How I began making changes to help my anxiety

I’ve always been an anxious person, I was always the quiet one in the class when I was very young. As I grew older I let my anxiety build up more each day and eventually fell into depression. Anxiety and depression go hand in hand. I used to let my anxiety limit me and I would always be afraid to put myself out there into the world and speak my mind, I had ambition but was too afraid to chase my dreams. I felt lost and ashamed that I lacked the confidence to do anything. When I turned 20, I remember I woke up one day and decided it’s time to change, I took a serious look at myself and wondered why I had let my mental health limit me for all this time. This is when my lifestyle really started to change and became more positive. I began to research how others cope with anxiety and the most common advice was to: A) start working out to increase confidence and feel better about yourself. B) Change dietary habits. C) Practicing meditation and how to change your mindset and outlook on life.

To be honest, at first I didn’t really believe that changes as simple as this could completely change my perspective on life. I was very speculative but I remember I told myself that I would live like a health guru for one month and see the difference it makes on my general well-being. I’m going to break this down into three different topics and elaborate on how they benefited me individually.

A lot of this blog post may sound very cliche, but it is all completely true and it literally changed my life within weeks.

I would just like to say that although what I’ve spoken about does help me to battle my anxiety, it doesn’t eliminate it completely, it just assists me with being able to cope with it and tackle any obstacles that come my way!

Becoming fitter

The beginning of my fitness journey was definitely the hardest part for me, I was extremely nervous to even enter a gym. How do I even workout? What if people judge me? These are questions that continuously popped into my head. You can read my blog about my first gym session on my personal blogs page! After just 3 sessions in the gym, I developed a small spring in my step, I never knew beforehand how great physical activity was at reducing anxiety, it felt like I had won the lottery! Whenever I’m feeling anxious I find it difficult to sit still, I get this nervous energy inside me all over my body that needs to be released, this is where gym became a form of meditation for me and a perfect way to begin my day. If I’m sitting idle, my mind tends to drift off and I get lost in my own thoughts. Fitness in general started to become an interest of mine, I would research all kinds of different workouts, how to diet properly, learning more about the human body and watching fitness vlogs on YouTube. This distracted my mind from overthinking all the time as I had a different, brighter way to focus my energy.

So 2 weeks goes by, I had been consistently completing workouts, my body was aching all over but it also felt invigorating at the same time. I noticed that when I woke up in the morning I had the urge to get out of bed for the first time in what seemed like forever. I became honestly excited to continue my personal growth and my anxiety levels were becoming substantially lower. In the early stages of my fitness journey the largest benefit was the mental side of it rather than physical. Although, after two weeks I remember looking at myself in the mirror and noticing a slight change in my body, a T-Shirt that I always used to wear felt a little tighter than usual, this is when I fell in love with weight training, running and just general activeness. I had a newfound hobby, something I could finally put all of my energy into that I’ve held back for so long, I felt alive again!

Eating healthier meals

Going to the gym and eating a healthier diet complement each other. I made a very drastic change in my level of physical activity in my life and this snowballed into a change of diet too. I found myself not wanting takeaways quite as much and I felt like eating organic, proper meals to fuel myself better in the gym. I researched on Google which foods are most ideal to help promote muscle growth and provide the energy needed to complete full, intense workouts. With this information I wrote up a shopping list which contained things like: Chicken breast, rice, a variety of vegetables, soy milk, eggs etc. I figured that I might as well fuel myself properly too if I’m going to be working out so much. Don’t get me wrong, I would still order in a pizza some days if I had a lot of work to do at University, I believe cheat meals are essential because restricting yourself too much can lead to binge eating, everyone loves fast food and I don’t think it’s healthy to completely cut it out.

After about 1 week I noticed that after my meals I would have SO MUCH energy. I used to order in takeaways and usually after eating I would feel groggy and tired, I didn’t know any better and I thought this was normal but oh boy was I wrong. With the drastic change in my diet happening so sudden, the positive effects my diet had on my body and mind was extremely noticeable. I didn’t feel constantly bloated, my skin started to feel smooth and my face became brighter and clearer. My general mood was usually positive and I started to feel really good about myself. A whole month goes by and I had only ordered 4 takeaways (Every Saturday), I became a much more positive, ambitious person and my friends around me started to notice. During this “Health guru” stage I didn’t go clubbing either, I completely abstained myself from alcohol as I was adamant on conducting my own experiment to see whether such simple changes could better my life.

As of today, I track my macros daily, I try to eat healthier meals most days but I would be lying to you if I said that I still don’t indulge in the occasional drinking, or ordering takeaways. I feel like it is crucial to have a balance, being a “Health Guru” for a month was exhausting, I don’t believe it is the healthiest and most beneficial way to approach becoming healthier. It is all about self-discipline and being able to treat yourself sometimes, just not every day! If you’re really craving a pizza, then GET YO-SELF A PIZZA! It’s all about self love and feeling proud of who you are.

To conclude, my transition to healthier eating reaped in endless positive changes to my lifestyle and mental state. Feeding your body organic, proper foods and supplying yourself with all the essential nutrients to function properly makes the world of difference.

Meditation

Meditation for me seemed like it would be a useless practice, I didn’t understand how putting on some relaxing flute music, sitting down for a while and trying to block out my thoughts would actually help, it seemed silly. Nevertheless I thought I would give it a shot because what did I have to lose? I sat down crossed legged on my bed and closed my eyes, at first I could only properly meditate for around 5 minutes before losing focus. I realized at this point how difficult meditation is, it was going to take some practice to do it properly, so everyday I would practice it for 5 minutes until one day I managed to stay focused for much longer. After around 20 minutes I got up and had a great sense of relaxation, I knew the current stresses in my life were still there, but it was like I was detached from them, I didn’t feel worried anymore about anything. This relaxing state lasted for a short while until I let my thoughts run wild again and it all came crashing back, it was going to take a lot of work to reach a constant state of peace.

I continued practicing every day, whether that be in the morning or evening, slowly finding it easier and being able to endure my state of focus for much longer. Everyday my relaxed state would last for longer and longer and meditation became a daily routine that I loved conducting. Of course I still have days when I feel overwhelmingly anxious, but meditation helps to ease the stress, thus making it much easier to cope with everyday life.

When people hear the word meditation they picture a bald monk sitting crossed legged for hours on a concrete floor in complete silence. This is a form of meditation yes, but people don’t realize that there are many other ways to meditate and you can do it anywhere, even whilst walking! For myself, putting on my headphones, going to the gym and completing an intense workout was a form of meditation too. It creates a mental state of clarity for me and plays a major role in my battle with anxiety. Meditation won’t just suddenly remove your anxiety completely, it just makes it easier to manage.

I can promise you that meditation will benefit you substantially more than you might believe! Practice for just 5 minutes a day, don’t expect results to happen so suddenly, it takes patience and determination. I thought it was silly at first, but I gave it a try anyway and now I will never look back!

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