Your mind + your body = BFF’s
Anxiety has a butt-tonne of symptoms and pre-cursors. I reckon I could do a solid 1000 words on those alone. If you are reading this as a loving partner, friend or family member of an anxious person and you’re looking to support them then let me list a couple for you so you can get a grasp of just how diverse (and contradictory) these bad-boys can be;
- Feeling cold
- Feeling hot
- Lack of concentration
- Racing thoughts
- Unwanted thoughts (catastrophising, feeling of impending doom)
- Perfectionism (aka hypervigilance or obsessive-compulsive tendencies)
- Heart palpitations
Anxiety is most commonly characterised by the feeling of stress which is out of proportion to the impact of the event, or the inability to set aside worry and replace it with reason. Those who can relate say ‘I’ *resounding ‘I’ echoes throughout the planet*.
There are 1000’s of studies which look into the possible links and reasons behind anxiety and depression, being that they frequently (but not always) go hand-in-hand. I for one am grateful to only have symptoms of anxiety, and I say ‘only’ with a bit of a scoff because it’s bloody hard as it is. But my hat comes off to those who battle with both, day in and day out… you are stronger than you realise.
I digress, the reason I am writing this today is not just to tell you the symptoms of anxiety but how Pilates can help you/your friend/partner/sister deal with these symptoms and potentially get rid of them completely! There are also 100’s of studies on this, but the main reason I know is from personal experience.
You may or may not know that when I was around 20-21, I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. This happened during a period where my then-boyfriend and I had broken up for the umpteenth time, I was working all day during the week and eating crappy food, I was only sleeping a few hours a night and when I was sleeping it was on my best friends couch, and on the weekends you can just go right ahead and add in drinking bulk Moscato + the occasional social cigarette. I know right? Gross.
I was NOT in a great place mentally or physically. I’d ‘lost’ the guy who took my virginity, the same one who had emotionally tortured me through constant denial of cheating and then had the audacity to accuse me of cheating (in hindsight I can see why I lost so many friends after taking him back so many times…), I was barely sleeping and when I was sleeping it was extremely poor quality, I was eating garbage 24/7 and washing it down with alcohol. The only positive in this picture are my best friends who stuck by my side and the fact this period was pretty short.
After a few weeks of this cycle I could feel my body going into over-drive. I started getting these black specks in my vision in times of stress (which was always, at that point) and they would make me so anxious. Like, what the heck is wrong with me? One morning before work when I was driving my girlfriend home (she had gone out the night before, but I made the decision to stay in) I started getting all these spots in my vision just while I was driving. That was the peak – I went into a full meltdown anxiety attack. I couldn’t breathe. We got home and she called the ambulance, when they arrived the worst of my attack had passed but they hooked me up to the heart monitor + did some tests on my eyes and lungs. All was well, physically speaking. But the paramedic said to me ‘you’re 20, you don’t need to be worrying like this’ – and with that she gave me a referral to a doctor where I could be referred to a Psychologist.
I saw a Psych for 2 years through VVCS (the perks of being a Defence kid), and my goodness thank gosh that I did. It wasn’t always convenient, there were many times I dragged my ass there with little motivation, but boy was it worth the time and energy. A lot of my anxiety in the past stemmed from the fact that I was SO in tune with my body, that the smallest change or funny feeling would set me off. As I’ve mentioned previously, I wasn’t particularly fond of doctors so if anything meant I’d have to go to one then it’d just send me into panic.
Moving on, I picked up my Pilates DVD again that had been collecting dust for a while during my ‘being crazy-stupid-and-young’ phase and started practicing 20 minutes a day. Between the massages I was fortunate to be getting with thanks to my friend who was a masseuse-in-training, decent food (it wasn’t great but it was improving) and the regular practice, I was getting somewhere.
The road to recovery was a long one, it took another get-together and break-up with that boyfriend for me to finally put my foot down and say no to him. And after that our relationship as friends actually got better, I have a lot of respect for him due to the fact he put me up in the house he owned when I had no money to live anywhere else (he had moved back home). I’ll always be grateful for that period, although it was extremely tough for me financially, it was the biggest time of growth that I’ve ever had. I was training at the gym and doing Pilates almost every single day, I was seeing my Psychologist and I was learning that I don’t have to have people in my life if they’re no good for me.
From the time I was diagnosed until this point it was about 2 years. I was actually really sad to move from that house eventually, it had been a place of healing for me and it does suck that I don’t have the option to re-visit (that would be a very awkward visit – he lives there with his ‘new’ partner and young ones now and we’ve not spoken in years). Though a lot of my anxiety stemmed from the toxic relationship we shared, I’d still like to thank him one day for giving me the time I had in that house. Without it who knows where or who I would’ve ended up!
So, as you know, I have obviously practiced Pilates ever since. It has been with me through the most difficult times of my life, times where I honestly didn’t know how I was going to cope. But I did. And I firmly believe that the mental strength you gain from a regular Pilates practice helped me with that. Pilates is damn hard, and it is meant to be. You’re mastering the art of mindful breathing, intentional movement and mind-muscle connection all at once. It was created to heal the entire human body by a man who was a very broken boy, a man who went through the war while being held in an internment camp, then turned around & made sure that everybody in his cell block left healthier than when they arrived.
Pilates was MADE for YOU.
Pilates was MADE for MENTAL HEALTH.