Last year, it felt as though I was losing my mind at least four times a day. There would be days I would not want to leave my room, and then there would be other days I could not stand the thought of spending one more second in my room! While I’m a full believer in taking care of one’s mental health, my thought process in that realm consisted of medications and counselors. I thought about trying yoga or meditation, because using relaxation methods to combat stress seemed reasonable. While these methods helped to some degree, nothing has worked quite like the self-care of a good diet and exercise. I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before, and let me tell you, it’s hard to change a lifestyle full of certain habits. But if I can do it, so can you, trust me!
The combination of stress and excitement from the ending school year brought me to eat and drink (alcohol) more than the norm. These excessive habits thus inevitably caused me to gain weight. I felt like crap, and let’s face it, I looked like crap. I lost all energy and motivation to get through the day. My self-esteem was shot.
It was not until I saw pictures of myself posted on Facebook that I decided to make change. It was not simply that I looked heavier, but I looked unhealthy, I looked unhappy. Though it felt like an unfortunate moment, it turned out to be a positive thing because it pushed me to work out. Originally, I just wanted to shed a few extra pounds. I did not want to starve myself or anything, but I also knew that I needed to tweak my diet.
As a typical student of UCSB might do, I decided to do a little research before diving in head first. I read a couple different books on health and wellness. In short, I learned that lack of exercise and bad eating habits can actually cause and intensify anxiety. This propelled me further into my drive to change my unhealthy lifestyle habits.
I stopped drinking alcohol for a month, vowed to cut down on beer indefinitely (so sad), cut fast food out of my diet entirely, and tried to incorporate more fruits and veggies into my daily meals. I worked to change habits slowly, which meant allowing myself MANY cheat days in the beginning, with no specific schedule. I made sure to exercise at least once a day whether that meant taking a simple stroll around my neighborhood or trying out a high intensity workout class. I also incorporated vitamins into my morning routine!
I wanted to make a conscious effort toward my health every single day. When I wanted to go out for drinks with friends, I went. When I wanted to indulge in a beautiful slice of pizza, I did. (Wow, I didn't even mean to sound like Forest Gump) I just made sure to be conscious of all of my decisions. If I ate doughnuts for breakfast, I made sure to have a healthy lunch and dinner. See, you quite literally can have your cake and mother f&%$ing eat it too!
Slowly, I did see a little weight loss, but even better was I noticed a big change in my state of mind. I now felt more motivated to move, to hike, to explore, to be productive. I felt more positive about the skin I’m in. I wasn’t worried about being a little thicker than other girls anymore, I wasn’t worried about being rejected, I wasn’t worried about the little, irrational things that come with having anxiety.
I felt that my primary goal was self improvement and that regarded no one else’s opinion but my own. Exercise works to release happiness endorphins which I have found to be more powerful than whatever chemical imbalances come with anxiety. Exercise and eat healthy, but balance in fun and delicious not-so-healthy foods too! Not because you need to lose weight (trust me, I’m sure you are beautiful just the way you are) but because it will make you healthier, and therefore happier. It will help you de-stress, it will help you feel motivated, and the list goes on and on. I still have a lot to work on, and I’m still trying to be better each day, but I think the effort makes me stronger and stronger, both mentally and physically. No matter how busy you are in your day to day life, make time for self-care because the body you are living in is more important than temporary circumstances! SELF LOVE!