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The Mental Health Athlete

Hello, my name is Aynsley Silva. I’m an ex-college athlete and current mental health counselor. This blog is dedicated to spreading the word about wisdom I’ve gained through my personal and professional experiences. The blog is intended to be short and practical.

Depression: 3 ways to manage symptoms without medication.

Depression is one of the most insidious mental health issues that pop up in the guys I see in counseling. It feels terrible and sends many into despair. When I’ve had bouts of depression it’s felt like the world is ending and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Maybe, you’ve felt this before? If not, here are some other common symptoms:

• Persistent feelings of sadness

• Loss of interests in activities

• Trouble sleeping or oversleeping

• Appetite or weight changes

• Fatigue or decreased energy

• Difficulty thinking clearly or quickly

• Irritability, frustration, or pessimism

• Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

So I feel crappy, what now?

There are three things you can do to feel better relatively quickly. You should probably still get into see a counselor, but these three things will take the edge off before you go in. Get ready for a fight against depression!

Exercise, sleep, and diet.

Exercise: 3-7 times a week, for at least 20-30 minutes, something you like and will actually do!

The physical benefits of exercise are huge. Exercise aids in stimulating blood flow to parts of the brain (prefrontal cortex) that aid in reducing depressive symptoms when activated. Neurochemistry of men differ from women and it’s even more important for us to move. If men stay sedentary parts of our brain begin to go idle. And when depression is present this makes us feel worse! The only time I tell my clients, “I don’t care how you feel” is when they are depressed. I tell them, and myself, “Your brain is going to lie to you. Your brain will tell you to stay home, it’s too hard, I don’t feel like it, or resting would be best.” I also tell them, “I’ve never heard anyone who’s felt like this, go to the gym, and say they really regret going and feel the same or worse.” Unanimously, the guys in my office feel better after getting exercise.

Sleep: Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day. No naps!

Sleep is where our bodies grow, repair, rest, and do many critical functions for our mental health and physical health. This is the only time some of these functions happen. Too much will increase depressive symptom, too little will do the same. Getting up and going to bed at the same time every day helps reset the bodies sleep cycles. You will eventually adapt to your schedule and feel better due to a regular sleep schedule.

Diet: Eat food from the outside walls of the grocery store and eat 3 reasonable meals a day.

The foods we eat directly affect our mood, energy levels, and our body’s ability to do its job. Some people even have depressive symptoms triggered by the foods they eat. When you eat a “clean” diet, might feel hungry more times throughout the day, but you will feel better. So, make food you like, and shop along the outside walls of the store. Here you will find: dairy, fresh breads, vegetables, and meats. Definitely have one meat and one vegetable (preferably greens) along with other foods that sound good. I’ve rarely heard guys say they don’t like steak and potatoes with a salad. The possibilities are endless for healthy options that will help you feel better and fill you up.

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