Because let’s face it, stress is an inevitable part of life no matter how much I would like to tell you otherwise. We all have to deal with it at some point, right? Whether it be that traffic jam that is making you late for an important appointment. Trying to meet an impossible deadline at work. Exams, relationship issues or just simply trying to balance all the different parts of our lives and give 100% to everyone and everything. Earlier today I read that May is National Mental Health Awareness Month which made me stop and think about just how unbelievably better my own mental health has become since starting on my “get Beth healthy” journey a year ago. I wanted to share this part of my story with you all because sometimes with health and fitness it is all about the results you can see on the outside but for me the results you can’t see that have become just as if not more important to me!
I am the definition of a Type A personality. I am also a borderline perfectionist as my fifth-grade teacher first pointed out to me and my parents at a back-to-school night so many moons ago. If I am not early I am late. If I have a big deadline in front of me I will work 24/7 to get it done as quickly as possible. If I don’t get 100% on a test I beat myself up just a little bit (or maybe more than a little bit) for the one or two questions I did get wrong. Sometimes those traits work to my advantage and sometimes they cause me to develop ulcers. I also tend to be a worrier. My mind likes to lead me to the worst-case scenario a lot of times, keeps me up obsessing about a decision that lays in front of me and sometimes causes me to hyperventilate just sitting in my car for no good reason at all. I have been like this ever since I can remember which again sometimes enables me to excel in certain situations but also makes me very highly prone to the effects of stress and anxiety in others.
Since I have started really paying attention to what I am eating and dedicating consistent time to working out my mental health has improved so much I almost can’t believe it myself! The best way I can describe the difference in the way I feel today versus a year ago is I feel lighter. A LOT lighter. I honestly feel (as cliché as it sounds) like a 100lb weight has been lifted off my chest. I’d always hear people say that, but I never truly understood what it meant prior to starting on my own journey. It really is like I can breathe for the first time in many, many years and it feels phenomenal you guys.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I have suffered from panic attacks for a long time. When I first started getting them, it would be a handful a year. Several years ago it started getting worse. I am talking 3-4 attacks a week worse! The problem became so debilitating it was scary for me to leave the house because I was so worried about having one in public where people would see it. Since I decided to get healthy, this issue for me has gotten so much better I can’t even remember the last time I had an attack! It’s been at least 6-8 months and maybe even longer! I can’t tell you what a huge milestone that is for me!
The other part of my mental health story and why I am excited to share it today has to do with those above mentioned panic attacks and medication. I am not someone who typically runs to the doctor to seek medication for all that ails me. In fact, I hate taking medication of any kind really. I have to be pretty much on my death bed to even take something like an over the counter pain reliever or cough and cold medicine. But when my anxiety and panic attacks got really bad a few years back I had no choice but to seek medical help and ended up being prescribed something to help me deal with the situation. Even with that prescription in hand, I resisted taking it unless I was paralyzed in the midst of an attack and felt I had no other option. Right before I started on this journey, I was having to take that damn pill about 3 times a week and I was angry with myself each and every time I did for not being strong enough to fight off the panic on my own.
Here comes another one of those fun disclaimers I feel the need to throw in every once in a while….this is just how I feel about medication. I just don’t like taking it. Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, heck medications of any kind do work very well for a lot of people and I am not discouraging anyone who does take them or is considering taking them. I honestly have nothing bad at all to say about my experience using what I was prescribed. It helped me many times and I still carry it with me just about every where I go “just in case”. For me though, getting off it was a goal of mine from the time I was prescribed it!
Fast forward to today, my anxiety is all but gone and I have achieved the goal of getting off those meds as well! I can’t remember the last time I had to take a pill for my anxiety. I still have everyday stresses like we all do but I am so much naturally calmer overall that when things do come up I can usually handle it in stride. I don’t freak out over little things anymore. I don’t automatically assume the worst. I haven’t had a panic attack in I don’t even know how long and that sense of impending doom that was always right around the corner is definitely gone! So what big change did I make to get all these positive results? The crazy thing is the only change I really made was deciding to place value on my health. I got fed up with being out of shape and not liking the person I saw in the mirror and just made that one all important decision to do something about it.
So how exactly can mental health be helped by exercise and proper nutrition? Well here are a couple of the big ways:
- Feeling and looking better can boost your confidence and improve self-image
- Enables you to get better sleep
- Exercise increases the levels of endorphins in your brain. Endorphins are those magical little neurotransmitters that trigger a positive feeling in the body. Think “Runners High”!
- This one is a big one for me: Exercising gets you out of your own head and focuses you on your body. By focusing on the repetitive movements of exercise I especially notice a sense of calm and an almost meditative-like state that is a huge stress relief for me even when I am just working out for 30 minutes during the day.
- The better shape you are in physically the less you have to worry about health-related issues. Exercise and proper eating obviously keep you in better shape and ward off all kinds of diseases which in both the long and short run will give you less to worry about. And let me tell you, if you think being healthy is expensive, try being sick! Investing in your physical health now will save you all kinds of stress later!
Truth be told, this whole journey really started out with just a goal of losing ten pounds. My mental health wasn’t even really a factor at all in the beginning. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have lost the weight, but it’s what I gained in its place that I think is even more valuable. I gained my peace of mind back. I wake up every day feeling calm and ready to take on whatever the day is going to bring. More importantly still, I wake up every day feeling grateful for all the wonderful things that I do have in my life and even thankful for the challenges that come along because they are just opportunities to continue to learn and grow.
Getting in shape and taking care of my physical health led to such a huge shift in the way I look at the world which in turn did wonders for my mental health. I am so optimistic about the future now because I know if I can accomplish what I already have in just the last twelve months there really isn’t anything out there I can’t achieve if I put my mind to it. Guys, if you are struggling with your mental health in any way shape or form like I was, try giving exercise and eating properly a try if you are not already. The benefits I have experienced have been amazing and honestly life-changing! Besides, what do you have to lose?? If anyone out there would like more info about my experience, my workouts or how I have improved my nutrition please feel free to reach out!! Happy Monday y’all! Let’s have a great week! 🙂