Anxiety and Depression - The Blessing in the Lesson
When we break a limb, everyone comes to our rescue but when we mention the words ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression’ everyone comes to a standstill. Why? We don’t talk about it enough and lack the knowledge to help those we love.
I hope this article will make you more comfortable with sharing your story as I share mine. Throughout I explain my reason for sharing; how exercise helped my mental state and how my mental state changed my body.
The brain on fire.
My story began when I was 13 years old, and I was going through that excellent time of my body changing, hormones racing, blah, blah. I started to get acne, and it took a big hit on my self-esteem. I developed ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression,’ but those words weren’t apart of my vocabulary yet.
I was on edge all of the time, excessively worrying about what others thought about me. My brain was on fire. It affected me physically, with hyperventilation, rapid heart rate, fatigue, headaches, sweating, nausea, weakness, and tiredness. Some days I couldn’t leave my room, some days I wouldn’t eat, and I thought this was normal puberty. For 7 years I thought this is how my life would be, just impending doom.
I began University, but I reached a peak of defeat against anxiety and depression. I left after 6 weeks and moved back home. My tale takes a turn when I fell in love. I was offered a job teaching Pilates, Yoga, Tai-Chi, and meditation. I fell in love with teaching others to move and improve their body! All the hype of ‘fitness releasing endorphins’ was real and I immersed myself in health and fitness. I needed a qualification, so at the beginning of 2017, I moved to Christchurch to get my Diploma of Advanced Exercise Prescription.
I understood that through my suffering I was being guided to something amazing. The pain in my past became a lesson, a blessing in disguise.
Maya Angelou once said,
“When you learn, teach. When you get, give”.
This is why I share my story. I teach the habits and strategies I learned throughout my battle. I pass on the advice and support to others that I received.
Physical health saved my mental health, and it works both ways; shifting my mental state saved my body. The brain is a muscle that we must train like any other muscle in our body.
As my interest in health and fitness progressed, I became quite aware of how my body looked. I had some tummy fat I wanted to burn, so I began to over exercise, overwork and ate restrictively which put a lot of stress on my body. The body pumps out high levels of a hormone called cortisol when in a stressed state. High amounts of cortisol force the body to break down protein stores (the muscle) to use for fuel. The body begins to hold onto fat for protection and fuel. The body identifies stress as danger and when there is a danger the brain thinks you are, well, going to die. So, it will store and utilise fuel wherever it can so you can live for as long as possible.
I was confused as to why I still had tummy fat because I was working so hard! After learning this fact, I tapered down my busy schedule and took more rest days. I implemented daily habits and routines to “train” my brain to slow down. I meditate every morning to clear any foggy thoughts from the previous day. It allows me to start each day with a clean slate and extract any negative thoughts. In the evening, I write down 3 things that I am grateful for; big or small. I am thankful for what I have while working for what I want.
Applying these habits reduced my stress levels significantly. Cortisol levels dropped, and my body was slowly letting go of the fat and unveiling more muscle.
The mind and body are strongly connected, which is why we need to care for them both equally. You can't slap a band-aid over your mental struggle. Here are some takeaways that helped me feel okay:
1. Find a person or people to talk to. Trust me, you're never alone, and there is always someone who will want to help (like me).
2. Take one small step at a time.
3. Accept the good and bad aspects of yourself, and you'll become more comfortable. We all have flaws, and that's okay, don't suppress them, celebrate them.
4. Gratefulness is my primary skill for happiness. Even on the dimmest of days I still find things I am grateful for because it could be worse.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for entertianment purposes only. Note that reading and using any advice or methods is at your own risk. Nothing found on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Nor is it a substitute for therapy. Always seek the advice of a doctor or mental health expert if you have concerns about your wellbeing.