A little tale and some lessons learned about living with anxiety. Spoiler alert: it never ends, but you can manage it.
Ever since I ran two half marathons in one month, back in July/August, I could feel myself sliding back. To what, I haven’t been sure. But from running 21km, I quickly slipped back to a maximum of 10km, and then even started to find 5km to be a struggle. My heart wasn’t in it. I lost my love of running somewhere in there and I couldn’t figure out how to get it back. I kept going out a couple of times a week, thinking my mojo would return, but instead of getting easier it got harder.
Then we moved house. For two weeks I justified not running at all by thinking of all the energy I was using up packing and lifting all my worldly possessions – as well as those of my three children. It was hard work, I promise!
But something else was going on. For every day of packing boxes, and every boring evening of wrapping my valuables in paper and placing them carefully together in cardboard, I was rewarding myself with a wine or two, or – usually – more.
So instead of this healthy lifestyle I was leading just a couple of months ago – where I felt fantastic and had pretty much kicked my lifelong anxiety in the bollocks – I was living a sedentary life and drinking way more than I usually do.
And then he returned. Clive, the Anxiety Monster (I wrote about him last year – he remains one of our most popular posts, so I recommend you check him out. If you don’t feel like clicking over, basically I have named my anxiety Clive. I hate his stupid fucking guts.)
He was tiny at first, so I barely noticed him making himself comfortable. But it didn’t take long before he had taken over my whole world. We moved into our new house and began to unpack our neatly categorised life in our new home.
It was wonderful and exciting – and I really love our new place – but I found myself overwhelmed by everything. Even the tiniest detail could send me into a spin of anxiety. Going to our new supermarket made me worry I wouldn’t be able to find the carpark, or the ramp to get the trolley down to the next level, or what if the supermarket is set out all differently and I can’t find the cheese I like? And what if I get lost on the way home? My phone is broken at the moment so I can’t even call if something happens. This made me snappy and a pretty hideous human to cohabit with.
The next morning, I knew I needed to go for a run. That’s the one thing I know that will help me: getting outside in the bush and getting sweaty. Breathing the clean air. Looking up at the dappled sun through the leaves. Smugly overtaking walkers and giving other runners the secret smug nod.
Moving body, stilling mind.
But Clive is a motherfucker. He doesn’t want me to feel better. Clive gets into my brain and gives me 47 reasons to not go out and move.
Even though I knew exercise was exactly what I needed, I had to force myself to go out. I told myself I would walk for 10 minutes and see how I felt. Even that pissed me off. I left the house cursing and grumpy – I’m sure my family was thrilled to see the back of me.
And then I returned. Relieved. Happy. Not back to my old, healthy Clive-free self, but better. And knowing full-well that if I want to keep kicking Clive in the groin, I need to keep moving. Every day.
And here’s the thing: I know running makes me happy, but even now I can’t commit to that. So my commitment right now is to leave the house in my trainers at 6am, six days a week. Right now I am focused on that consistency. Some of those days I might run, some days I will do strength training, some days I will walk. In the next couple of weeks I plan to enrol at my local yoga school because they do morning yoga classes at 6am – my favourite time to exercise.
And my brain sure could do with that stillness. It’s a fucking circus in here.
This is what the past couple of years have taught me about anxiety. You are never cured. You manage it, as best you can, and you keep on managing it for the rest of your life. For me – and many others too – managing anxiety means moving your body and maintaining a certain level of fitness and health.
I’ll write more about other ways I manage anxiety in the coming weeks, if you’re interested?
Do you deal with anxiety issues? What’s your best tip?