I once heard Osher Gunsberg (an Australian TV personality and podcast host) talk about dealing with his chronic anxiety. He said something like: "I take care of my mental health as well as an Olympic athlete takes care of his training." That has always stayed with me and lately, I found this statement very helpful.
I won't lie, this past year has been challenging and stressful for me: moving to a new country with a different culture, living with my husband's family and dealing with difference in character, my father's illness and death, starting a new business from scratch... Yes, these are all great opportunity for personal growth... but it sure isn't easy!
I have always struggled with anxiety at some levels. I remember as a child always fearing the worst case scenario. I remember having panic attacks in bed from as early as 8 or 9 years old. It sure intensified following the abuse I was victim as a teenager. It reached an all time high when I was around 25 years old and found myself in a toxic on and off romantic relationship with a man who had serious commitment phobia. I was having debilitating panic attacks about two times a day and seriously considered taking medication.
Even though I know that medication can be appropriate and even essential for some people. Osher Gunsberg himself is open about using medication as one of his tool to control his anxiety. I however truly believed that I could do without it. I decided to apply myself to becoming better with the same fervour I had when training for speed skating. I researched a lot, made sure to eat well, exercised often, took herbs with natural anti-depressant properties and became a big fan of the book "The Secret". I practiced a lot of visualisation of myself being happy and calm and was diligent in trying to manifest the life of my dreams through different tools: I made a lot of vision board type scrapbooks, wrote pages and pages in a journal and even wrote myself a letter describing the kind of man I wanted to meet.
Within a few months, I got highly motivated to make a lot of changes in my life which slowly helped me materialise what I wanted. I met a man who truly wanted to be with me and made me feel safe and eventually became my husband. I got my Australian permanent residency (and later citizenship), adopted the best cat in the world (Chubbs!), lived in a house that I could call home, surrounded myself with great friends, adopted a vegan lifestyle, became an ultra runner and found my true calling. Most importantly, my panic attacks were now reduced to once or twice a year!
Then I became complacent. After a few years on a plant based lifestyle and starting ultra running, I just felt on top of the world. I had abundant energy, almost perfect digestion and total discipline to my training. My mental health self care took a back seat.. until I did not attend to it at all. Who needs visualisation and positive affirmations when you are eating the ideal diet for your body and are in the shape of your life? Slowly but surely, the old demons crept back up.
One of my role model, Rich Roll, talked about his own relapse with alcoholism in a very similar way. In 2011, he had been sober for more than 10 years and after having to withdraw on the second day of the Ultraman World Championships, he found himself at a hotel bar downing a beer after another. He realised that while concentrating on his health and fitness, he was not attending to his recovery anymore.
Eating well and training comes very easily to me now. I crave fruits and vegetables and I love running more than anything. I however do not have the same discipline for meditation or journalling. I usually start a practice for a few days and let it slide. I now however know that these tools are instrumental to my well being. I might be healthy and fit, but if I don't deal with my anxiety now, it will one day catch up with me. This is one thing that all types of medicine would agree: True health and wellbeing is a healthy mind in a healthy body.
This is why I am now making my mental health self care and routine a priority. I consult a shaman, meditate (using Headspace and Julie Piatt's Jai Release), write in my journal every single day (inspired by the book on the picture, Let it Out), make sure I get enough sleep and burn candles and sage to help with negative energy. If I can run and eat healthy foods, I can stick to this new short routine every day!
Thank you so much for your support and for keeping me accountable!
Peace & Strength