fitness health mental health who am I

Running from anxiety

Monday, 22 August 2016

floored

I don’t usually take rest days anymore. The most restful it gets for me is just swimming for a km or two on Saturdays.

Many have said my dedication is admirable. Many have said I must have great will-power.

The truth is that in addition to all the sports that I do being FUN for me, I also NEED exercise to function – when my body is exhausted, my mind is calm.

Let me explain.

Let me explain anxiety.

On one end of the anxiety spectrum is this action-packed yet terrifying movie that starts playing in my brain at totally random times – the subject of which are all kinds of scenarios of my children getting hurt or dying.

I can usually stop these movies by distracting myself or by concentrating on my breathing or just simply going la-la-la-la-la for a while.

However, it’s like when you fall asleep for 10 minutes and end up having dreams that seem to last for hours – it’s the same here. By the time I stop my brain, great big plots have already unraveled in my head. In its glitchy way, the glitchy part of my brain is trying to protect me by preparing me for all these scenarios – plane crashes, burning houses, sinking ships…

On the other side of the anxiety spectrum is the constant overanalysing of everything.

And I mean everything.

And I mean constant.

Analysing everything that ever happened to me since I was 5 and everything that might possibly happen in the future. Events, places, people, reactions, emotions, words…

Every ‘look’ I get that isn’t an ear-to-ear smile I interpret as: they don’t love me / they don’t even like me / I am a terrible person / why do I always piss people off / and so on and so on…

This is what it’s like.

The rational part of my brain tells me that everything’s fine, that I’m fine, that I’m doing ok, that some people do love me… but then there’s also a toddler in there whose toast has just been cut into squares instead of triangles.

Sometimes I hush myself. Out loud. Like you’d hush a toddler – I repeat to myself “It’s ok. You’re ok. I’m here. Everything’s fine. You’ll be fine. We can make a new piece of toast…”

So yeah… I don’t run, lift, climb, jump, swim, sweat because I want to look a certain way or be on the podium, I simply do it to exhaust myself because when I’m physically exhausted, my mind is calm.

When I’m sweating and my heart rate is high, I don’t have the energy to overanalyse anything. I’m simply in the present moment and although I might be uncomfortable, it’s the time when I feel that my body is working well, my mind is working well, I’m having fun and that maybe I’m actually not broken, that maybe I’m actually ok, that maybe everything will actually be just fine…

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  • Kaie Tuesday, 23 August 2016 at 11:27

    That’s what keeps me sane – CrossFit on most days and tennis. Great honest post!

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  • Noel Monday, 22 August 2016 at 17:17

    I love your refreshing honesty. It takes courage to express our inner feelings and to share the inner workings of our complex minds, but you do so in an articulate and caring way. Caring to yourself and to others who may be feeling something similar. I know that I use exercise as much for my mental state as for my physical state. Everything is linked. Well done on another great, open, real, authentic post.