On two separate occasions last week, I’ve had two members at our gym, Just Fitness, talk to me about mental health and how important working out has been to them and how much we’ve helped them deal with theirs, and it got me thinking about my own personal anxiety issues. I talk and post a lot about my journey and struggles with nutrition, physical health and fitness, and I think it’s time for me to openly talk about my own mental health.
I’m what most people would call confident, and what some may say, borderline cocky. And I’m OK with that, because it’s what I put forward as a one of personality traits. What most people don’t know is that I’ve had crippling anxiety since before I was a teenager. This isn’t me simply being nervous about things every once in a while. This is a paralyzing feeling that has me not wanting to go places, do things, or see people, and it has made me physically ill, have panic attacks, and even faint on occasions for no reason whatsoever. Even writing this right now has my anxiety through the roof. My chest feels tight, I’m extremely nervous, and I feel a bit nauseous. The worst part about my own anxiety is that, most of the time, I have no idea what I’m anxious about. There doesn’t need to be a specific situation or a circumstance, like me writing this post, a high school test that I’m scared I’ll fail, or a public speaking event that I’m going to be doing, that has me anxious. I could be having a perfectly great and relaxing day, hanging out with my kids, and all of a sudden, my anxiety skyrockets through the roof and takes over, and it takes everything I have not to breakdown or freak out.
Because I’ve been dealing with this since I was a kid, I’ve found ways to cope. Most of the time, I just smile through it, and don’t ever let on at all that I’m feeling anxious (which is almost every day). This isn’t necessarily a good way to deal with it as you’re just bottling it up, and not everyone can do this, and sometimes the anxiety wins. But I try my hardest not to let this feeling beat me down, and I just try to live a normal life. When I was in my early 20s I would numb the feeling with food and alcohol, and that’s what got me to 275lbs and on the fast track to a short life. Today, the best way I try to deal with my anxiety is by working out 4-6 times a week, and making sure I eat good clean food, and I try to stay away from foods that cause inflammation (for me that’s wheat, dairy and anything processed). There are new studies that show that inflammation in the body and gut raises anxiety, so that’s why having a good diet really helps. Exercise helps you cope anxiety by releasing hormones into the body to make you feel happy. Exercise has always been my favorite way to deal with any of my issues, and now that I’m learning more about how my diet can affect my anxiety (good and bad), I’m focusing more on that as well.
Globally, the rate of suicide is alarmingly high, particularly in men. Personally, I’ve never had suicidal thoughts, but too many men out there are ‘toughing it out’, and keeping their feelings to themselves, and struggling in silence. I know there are great movements like “Bell Let’s Talk” and “Movember Foundation Canada” that talk about mental health issues, but there still needs to be more open communication about the issues that people have and face every day. I still feel anxious almost every day, but it’s much better and under a bit of control when I’m physically healthy versus when I’m not. Your physical health affects your mental health, and my goal over the next little while is to make sure that people know about the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle for your mental health.
To show my commitment to my Movember campaign, for every $5 donated to me, I will do 1 burpee. $1,000 = 200 Burpees. I don’t mind suffering for the cause!