Nothing can truly prepare you for grief. Losing someone you love and someone who meant a lot to you to death, divorce—or some other way—is a huge blow. The loss that follows is the enigma of grief. Everybody experiences it differently and has their own way of expressing it. And more importantly, everybody has different ways of coping with it. This makes it difficult to comfort and relate to someone who is grieving. Grief is part of life just as much as joy and happiness. One of the most common coping mechanisms people suffering utilize is exercise. However, while exercise can be a great tool for healing with benefits stretching farther than just coping with grief, It’s important to note that it is not a substitute for grief counseling from a licensed professional.
The Five Stages of Grief
There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Not everyone experiences every stage, nor must you necessarily go through each one. As you go through each phase, you experience various emotions that will no doubt weigh you down.
Coping Comes in Different Forms
How do you cope? Do you immerse yourself with new hobbies, confide with friends, keep a journal, or read a good book? Do you express yourself openly through words, actions—or do you isolate yourself, grieve silently, and experience grief through tears? There is no judgment here. Grief comes in all shapes and sizes—in all forms. And you are free to express it and cope with it however you feel is best.
Studies show that one of the most efficient ways of coping with grief is through exercise. Physical activities help your brain to produce happy chemicals called Endorphins. These alleviate feelings of stress and pain. In fact, Endorphins are also related to euphoria the same way opioids are. Endorphins have similar effects as morphine, as well.
How Exercise Helps with Grief
Exercising reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. It not only improves self-esteem by toning your figure and losing weight, but it also improves sleep. Exercising also strengthens your muscles and bones, lowers blood pressure, and improves the health of your heart. It helps reduce body fat and increase energy levels so that you can have a more positive disposition.
Research indicates that exercising is one of the most efficient ways to cure depression, but it’s also the most underused. People don’t enjoy exercising and are prone to quit. They either don’t have the time to do it or can’t afford a gym membership. They probably don’t even know how to properly exercise, manage their expectations, or understand that they’re not going to see changes in their bodies immediately. Those people with a lot of responsibilities, such as children or work, are less likely to exercise. They’re tired, sore, and too stressed. But they don’t realize that they’re missing so much by not exercising.
When it comes to grief, exercising has been known to help people cope more readily and move along the different motions of dealing with loss. The main reason why is the fact that exercising helps release the much-needed neurotransmitters and Endorphins that help make you feel better. It regulates mood such that it pulls you out of the lows faster. It’s a very good way to practice self-care and reframe your focus. It helps you gain control of your emotions.
Finding an Exercise Routine
More importantly, you’re not expected to jump right into exercising like an athlete or an advanced fitness enthusiast. You can start by simply doing the simplest things such as squats, lunges, or even just a run in the park. You don’t even have to force yourself to go out and get a gym membership. You can exercise within the comforts of your own home. You don’t have to do it every day; you can just start by exercising 2 to 3 times a week.
You don’t have to plan out your exercise routine for the month. Just take it day by day so that it doesn’t overwhelm you. Understand that you are grieving, and this causes you to have low energy and motivation. It’s normal to not want to do anything. It’s ordinary to want to stay in bed and cry. And that is why you don’t have to force yourself to do it perfectly. Just take the first step. Start exercising, and go from there.
Grief is a natural part of life. You are not expected to be strong all the time. You can be weak. You can be vulnerable. The important part is that you learn—with small and simple steps—to start all over again. Because ultimately, life goes on. So should you.