to be devoted to you?


Think of it as your time before the world gets to determine your activities. The rest of the day will be packed with working, caretaking, social interactions, and stress. I promise. If the next 23 hours are devoted to other people and other obligations, don’t you think you deserve about 4.17% of your day to be devoted to you?

Get a favorite insightful/funny/mind opening podcast. Only listen to said podcast on the way to your exercise destination and during your activity. Look forward to it every day as part of your special time.


Turn off your notifications. Put that shit on Do Not Disturb before you hit the trails. You DO NOT need to be on call with your boss/coworkers/family ALL the time. They WILL be okay. They CAN wait. Boundaries make the relationship stronger and your brain a focused place.


When you’re out in the woods, convince yourself not to think of the next activity on your list. Exist only in that period of time. Refuse to let your brain ruin your time by prematurely teleporting you to shit you do for other people.


Easier said than done? Time to get out your physical planner – block off this time, block off your work, block off your family obligations, and notice the immense boundary between the things. Absorb: You do not have to fill your spare time with thinking about your occupied time; they are different activities at different periods. Just do what you’re supposed to be doing right now.


If it helps you to think of it this way, you’re only paid for so many hours per week. Everything outside of that is YOUR FUCKING TIME. Emails be damned.


If it helps you to think of it this way, you’re only paid for so many hours per week. Everything outside of that is YOUR FUCKING TIME. Emails be damned.

Bring a mug of hot coffee, a granola bar, and another activity you enjoy but rarely make time for (a journal, a camera, a book…). Don’t exercise and run off to point B. After you work out, sit and enjoy your simple, intentional amenities. Seal in the good feels. Make your daily want-to-do list. Snap some photos of the scenery. Deeply immerse yourself in 20 minutes of unbothered reading. Solidify the clear realizations your brilliant exercise mind brought up by writing. Give yourself an extra pause and make the end of your exercise experience its own special event.



You deserve this and so does everyone you love. Go have a nice morning.



Final tips to make this shit happen


Lower the perceived obstacles between you and your goal. Whatever holds you up, take care of it ahead of time.


Exercise in the morning before you’re distracted, stressed, and shaming yourself.


Set an intention the night before. Decide now so you just have to do it later.


Lay out your clothes and shoes the night before.


Prepare your necessary tools beforehand, so you can grab em and go (water bottle, headphones, sunglasses, sunscreen, pain meds, etc).


Tell a friend about your plan if you need the pressure of someone being disappointed in you. But, for a long lasting change, your motivation has to be about yourself.


Queue up your go-to podcast to make this thing a delightful activity. Or, if you need something mind blowing, investigate my top choices right now; Duncan Trussell and Third Eye Drops (warning, they’re Woo).


If you need a crutch to lower the “am I really doing this?” anxiety, arrange to talk on the phone while you travel to your nature-y exercise destination.


If you don’t have anyone to talk to – talk to yourself. Saying what you’re doing OUT LOUD will make you feel like a Rockstar.


On a similar note, give yourself acknowledgement of your accomplishment when you get in the car, when you start your practice, during your practice, and after your practice. Literally say, “good job,” and don’t be a dick about it.


Stop thinking about your problems long enough to consider how good you feel when you’re moving, both physically and mentally.


Notice how much better you feel throughout the day when you exercise for mental wellness. Keep an anxiety log. Pay attention to the correlation between letting yourself off the hook and letting your anxiety run wild.


Tell yourself and others, you’re the kind of person who exercises in the morning. And then work a little every day to be that person.


Find EXCITEMENT to challenge yourself in new ways and to do something outside of your normal routine – because, let’s face it, that routine isn’t working for you.


Consider this Day One of the next phase of your life.




Wrap er up


Alright, fuckers, that’s it.


I can preach exercise and all the amazing changes I’ve seen in myself, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel inspired to do it on your own. This 18-billion-part series really makes no difference if you’re still approaching the topic with shame, reluctance, and pre-emptive defeat.


All I can do is continue to encourage taking a step in the right direction.


Find a practice that works for you and keep with it… or else you know what to expect. Depression, anxiety, and general self-hatred.


But you do you.


You’ve got the information, you’ve got my best hacks, and you’ve got the right/wrong ways to do it. Now it’s your choice to pass or play.


See you on the trails! But... please wave and keep moving.




Got some exercise hacks, photos, or observations to share? Please do!


Send em in to traumatizedmotherfxckers@gmail.com

or use the Contact page to send me a message!




Traumatized Motherfxckers

Not doomed. Not damaged.

Not dead yet.

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