In the middle of 2016, I was feeling sluggish, constantly tired, constantly down. I couldn’t shake it off for months on end – I felt like I was hanging off a cliff, desperately holding on. Onto what? At the time, I had no idea. Everything seemed pointless. I was floating through life feeling unfulfilled and quite honestly on the edge of losing my mind.
And then… well, it happened.
A slap on the face.
A punch in the stomach.
A push off the cliff.
A wake-up call.
I ended up in this dark place of depression leading to self-destructive behaviour. The only energy I had left was to pity myself and beat myself up for unfinished conversations…
But you know what they say, time heals, right? In August 2016, that self-pity turned to an incredible force of focus towards healing and levelling myself up. It’s the best knock on the head I’ve ever had and the only one that I am so so so thankful for.
I’ve been so determined never to fall into that scary place ever again.
It’s been a year since and I have made so many improvements towards my mental and physical health that the dark place doesn’t seem so scary anymore. As part of the journey of finding myself again, I implemented four key practices to my life which I swear by. They are game changers!
Note: This is a long post. If you’re looking for something specific, skip to it here:
Meditation is a breathing exercise whereas mindfulness is the practice of being aware of the present moment – the only moment that really matters! Both meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand. Breathing helps ground you into the present. Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not just “emptying your mind” or some weird “voodoo shit” 😅
I always found it hard to explain why I love meditation so much and how it has had such a big impact on me! (I mean why else would I be doing it every morning for 400+ days now?) But after reading The Brain Book by Phil Dobson (which connected my Biomed knowledge to meditation! 💡) it now makes a lot of sense! When meditating, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in – which triggers your ‘rest and digest’ state. This plays a huge role in homeostasis (i.e. finding that perfect balance) and helps you rest and relax.
Most of you already know this because I talk about it A LOT but I like to meditate with the app Calm. I recommend using apps, especially if you’re a beginner as they really help make it a habit over time.
Meditation has helped me in so many different ways but the most effective thing for me is the wonders it does with managing my anxiety.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had severe anxiety and panic disorder; to the point I would get terrifying panic attacks (I wouldn’t be able to breathe, I would have total loss of control of my body. If you’ve experienced a panic attack before, you’d know what I mean) I had been on medication to control them before but I found that they aggregated it further as well as made me suffer from a range of other side effects. After a terrible panic attack that left me shaken for days after my second-year exams and seeing the impact it had on my family and close friends, I decided to take action and desperately looked for something to ease it.
I found meditation and since starting Headspace then switching to Calm, my panic attacks and general anxiety has lessened. When I am on the verge of anxious feelings, I turn to mediation and after 10 minutes of focused breathing and enhanced self-awareness – i.e. understanding why I’m feeling anxious, accepting it and then letting go – I prevent the negative feelings from losing control in my mind.
Esha on Twitter asked, “how do you motivate yourself to meditate?”
I’m only human, so naturally, I get lazy! It was really difficult when I first started; I actually had to restart a few times before it became a habit. Having a dedicated time to meditate helped with habit-formation, I do mine every morning because my mind is “less busy” with events from the day.
My main motivation to meditate is knowing full well of the benefits it has on my mental health. I’ve seen results from doing it – by the fewer anxiety attacks and my feelings generally. Whenever I do feel lazy (I have had days like that, believe it or not!), I remind myself of these effects and close my eyes. 10 minutes later, as I open my eyes, I feel incredible: calm, happy, grateful. That’s all the motivation I need. 💙
Elise on Twitter asked, “I wanna know how you deal with these things emotionally! cliche, I know but I wanna see how you defeat your inner insecurity and stuff”
It all comes down to awareness. I’ve talked about it a lot already but remembering how awesome I am, how I kicked my anxiety’s butt this year, how I fell so low but pulled myself back up and just celebrating even the smallest achievements and milestones help defeat my inner insecurity. I’m a lot less insecure to I was in the past, I think meditation and positive self-talk helped with this a lot so give it a go! Having a positive and empowering network is key too – my confidence boost wouldn’t have reached this high without everyone 💜
Oh no, Pauline is going to talk about exercise again… Yes, but hear me out!
It started with my fifth box of Ben and Jerry’s, refusing to do anything but cry over an unexpected messy breakup. I remember I was in the corner of my room, unable to cry anymore. It was 5-6am when my dad walked in and asked if I wanted to go on a run, I had lost count at that point how many times he asked me over the past month but for some reason, that day, I said yes. I finally got up and went with him.
I was so unfit, I was sweating, panting and my lungs felt like they had disappeared from my body. But afterwards, it felt amazing.
The next week or so, he asked me if I wanted to go to the gym with him instead of running because of the rain that day. Usually, I would roll my eyes at the thought but that weekend I agreed.
I ran on the treadmill, used the elliptical and bike. I stayed way away from the weights area but my dad reassured me that weights wouldn’t make me “look like a man” instead, it’d make me stronger.
Stronger? Stronger was what I wanted to be.
All that energy I had to pity myself turned to focus on something much more positive and empowering: getting and being stronger; both mentally and physically.
Since that day in August, I have never looked back and regretted my decision. I only thank my past self for starting.
*click on the images for a closer look if you want! 🔎
September – December
January – July
July – now:
Comparing photos from July 2016 – Barcelona and August 2017 – Fuerteventura
As I’ve said before, sometimes I want to give up because I get lazy (especially in the winter!) When this hits me, instead of getting frustrated I have learned to accept what I’m feeling (meditation has helped me so much with this) Sometimes, I skip a day, label it as my rest day and reschedule my exercise routine or lay down in bed for longer until I feel motivated enough to get up.
And that’s fine.
I think too many people give up when they miss a day or get lazy for a week, your gains don’t disappear after a day or a week, it’s completely fine to fall off the fitness waggon as long as you jump back! Don’t rush to get back onto it – definitely only when you really feel like you want to.
Initially, I would beat myself up for skipping a day or two. It wasn’t until I would do my meditation that I become mindful of my negative self-talk. As soon as I realise, I stop myself – it’s not healthy at all (the only way you should be talking to yourself is the way Carly talks about me and ice cream) Turning to accept that my body needs to rest sometimes and that naturally it gets burnt out hasn’t been easy but with most things, after really focused practice, it gets easier. After all, we must always listen to our bodies!
I get asked about finding motivation and what keeps me going all the time. My ability to be consistent and bounce back has come from remembering why I started. I started because:
My sister asked me when my fitness phase would end. I don’t think I’ll ever stop working out. My ‘fitness obsession’ is now a lifestyle that I chose to adopt and brings me so much happiness and joy.
It’s my fuel to get through the day; seriously that endorphin rush I get is something else!
And it’s become SO MUCH MORE than how I look, at the end of the day, it stems from how valuable it is to me. And to me, prioritising my long-term health is much more valuable than anything!
I know I wouldn’t still be doing it if I only cared about how I looked like. I mean, yeah, gainz are fucking awesome but sometimes they’re slow, sometimes they’re not visible – I found that with my abs – stronger core but invisible for months (until I focused on fat loss) It could’ve thrown me off completely and demotivated me but I chose to focus on how I felt. Like hello? Can we have a reality check for a minute? I’m stronger than yesterday, I can hold a plank longer than 10 seconds. THANK YOU BODY FOR BEING SO AMAZING?
How I feel after finishing that last set and knowing the good that I’m doing to my body is worth every pain to gain.
My journey hasn’t finished; it’s only just begun. But it’s always good to reflect and highlight achievements – celebrate yourself and your hard work always, gal!
What is “clean eating”? It’s being 100% mindful of everything you put in your body!
No, I don’t cut chocolate out of my life. I mean, how could I possibly?? I’ve talked about how bad my eating habits were in the past. I used to skip breakfast, have JUST a muffin or binge eat Kinder Buenos and ready salted crisps, have Chinese take away every day and ignore my mom who would tell me to eat more fruit and vegetables. I mean vegetables are so over rated though. Right?
Wrong. That lack of energy I had and sluggishness was all from not being mindful of what I was putting in my body. Around the same time I started exercising, I began a clean eating journey which was inspired mainly by Fitness Blender. Kelli and Daniel talked a lot about eating “real” food in their videos. Fuel is what you need to function. Good fuel helps you kill your workouts and smash your day! I made the decision to gain control of my eating habits.
I didn’t rush into only eating greens 24/7 – that’s a set-up for failure. I started slow.
I did this for a week. Survived. Did it again for another but started craving sugar and chocolate… So you know what I did? I ate chocolate.
And guess what? I didn’t fall back down to step one. Depriving yourself isn’t what this is about! Life is too short, have the chocolate bar, if you must as long as it’s all in moderation.
After a while, positive food choices got even easier.
I remember the first time I skipped my “cheat day”, I was SO surprised. My taste buds got accustomed to what I used to think was “bland” and “boring” food… I mean I started craving kale and dreaming of green juices; that says a lot, does it not?
Now now, I’m not perfect.
I’m sure my former colleagues will tell you that they’ve seen me have days where I’d run to the local shop buying a shelf of chocolate rice cakes. Almost every single time I do, I immediately regret it. I get dizzy spells and feel a little sick after binge eating junk food.
I recall it happened a lot in NYC. I was so happy returning home to fresh vegetables. 🥒
I still have a lot to learn about food – especially actually making it 😆 – but I am so eager to!
When I got into Bullet Journaling, I included a gratitude page which I would add to everyday. I stopped for a couple of months but picked it back up in January with my Five Minute Journal. I have both the hardback and app so that I would be much more consistent with it.
I like starting and ending my day with good vibes; no matter how bad it may have been. I know sometimes I get frustrated when things aren’t going right or when I compare myself to others, leading to feelings of relative deprivation. I’m sure that we’ve all been there!
Practicing gratefulness every day has made me appreciate things more, including my own achievements (which helps a lot when I compare myself!), my incredible support network, family and awareness that I am so fortunate because I have everything I need and more. 💙
In the summer of 2016, I was broken and lost, with no idea who I was because up to that point I was just someone’s girlfriend. I was dependent on him for my source of happiness and love. I was insecure, anxious and fearful of the unknown.
A year later, I have not only “fixed” myself but also levelled up beyond my imagination – in just 12 months. Using that little bit of hope and energy that I had left on self-care is the best thing I have ever done. I’m so alive, so happy, so energetic and excited about the present and the future and feel nothing but appreciation for the past. ❤️ I am independent, I make myself happy, I am SO SO SO in love with myself. I’m confident and face the unknown with my head held high – ready and willing.
I found myself again.
Take control of your life, we only have one! I hope that this inspired you to focus on yourself and introduce positive habits to your life. Your future self will thank you for it!
I’m going to conclude this post with a favourite quote I saw on Twitter the other day, which is the general idea of this whole post. If you want to take anything out of it, it should be…
Everything happens on a mental level before it manifests into the physical level. This is why it’s so important to get your mindset right. – idil on Twitter