The Peer Support Group ROCKED!


Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

The peer support group was a wonderful experience for everyone!!!

I just had to let you guys know how it went right away! Knowing that some of you in various corners of the world have been rooting & even lighting candles for me/the group has been nothing short of precious! (I will never be able to think of that word again without thinking of LOTR! – the awesome blogger McKarlie would most likely agree with me on that point!) I could not have done this without the encouragement and help of a local, dark chocolate-loving friend who I shall call “Anonymous”.

I’m going to keep this post short…well, I can’t just post that teeny bit. I must also let you know that even though I’m wiped out from hosting, I get a mysterious slight second wind at this time of day (5:30 p.m.) – it’s Exercise Time! I know in my gut that there’s no way I could pull the support group off without my daily dose of exercise per Dr. Alsuwaidan’s guidelines! (I’ll be sharing his information with the support group, of course.)

Dr. Alsuwaidan’s guidance, which is from his blog at, has become my credo. If you haven’t read this yet, please read it. Ask me any questions in the comments, as I’m a former American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and while I’m not a pdoc, I know a thing or two about exercise for mood stability/improvement! Okay, that’s more than enough for this week. Off I go to sweat to INXS on Pandora!

:))) Dyane

EXERCISE & MOOD – From Science to Action by the psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

There is probably no one word that can sum up what people want in terms of emotional or mental health. Whether it be clients I meet in the clinic with a mood or anxiety disorder or a friend or acquaintance asking for an opinion in a social setting, the theme of the question is common but each one is different. However I think there is one common thread that joins the questions and ONE word that captures 99% of what is ideally sought STABILITY.
Those with recurring depressive episodes or mood swings want mood stability. Others with anxiety, nervousness or worry want calm stability. The frazzled, stressed, workaholics want relaxed stability. For many achieving stability would make them happier, more productive, more sociable and have a better quality of life. I don’t claim that exercise is the only way to achieve stability. There is no panacea. The correct treatment of all of the above situations is an individually tailored combination that could include medications, talk-therapy, lifestyle changes and other components but should ALWAYS include exercise.
Now let’s make the leap from the science we reviewed in the previous blog posts to action. How do we “dose” exercise? What kind of exercise? What time should I exercise? For how long? How do I start and how do keep going?
For an easy reference I will summarize the answer in one sentence then explain the details and the fine tuning will come later. Remember here we are talking about the ‘dosing’ of exercise that changes the biology of the brain and not the number of packs in your Abs! Although that might be a welcome side effect – if you are trying to achieve that talk to a personal trainer. Here we are treating the brain and going after STABILITY. ! ! ! Exercise for 30 minutes 6 days a week at a high-impact level. ! ! That’s it simple, right? Ok ok I know it is not that easy. So let me explain further by breaking it down into 3 rules.
Rule #1
– Exercise: For brain health exercise can be any type that suits you. It does NOT have to be weight-lifting or running on a treadmill. You do NOT have to go to a gym or use a workout DVD. Do any exercise that you enjoy. Swim, run, hike, climb, lift weights, tennis, basketball, soccer, yoga, cycling and on and on. Adapt the exercise to your body if your capacity is limited by physical needs or injuries, but anyone can do some sort of exercise unless you are fully paralyzed.
Rule #2
– 30 minutes 6 days a week: The bottom-line is that the research shows this is the average of the dose needed for the brain to adapt. Now let’s break this rule down. First reactions are usually – 6 days?! That’s a lot! Yes it is, but we are only asking for 30 minutes. Think about it, how many hours a day do you sit at the internet or TV? 30 minutes is very short. In fact, DON’T do more than 30 minutes (unless you have a routine and have been doing this for years). Doing more will lead to inconsistency and skipping workout days. The science shows it is far better (at least for the brain) to be consistent in exercising most days of the week rather than spending an hour exercising 2 or 3 days a week. In fact, for you gym-goers if you think about it (and research also supports this) if you are spending more than 30 minutes at the gym then your are chatting and resting too much. Thirty minutes makes it harder to come up with excuses such as: There is no time! or I’m too busy! If you work a lot or travel find 30 minutes to do some stretches, pushups, air-squats, jumping jacks etc. 30 focused minutes is all you need, Done! Six days too much? Fine five days is the absolute minimum, but better to aim for 6 so that if you fall short then you have a day to save for later.
Rule # 3
– High Impact: For the scientists reading this that is 16 kcal/kg/week. What?? English please! Ok so here is how I explain high-impact to people: For most of the 30 minutes you are exercising you should be sweating and it should be difficult to speak in complete sentences without needing to catch your breath. This means you work hard for 30 minutes then you are done. Walking doesn’t count unless it meets the criteria above. Commuting does not count! That is your normal energy expenditure. Remember we are trying to change the brain and you can’t do that without effort.
Last few tips:
• You can exercise anytime in the day that fits your schedule. I find first thing in the morning works best because it is the time of day with the least demands on your schedule. Plus there is evidence this timing may have a more efficient effect than other timings. If it means you have to wake up 30 minutes earlier then do it and just sleep 30 minutes earlier at night. No big deal. But if it doesn’t work just exercise at any time that’s the most important thing. Get it done.
• You can either start slow and build up to 6 days a week over a number of weeks or just pick a week and start. If you have started and stopped exercise routines in the past you will find this one is easier to maintain because it is more flexible. You can do anything as long as you break a sweat. Jumping rope is great if you don’t have a lot of equipment and can’t go to a gym. Keep telling yourself it’s only 30 minutes and just get up and do it.
• If you skip days and don’t exercise at least 5 days in a week don’t be discouraged and go back down to zero. Just start again. It is normal to stumble. I do all the time.
The important thing is to keep the 30 minutes 6 days a week in your head and keep as close to that as you can. But the closer you are to that ‘dose’ the better the result will be.

– Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan


38 thoughts on “The Peer Support Group ROCKED!

  1. I am so glad that the group was so great! whoo hoo!! as to the exercise I need to be praying for some willingness, I get so discouraged that I start then stop – I don’t really want to start anymore 😦

    • You are so sweet – thank you! Believe me, I I’ve gotten discouraged with the exercise business and then I’ve stopped – I’ve stopped for ***years****ugh.

      Have you read Dr. Alsuwaidan’s blog post or listened to his webinar? I hate listening to webinars, but I felt like I needed to do it with his, and it was so worthwhile, especially the 1/2 half. And you can just relax while you listen! 😉

      Look at exercise as something for your mood/something deeper than “vanity”, i.e. not for your body! Start praying for that willingness, if you haven’t done so already, and I hope with all my heart it comes to you! Once again, thanks for your comment & support!!!

      • That’s what I need is willingness – even to listen to you guys talk about it haha. I am just excited for you cuz I know how much you have been looking forward to it!

    • Just wanted to add to what Dyane replied. When I first started working out, I was completely out of shape; skinny, but out of shape. I HATED it. I dreaded it. Then, eventually as the months and years wore on, I grew to sort-of like it; I was stronger and clothes fit better. Then I started running. I hated that, too, but I kept at it; getting it over with first thing in the morning helped. Eventually I started to enjoy it. I was never very good or fast, but I didn’t dread it. (I don’t run now because I dislike the treadmills at my current gym.) So if you can find the willpower to muscle through even a short workout on a consistent basis, do it. It will help and it will get easier. Not necessarily more fun (although I do find parts of my workout fun . . . like doing weird exercises with the TRX suspension straps and having other gym rats scratch their heads in amazement . . . when they’re male, it is even more amusing!)

  2. Yay!!! Glad your support group went well. It’s cool what your doing.

    This is a great exercise reminder. I haven’t been working out as much since I’ve been in school cause I’ve been stressing with school. I probably need a good work out to balance the stress! I needed this reminder.

    • Hi Adina!!!! You’re always so awesome – and look how hard you’re working in school! I’m incredibly proud of you! I know it must be super-hard to fit in exercise along with everything else, but try try try! Let me know how it goes or blog about it! :))))) I’ll be there, I promise! (I owe all my favorite bloggers some comments, but I ALWAYS read! And I always “like” them if I read ’em! I need to improve on that!!!) 😉

      Big hugs to you,

  3. Awesome, Incredible, Fabulous, Simply Amazing! So glad everything went great! Thanks for sharing the exercise info. I will be reading that tomorrow because I have NO routine and I know how much I need it to help with my mood. Anyway, you rock and I’m so proud of you, like so many others are!!!

    • Lovely Cristy, you have been my fabulous support group guide – thank you, thank you!

      Your tweets during the days that led up to the first meeting helped me more than you know!

      Please let me know how the exercise plan goes for you…..I’m telling you, it will be SO GREAT if you can add that into your life…..I’m happy to tweet “workout check-ins” with you anytime!) I like to make the tweets fun and not a “Oh, you MUST work out! or else” kind of thing!

      You ROCK too, and I hope last night’s support group went very, very well!!!!
      Lots of love, Dy :)))))))))

  4. So pleased that it went well!! Wish I could have been there…
    I don’t exercise but know I should. Huggs! Candis

    • Thanks so much, Candis! I’ve gone for years without exercise! Maybe you could get back to it as Spring arrives???? Sending you big hugs too!!!!! It’s a treat to have you comment – stay in touch! XO Dy

  5. My candle and vigil were not in vain, hurray. That doc of urs is so handsome to be ignored. I guess it’s exercise getting his brain and body so. I try to do 3 days at an hr each. 6 is not feasible or realistic for me. Count changing in and changing out time and all (is that in the 30 mins too? Yes am a clown sometimes) etc then it’s real tough. Yet exercise is from my personal experience, therapeutic!!! Proud of u Lady, glad to hold court in my lady’s Chambers 🙂

    • Oh Marie….when it comes to Dr. Alsuwaidan… can you look at his smile and then ignore his good advice? He “practices what he preaches” which he explained (charmingly, of course) in his International Society of Bipolar Foundation webinar . He seems like a wonderful person who wants to genuinely help people!!!

      If you can’t do six days, yes, do the three. Do what you can! And no, beautiful, you better change in & out —outside—- of that 30 minute time slot, ha ha ha! Yep, you’re a lovely clown!

      Your candle and vigil were NOT in vain – oh my goodness, that was just so wonderful of you to do & then write and photograph about so beautifully. It really set the tone of my day into something so positive & extra-special. I’ve saved the picture of the candle for the group’s photo album! I will never forget your kindness!

      Much love!
      Lady Dy

  6. I’m so happy to hear that it went well. Yay! I new it would. I think what you’re doing is wonderful 🙂

    Thank you for the exercise tips, I will try to implement them. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Nicole!!! Let me know how the exercise plan turns out – maybe at some point I could guest on your blog about that instead of the other topic we discussed! ;))))) I wouldn’t get quite as riled up, ha ha ha! I’ll keep in touch no matter what!

  7. Great news on the support group and exercise fronts! I have to exercise daily or I start to feel my body sinking back into the black abyss.

    • Thanks Bee! I was riveted by your last few posts, but I read them while on my elliptical (using my Kindle) which makes it so hard for me to write a comment without falling off the thing and my carpal tunnel acts up too!!! BUTI was there @ each post with a “like”! 😉

      You said it as far as the need to work out every day or else that black abyss comes calling – I feel the *exact* same way. Lately I’ve had a few close calls where I feel so rotten/exhausted I’m thisclose to passing on my elliptical, but I’ve forced myself anyway because I’ve changed how I regard exercise. I look at it as a “prescription” from the psychiatrists Dr. Alsuwaidan!

      Amazingly, I felt 80%-100% better mood and energy-wise post-workouts. Despite that dramatic shift, I forget about it so easily when the next tough time takes place. I remind myself about that phenomenon when I am on the fence.

      In any case, I’m very proud of you! Keep it going…..keep it going!!!

    • Thank you so much, Glenn! You were right about how cool Meetups can be. (I’m still passing on the Cuddle one, though! 😉

    • The only space alien was yours truly, J, and no one noticed, thank God – until I blew my nose and green slime ooooozed out! Kidding!!! I’m so gross and immature – but I wouldn’t change that about myself for the world. Smooches to your Bailey – I love Bailey! More Bailey pics and videos please!!!!!!! love you gorgeous!

    • I’m still happy (and relieved) at how the whole thing turned out – the only aspect that needs major improvement is that there wasn’t enough chocolate to go around!! That problem *will* be solved at forthcoming meetings. I wish Lucy could have joined us as well, but she would have flipped out…..
      Thanks for your support as always, my wonderful friend!

      • Not enough chocolate?! EEEEEK! I’m very jealous of all your decadent first world capitalist peanut butter filled treats. They sold pb m&m’s here briefly and I still mourn their passing …


        I’m glad it went well and I’m sure Lucy is too.

    • Dearest Geneviève, it meant so much to me to read your comment – it’s not like you’re sitting around up there eating bon bons with nothing to do! 😉 Thank you for your wonderful thoughts – I believe they truly helped things go smoothly down here during the dat. I just wish you could join us at a group! Someday???? You’d be our special guest??? You can teach me some French too! 😉 XO

  8. I basically follow this exercise advice, although I spend more than 30 minutes at the gym. Weight lifting three days a week (around 45-50 minutes, lifting heavy weights) and doing cardio three days a week (around 50-60 minutes, rowing, elliptical, climbing the Jacob’s Ladder…that is one hard workout!) No socializing for me at the gym; it’s 4:30 in the morning, and at that time of day, my fellow gym rats are there to workout. I’ve done this for years, so I pretty much know how much I need and what food I need for refueling afterward.

    (I’m also at a stable weight; I wouldn’t be working out like this if I were still anorexic or bulimic. My doctor would pitch a hissy fit. So would my husband and parents, come to think of it.)

    I’m so glad that your peer support group went well!

    • HI there Laura, I’m sure that Dr. Alsuwaidan would approve of your awesome workout and the fact that you don’t socialize @ the gym, although he’d be a little concerned that you don’t overdo it and burn out by working hard for over 30 minutes a day. You know yourself best, and I can tell you have good sense (!) so I’m sure it’s fine. I do the same thing as far as take longer than 30 minutes, although I’m trying to keep it around 45-50 minutes instead of my usual 60 minutes because I do have a pattern of burning out.

      I’ve never climbed the Jacob’s Ladder but it sounds daunting – I’m impressed!

      Thanks for your good wishes and for always being so gracious – I’m very lucky to have you in my corner!

      • The Jacob’s ladder is hard; I never realize how hard I’ve been working until I get off. So I can’t do it for very long!

        I do take some days off when I’m extra tired (like when my iron levels were down), but it’s just become such a habit that I don’t see myself burning out in the foreseeable future. When I started exercising (as a newlywed), I did 5 days a week because I’ve always done well with a regular daily schedule. (Ditto for my writing.) Predictability may be boring, but it’s also proven to be the best way for me to be productive. 🙂

    • Rats – I’m so sorry about your son being sick, especially after he seemed on the mend and got to school yesterday – that dang bug!!!!!! So frustrating for both of you!!!!

      I’ll be thinking of him and sending healing vibes south.

      Thanks for your good wishes about the group. I would like to smuggle you up here for a late spring/summer meeting – watch your back! XOXOX
      p.s. try to take it easy so you don’t pick up your son’s bug!

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