Living with anxiety: why you need to keep moving, especially when you don’t feel like it

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.)

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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.

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I run, even when I really really don’t feel like it.

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?

Written By

Carolyn is the editorial director of Champagne Cartel and a freelance writer. In her spare time she is a long-distance runner, peanut butter enthusiast, and single mum to three incredible humans.

39 Comments

  • It really is about time Clive effed the hell off. I do remember your Clive post and I go back to read it every now and then. I don’t know if you remember, but I told you about my constricted throat. You came up with a name for it, but I can’t remember it now. It’s a total bitch and suffocates me when I least expect. It appeared today momentarily, but I managed to break free. Swimming helps me. I’m glad you’re getting back into the running and the yoga sounds absolutely perfect. You are doing all the right things. I’m glad you’re taking care of you xx

    • Theodora! (Confession: I had to look it up.) There are lots of things I’d like to be doing right now – and swimming is another one – that Clive just makes too confronting right now. But I’ll take these baby steps of running and yoga and then branch out and get braver again. The great thing about it (if you can call it that) is that I know how to deal with it – so it’s just a matter of doing it. Thanks for commenting, Renee – feeling anxious about this post, unsurprisingly!

  • I lovebomb myself when I’m stressed and anxious. Mine is related to my PMDD (PMS on crack) and a former toxic workplace environment.

    So I’m kind to myself. I make decaf lattes, read a book, pat the bunny, watch a movie, sit in the sunshine. Basically give myself permission to just be.

    I used to withdraw and my Blokefolk hate this. Like living with an automaton apparently.

    Organisation helps me! I’m always springcleaning. It helps because it’s a process of chaos to calm.

    Same with laundry.

    Anxiety is a bitch but I’m making it my bitch.

  • I’m reading a new (ish) book on this topic atm that I’ll review soon on my blog. I might link to this and a few other great posts I’ve read lately about anxiety too when I post it. I think it’s a powerful thing to realise that this sort of long term ‘clinical’ anxiety doesn’t go away, no matter how many cats wielding positive affirmations one posts on one’s desktop. You have to be really strong, mindful and find your personal way to kick its arse. I’m so glad to hear you’re back on your feet and moving. Arse? Kicked. Tick! x

  • Awesome post as usual Caroline. Shoved myself out the door last night to pilates for my sanity. Anxiety’s not my bitch, it’s depression, but moving works the same for me. Lara, also, will be v keen to read your book review. I have a friend who suffers anxiety and doesn’t realise it, and her son is also becoming highly anxious. I’d love her to get some help with it, in whatever way will work for her. If you have any suggestions Caroline, on how I could gently approach this topic with her, I’d be really grateful. Maybe a future post?

  • I love this post. It’s true everyone feels better when they are exercising. I need to take note and book in that 6am appointment with myself. Take care honey x

  • I can definitely relate to the anxiety problems…And yes, you have to learn to live with it.
    So for the mild ones (fear of not finding some place): I tell myself that if a million people are doing it, I can do it too.
    For the bigger ones, I hug my husband, watch a movie, take my mind elsewhere… and tell myself while breathing: “You know you have it, just calm down, you know it will pass”.

    It’s pretty brave to put it out there ! Thanks for that post!

  • I have a Clive, except let’s call it Barb. As much as it’s shit for you, ever other person’s story makes me feel a little less shit about sharing my life with anxiety. Like yours, mine wreaks havoc on my life when I let myself slide into bad habits. It’s always there but sometimes manageable; sometimes debilitating. Mine has a delightful habit of goading me into a total abject freak out that I’m going to hurt my kids (for no particular reason) or coaxing me into worrying about little things like, oh, the meaning of existence (not in a depressed, sad way in a mad, panicky I-have-to-work-this-shit-out-right-now kind of way – yep, really productive stuff).

    So, long story short, I get it. Running is my sanity and booze makes me a bit more bonkers, too. Thanks for this article. Took the edge off.

    Sarahx

  • Love this post, you’re awesome my friend and you are doing a fantastic job. You’ve identified the problem and you are making incredibly positive moves. Woooo!! Kick that Clive in the doodle. And I’m here to support whenever you need MWAH xxxx

    • Thanks beautiful friend! And thanks for all the text messages checking in on me too – much appreciated. You would be so great as a nurse working in a mental institution – you’ve nailed the best tone for talking to crazy people. 🙂

  • Moving is essential but staying still and breathing into it can help too.
    Sometimes the body can’t move so the mind has to over come and learn stillness. All is temporary. Movement and stillness.
    Take care

  • Well done you. Keep up the fabulous effort.I have just discovered or worked out that I have been hiding away from the world and in the last few months all that has changed as step by step I get my life back on track doing what i love. V x

  • I totally get this. I have a Clive too, and he definitely gets into my head and takes it over. I find running helps, and I’ve gotten back into horse riding over the past 6 months which has done wonders. Sometimes I have to force myself to put on those riding boots and get out there, but I always feel better once I have.

    And its definitely management, anxiety never seems to completely leave, its always waiting to grow. All the best and thank you for sharing your story x

  • What a fantastic article. I love it and had to go back and read the original Clive post. Makes me feel more normal as I’m sure I have a little unnamed friend on the side. You go girl and tell Clive where to go!!!

  • Such a great post, Carolyn! As I always say, we’re all just doing the best we can! Trying every day to be better, to calm that chattering mind (or Clive) and find what serves you best to keep moving forward is such a great achievement in itself. You’re amazing x

  • Does Clive have a brother? I’m pretty sure I wake up with Clive’s brother many mornings a week and it sucks! I mean, how can you have a great nights sleep and wake up feeling anxious about the day. I know EXACTLY where you’re coming from, I’m feeling a sense of emotion in the pit of my stomach reading this and will have to read your earlier post. My problem is the whole making myself exercise, I just find it so damn hard and I’m suffering the consequences, the whole merry go round of them. Unfortunately I get a bit of Clive’s brother and the big D too, it’s like a double whammy. I have my ups and downs, but I know exercise will solve a lot of it. I also need to find more time for myself just to sit and be, I rarely do that at all. I think we’re all allowed to have bad days too. But good on you for being tough and making the commitment. I’ve always thought you were amazing in your running abilities, you’ll get back there. x

  • Fabulous post. Hope you enjoy the yoga, that’s what I do & I feel it really helps me. It’s hard squeezing in the time for yourself when you have a family to take care of too. As much as it sucks for us all, every time I read a post from one of you fab bloggers & see comments from your gorgeous followers, it makes me feel just that bit more normal. Anxiety is a real cocknocker.

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