Shaking Things Up

I’m back from my summer blogging break and a lot has changed…

I reached the point where I was fed up with my life not improving quickly enough, so I decided to shake things up. A lot. I started going to modern jive classes, which I enjoy despite being terrible at dancing. I go with a friend, but my confidence has increased enough that I went on my own when she flitted off to Barcelona for a week. A few months ago, that would have been unthinkable!

I also joined my local gym and go to 3 classes a week to build a foundation for my fitness. I prefer to do “normal” cardio either outside (walking, mainly) or at home on my exercise bike or treadmill, so the classes incorporate resistance exercises as well as giving me a blast of cardio. Since I reduced my medication a few weeks ago (after checking with my doctor, of course), I intend to use exercise to help me manage my anxiety and depression symptoms. I have been doing that irregularly for a while, but being in a class helps me to stay motivated and has a beneficial social aspect.

I won’t lie — it hasn’t been easy. But it’s worth it.

I still get anxious when I push myself, but the more I push myself the more I am able to do. I have learnt that I can cope, even if I need to duck outside for a few minutes to calm down or stop working out for a few minutes until my breathing is back under control. Side note: it’s really weird how getting out of breath when exercising can trigger my anxiety, though I’m getting better at controlling my physiological response.

The strangest thing is, people tend not to notice my anxiety. I had to explain to the instructor in one of my exercise classes that I was anxious, not having an asthma or heart attack! When people do notice that I’m anxious, they take it in their stride and view it as normal. After all, few people relish walking into a room full of strangers. Often, I will say I’m nervous or anxious straightaway, so that I’m not obsessing about whether other people are misinterpreting my symptoms.

The biggest changes are invisible

It’s still early days — although my lifestyle has changed a lot, there have been no miraculous transformations. I’m a little fitter, but I still feel incredibly out of shape compared to the others in my exercise classes. I’m more sociable, but I’m not out partying every night.The biggest transformation has been in my mindset: I have made a conscious decision to focus on the positive aspects of my life.

Again, this might sound simple but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I’m working hard to cultivate optimism and gratitude. There are days when it’s harder than usual; but there are also many days when I feel happier than I have for years. I still have problems, but now I’m more interested in finding solutions than stressing out about them.

Onwards and upwards!

The past couple of months are just the beginning. I plan to continue making changes, transforming my mindset and creating the life I want. I know it won’t be easy and that I have to keep managing my mental health problems for the rest of my life, but what I have experienced so far has convinced me that it’s worth the effort.

 

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