Your mental health BFF: Exercise as medicine
We all wish for a magic wand at times, something to instantly transform the way we feel about our bodies and shush all that negative self-talk. Sadly, there’s no wand, but the good news is we already hold some pretty powerful tools for achieving radical self (and body) love. We chatted to two women who have had their own battles with self-esteem and body image, and who came out the other side with exercise and self-care.
Ursula Cervellone, founder of Feather Brow Couture, developed the autoimmune disease alopecia during the pregnancy of her first son. The alopecia resulted in partial hair loss on her scalp and throughout her eyebrows, which left her with incredibly low self-esteem. As a new mama with all the extra stress and anxieties attached, the illness became debilitating. “It is extremely hard being a young mum as well as dealing with a condition such as alopecia, which changed some of the main features of my face,” says Ursula.
Ursula sought out cosmetic procedures like eyebrow tattooing in an attempt to rebuild her self-esteem, which was unfortunately botched by a series of inexperienced technicians and just left her feeling more dissatisfied with her appearance.
Dr. Ryan Kaplan, a clinical psychologist and director of the Sydney Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Body Image Clinic says, “10–15 per cent of people who seek cosmetic dermatological procedures have body dysmorphic disorder,” and that “their appearance dissatisfaction is actually often exacerbated as a result (of the cosmetic procedures).”
In Ursula’s case, she turned to health and fitness to regain her confidence and rebuild her emotional strength, exercising multiple times a week and making sure she incorporated outdoor training for that added nature kick. She also studied and focused her career as a reputable tattoo artist to rebuild not only her own, but other women’s, self-confidence.
Ursula believes in an approach to self-love that is kind and generous to yourself. Through eyebrow feathering, Ursula has found confidence, and through self-love, she has found peace and a positive outlook. Ursula says that “self-love is about doing the hard work mentally”.
Fellow superstar mama Natasha Stewart of Business Jump struggled heavily with post-natal depression following the birth of her second child. “The feeling of being out of control with my emotions and knowing it, but still not being able to control them, was crippling,” says Natasha. “I would cry at the drop of a hat, without really knowing why sometimes. It just all felt too hard.”
Like Ursula, Natasha turned to exercise to help overcome her darkness. “I believe the effects of exercise were just as strong as Zoloft,” says Natasha. “I would go to a body combat class twice a week and kick the crap out of my post-natal depression. That outlet also helped me focus on being more mindful and allowed me to embrace self-care.”
Racking up the Ks on the treadmill was also a key component of Natasha’s recovery. “Running on that treadmill taught me about endurance and using my mind to push through the pain of what I was feeling. Once finished, the endorphins would sweep over me and help me reach the next step of recovery,” says Natasha.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to addressing self-esteem issues, but the benefits of exercise and being generous with yourself are undeniable.
Natasha leaves us with some wise words to get you started on that journey to self-love:
“Life is too precious to spend being depressed and to fight for that glimmer of hope. When you see hope, grab on to it. For you, that hope may be medication, it may be your doctor, it may be exercise, or a friend, or even your child’s smile. I honestly believe that transformation is delivered to us in the ugliness of life—but the beauty of life is waiting for us to start living in it again.”
Ready to step towards good health? Try this simple workout to get your blood pumping and self-love flowing.