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Coping Skills: Reading & Exercise

Natalie DeMasi
WhiteFlag Athlete


Through navigating her mental health journey, WhiteFlag Athlete Natalie DeMasi has developed and implemented into her life some practical and helpful coping skills. Last month she talked about how journaling and meditation have been a big part of her “mental health toolbox.” This month, we sat down with her to discuss how reading and exercise have also become important coping skills for her.

Here’s what she had to say:

You talk about how reading is an important part of your life. What does reading do for your mental health?

Reading helps me calm down my mind and settle into a more calming space. Reading before bed is something I do to help me wind down, mentally and physically. I also try to read instead of scrolling through social media.

How have you incorporated reading into your life as a coping skill?

I use reading as a coping skill to help settle down my mind and reduce the mental chatter I have that comes with anxiety and stress.

What type of reading helps you? Books, blogs, etc. Any reading recommendations?

I enjoy everything! Sometimes I enjoy reading nonfiction books if a particular subject interests me, but typically I read fiction books. My favorite authors are James Patterson and Colleen Hoover, and my favorite books ever are To Kill a Mockingbird and Where the Crawdads Sing.

What does exercise do for your mental health?

Exercise helps me feel productive and release any stress I may have. I typically exercise to feel refreshed and healthy.

Exercising to feel good rather than exercising to look good makes a huge difference in the motivation factor. Once I switched my mindset from looking good to exercising to feel accomplished, productive, and healthy, I enjoyed my workouts much more.

How have you incorporated exercise into your life as a coping skill?

I use exercise to get any feelings I have out in a healthier way. If I’m feeling sad, angry, or stressed, I use the energy I put into those emotions and transfer them into my workout. This way I can leave the workout feeling more at ease with everything.

What is the most important advice you have for people who are looking to incorporate exercise into their lives as a coping?

Consistency is the biggest component to working out. Even the days you don’t want to do it, still show up, because you owe it to yourself to be consistent with your goals. My team has a saying:

“Give whatever percent you have today. If you only have 60%, give 100% of that 60%.”

That really resonates with me because even on the days you are not at your best, you are giving everything you have that day. Not every day will be perfect, but you still showed up!

How do you manage exercise and perfectionism? How does exercise work for you without driving your perfectionism?

Sometimes when a workout does not go as well as I wanted it to, I get frustrated. But I remind myself I have to take a step back and realize failure is a part of everyone’s journey and will occur in every aspect of life.

I always tell people – things will always happen that are not in your control, but you are in control of how you react to those things. Recognize and accept that today was a bad day and then turn that into a learning experience. Next time, you can have a better reaction when something doesn’t go your way.

Whether it be meditation, exercise, journaling, or peer support, coping skills look different for everyone and any combination of things can really make a difference in your life. If you have been looking for other ways to cope with the difficult things going on in your life, talking with others is a great start. Head over to the WhiteFlag App and see what coping skills others have been using and share what has worked for you.

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