Working out is not your therapy

You still need to do the work

By Jessica Militello

Working out in its many forms has tons of benefits; it boosts your mood, it keeps you in shape, and it keeps your body healthy. Getting moving is a great way to help you cope with anxiety and depression, and it certainly helps to get your mind off of what ever may be troubling you, especially if the workout is intense and fun. It gives you an outlet to relieve stress and so I can see why people believe working out is their therapy.

There’s a saying that the head instructor at my martial arts school likes to say, “come in, train, leave your problems at the door-when you head out, they’ll still be there waiting for you.” And what he has always meant by that is to come to class, have a good time and focus, and enjoy being in the moment so you can train and better yourself.

But the saying actually means a little more in a way he may not have intended. If you work out to forget your problems, then just like my instructor says, they’ll still be waiting at the door for you. Working out is an outlet, and its mental health benefits are proven-but working out is not a substitute for doing the inner work and emotional regulation.

Working out and avoiding the inner work is like having a leaking roof and thinking that because you have a bucket to put under the leak for the water to drip into, that you have everything solved. It may seem like a fix, but it’s a temporary fix.

You can avoid it and pretend you have a solution for as long as you want, but eventually you will need to hire someone to look at your roof and fix what is causing the leak in the first place.

And what always happens when you hire someone to fix a “small” leak or some home repair? The professional looks into it, and not only do you need a whole new roof, but there’s squirrels living in the attic, and there’s a wall that needs to be fixed, too. And after you get a price quote then you wish you never looked into it and just kept the damn bucket for when it rains. What was so bad about a little bucket here and there? You knew there was a problem, but you pretended there wasn’t and you didn’t have to deal with it. But- after you sort through it all, get the repairs, set up a payment plan, and enjoy a nice, safe, home with no leaky roof or pesky squirrels, then you realize it was all worth it.

This is literally what its like to do the inner work, with a therapist, or reading books, learning your patterns, triggers, behaviors, and emotionally regulate. It is hard work, it isn’t always fun- healing is a lifelong journey, and just when you think you’ve reached a mountaintop in your self-journey, you realize it was just a resting spot and get another hurdle to navigate.

Working out is not therapy-punching bags don’t teach you why you got triggered by an off-hand comment someone made, the elliptical won’t help you to learn why you sabotage relationships and push people away, and the weights won’t help you to realize that you internalized the emotional neglect growing up and that’s why you people-please, can’t ask for what you want, say yes to things you hate, or get into codependent relationships. Avoiding this is just putting the bucket under the leak-it works in the meantime, it seems easier, but eventually you have to face what’s really causing your inner turmoil.

What do you think? Are you ready to put away that rusty bucket and really do the work to find yourself and your own peace? What are some books that have helped you? What kind of therapy are you trying or have completed? Leave your thoughts below.

How to stop feeling lonely

How you may be adding to your loneliness

By Jessica Militello

I’ve written about loneliness and coping skills before, but let’s face it; even when we know what to do, sometimes we just struggle with certain feelings when they come around. As humans, we want to feel love, belonging, and comfort and there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel connected to others. But- when you feel lonely it can be difficult to see a situation clearly or notice how we may be making our loneliness worse in the moment.

Here are some ways you may be making your loneliness linger

  1. Counting other people’s “blessings”

When I feel dissatisfied with the state of all my relationships or lack thereof, I have a tendency to start thinking of other people I know and begin comparing whose life may be more magical based on my own assumptions of the perceived quantity of their family, friendships, and love life while conveniently glossing over the fact that I have no idea of the quality of these perceived relationships. The truth is, regardless of how many people we think someone might have in their life, in many instances, we really don’t know what the relationship is truly like or if the relationships they have with these perceived people are even satisfying, meaningful, or if these same relationship dynamics that they have are even what we would want for our life.

2. If you are on your own on Friday or Saturday night and you don’t feel good about it- do yourself a favor and stay off social media

Loneliness has a few different outfits-one of them is FOMO. The “feeling of missing out” or the fear of it happens when we are dissatisfied with our current company, especially when that company is ourselves. Remember, being alone and being lonely are two different things, but I’m sure you know that there are tons of times when you were alone and having the time of your life and basking in the moment, and then there are those times where you feel despair, left out, and wondering why is it that everyone seems to have their social life on max, meanwhile your last text was from CVS reminding you to pick up your prescription. What I know is-anytime I am alone and feeling lonely about it I can promise you what added a sting was watching Instagram stories of friends and acquaintances, looking at what they are up to, and comparing it to my current pity party for one. If you know that watching what others are up to is going to make you feel bad, then do yourself a favor and set your social media aside for the evening. This intertwines with point one and it does nothing but turn what could be a period of loneliness into a night of wallowing in despair and it simply doesn’t have to be so.

3. Wishing for things to be different and feeling helpless

There’s a difference between your hopes and dreams being rooted in your own abilities and musing that if only you had more friends, more invites, a committed relationship, THEN you would feel happy. You may not think this in this exact wording, but its certainly underlying in times of loneliness. It’s normal to want human connection- but you need to make sure you are choosing the right people for your life. This is a game of patience and you need to know what your standards are and only accept quality, reciprocal friendships and relationships. You need to feel good enough with yourself that if these relationships are not meeting the mark, you are able to gracefully walk away. I wish I could keep count of all the times in the past where my loneliness mixed in with low self-worth, and a desperation to belong got me into trouble by choosing unhealthy friendships and relationships. It is now the reason why I would rather choose a season of loneliness than pick the wrong people just to fill voids. If you let this desire make you feel desperate for company you will throw your standards out the window.

4. Isolating yourself and expecting other people to magically know you want connection

This step usually comes about after we’ve spent enough time dwelling on the first three points I just wrote about. You can thank your inner critic for convincing you the reason you are lonely is because you aren’t good enough, amongst other unhelpful, negative thinking. We feel alone and then we feel resentful of the people who aren’t reaching out to us because we spent the time convincing OURSELVES that it is correlated to our worth and then project these feelings onto others. None of us can read another person’s mind and know what it is that they want and need especially if they aren’t asking for anything. Sometimes when someone seems to be going it alone people can assume they want space and this can especially ring true if you are known for being independent. It would be like going to a buffet with your friends and sitting at the table with an empty plate while they are going up and getting their food. Your friends notice you not getting food and ask if everything is okay and you say “sure I’m fine,” while in fact not being fine and at the end of the meal feel upset and offended that your friends didn’t “just know” that you wanted food or that they should of got up and brought you a plate while you sat there being hungry and sad. Do you see how insane that thinking is-yet that is what we do when we want company and say nothing. You cannot make your phone ring no matter how long you sit there and hope for it to. We also have to know the difference between wanting connection and wanting validation from others because of not feeling good enough due to our own thoughts and worries that made us think that way about ourselves in the first place.

What are some things you do to get yourself out of feeling lonely? What has worked really well for you? Share your advice in the comments-

On Valentine’s day

 For those that don’t care about this holiday, but kind of do

By Jessica Militello

On Valentine’s day, if you’re in a loving, happy relationship that consists of the things you want and deserve, then good for you. If you’re single and it bothers you a little bit on Valentine’s day, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love yourself enough or that you’re trying to fill a void.

Wanting a loving, meaningful relationship doesn’t make you broken or needy, it means you are human and have blood pumping through your veins. That feeling only becomes problematic when you believe that you NEED a romantic relationship in order to feel complete, and/or you settle for less through dating people who you know are not good for you, talking to exes who have hurt you, or settling for hookups because of a scarcity mentality when what you truly want is a loving, committed relationship.

I will also say that this particular Valentine’s day is probably one where I feel most loved, fulfilled, and good about myself and I’m not in a relationship with anyone. In the past, some of my saddest and most loneliest Valentine’s were the ones where I was settling for some non-committed “situation,” purposely getting ignored completely on v-day because we were just “having fun,” or the valentine’s where I was in a committed relationship with the completely wrong person who had some bullshit excuse about refusing to celebrate a “made-up holiday” because at that time in my life it was more important to me to feel chosen by someone, anyone, even in pieces and crumbs than to wait out a few seasons of loneliness in order to wait for the right person for me. And yes, those shitty relationships were in fact because the relationship I had with myself at that time was also shit, complete with little self-worth and even less boundaries.

And sometimes it takes being in these wrong relationships and getting your heart obliterated to finally learn that the things you are looking for in someone else are within you all along. That is why even when I settled for less, got my heart broken into a million pieces, and went through pain, it was all for a purpose because it finally led me to myself.

So- if you are single on Valentine’s day that’s okay, if you wish you weren’t, that’s okay too. Let yourself be where you are. And when that feeling passes write a list of all the things you feel like you would get from a relationship- can you get any of those things from yourself, from meaningful relationships with others like friends and family? Also remember that feelings come and go and loneliness passes. Don’t let your loneliness make you seek out people who cannot love you, or settle for less than what you truly want.