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A Fitness Studio Saved My Postpartum Mental Health

Allison Cooper is a full time blogger at Project Motherhood and freelance writer. You can find her balancing her time equally between writing, spending time with her family, running, or sipping on strong coffee! Connect with her on Twitt...

'I was able to feel like a person again, not just a mom'

The postpartum months are tough. We just gave birth to this beautiful human being, but at the same time, we’re scrambling to feel a sense of normalcy with ourselves, our routines and our bodies. Everyone’s journey to getting to “that place” where they can feel in their bones that things have shifted back to their prepregnancy norm is different. For me, I joined a fitness studio postpartum, and I swear it saved my mental health.

More: 7 things you won't learn about postpartum recovery in birthing class

Before I did, I tried working out solo. I ran. I did yoga at home. I started incorporating HIIT workouts into my routine. All of these things were a part of my life each week, but always done secluded, on my own, in the comfort of my own living room or hitting the pavement in my neighborhood with my earbuds tightly in place. I was laser-focused on my fitness goal during the time I devoted and nothing else mattered.

I also work from home, so it started to feel like I was doing everything by myself all at once. One day, when my daughter was about 6 months old, it started to hit me that I was starting to really feel alone too. I wasn’t getting out as much and found myself actually turning down opportunities to meet friends for a drink or pop into an event. My body was craving some social interaction, but something was holding me back. I was feeling the weight of my emotions, and even though I knew in my gut what I needed, leaving the house was feeling like so much work.

More: The best postpartum workouts for each type of childbirth

I have a history of depression and took antidepressants during my first pregnancy eight years ago because I was worried I would develop postpartum depression. I wanted to be proactive instead of reactive. The meds made me feel more anxious than anything, so I got off them as quickly as possible. When I gave birth to my second daughter last year, I made a promise with myself that if I started feeling down I would make sure I talked to someone.

I could kind of feel things shifting in that direction when a friend of mine asked me to take a barre class with her. I had absolutely no reason to turn her down. My husband happened to be off on this Tuesday morning — it seemed like it was meant to be. So I stepped outside this box that I was building around myself, switched up my fitness routine and went to work out with an encouraging group of women. Halfway through the class, I was hooked.

I loved the way I had other (grown-up) bodies next to me, which meant I didn't feel alone when I was struggling to hold a position. It encouraged me to know that everyone struggles sometimes. I loved the way the teacher would come around and correct my positioning to make sure my alignment was always correct. And more than anything, I loved the way this class worked my body in such a different way than what I was doing at home. As soon as class was over, I bought a membership.

My friend and I made a pact to meet every Tuesday for that same class, but I quickly found myself wanting more. I was popping into the studio multiple times per week and I felt amazing. I realized while riding home on the subway from class one evening that I was killing multiple birds with one stone. I was getting a great workout, but also getting out of the house and having some time to myself.

More: 10 postpartum tips that will save your sanity

From joining the fitness studio, I gained self-confidence and reconnected with myself. I was able to feel like a person again, not just a mom. I had a place to go to a few times a week that belonged to me — and was a healthy, safe, happy place where I didn't have to give myself to everyone else. I could just focus on what was happening with me.

Sometimes you need a change of scenery to help reset your mental health, and joining a fitness studio did that for me at a time I needed it most.

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