My fitness watch told me that I’m coming up on a two-year streak of working out. I’m pretty proud of that, actually. But throughout those two years, I’ve been dealing with mixed feelings in regard to where I am today.
I’m not where I expected to be, but also much further than expected, somehow.
I’m proud to say that I’ve been working hard on myself to be the best me I can be, but I’ve also done a lot of reflection. This has made me think about some mistakes I’ve made in the past and what I hope to be doing to avoid repeating past mistakes.
Over the last two years, I’ve been working hard to get on top of my physical health to ensure that I am no longer actively limited by anxiety or illness. I was able to improve my cardiovascular health.
I’ve been working out: I’ve covered ~2500 km over the last two years, and try to go out for a daily run of 5 km every single day. Due to dietary changes, I’ve also lost over 25 kg of fat.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s the easy part done. What comes now is different: it’s continuing the work of rebuilding my social life and eventually finding love again. Lately that’s been on my mind, and I think that sooner or later it’s time for me to start dating. (I wasn’t ready before.)
But anyway, that’s an aside. I want to talk about…
I want to talk about a few things that have been on my mind recently. In order to grow as a person (to get some of what folks would call character development), a few things are needed.
First and foremost of those things: some acknowledgement. If one cannot acknowledge that an issue exists, one can’t possibly hope to address it.
If you fucked up in life, you have to take responsibility.
It’s a core pillar of making sure your life can be unfucked. If you don’t own up to your mistakes, you cannot grow. You’ll just keep on making the same mistakes, over and over again.
(An important aside here: we all have blind spots, so you definitely want to consult your peers, friends in order to find out what you’re blind to.)
I’ve been interested in psychology for some time now. It’s fascinating. As someone who has suffered from various forms of anxiety over the years, I figured it’s time to be a little bit more public about this journey that I’ve been on to better myself.
“Never again” as a catchphrase has been a powerful tool in my arsenal. Whenever I find myself struggling to achieve my goals, I remind myself of where I started, and how I want to never again go back to where I came from.
Two years ago, I had just left a problematic relationship, my self-confidence was at rock-bottom, and I was plagued by (all sorts of) anxiety and was overweight and unhealthy. The only good thing I had going for myself was that I was working a decent job and enjoyed doing what I did.
The beginning of my journey was kickstarted by a break-up, and this brought with it a unique kind of motivation. You see, after a relationship of almost 12 years had fallen apart, I felt not only dejected and sad, but also… angry. (This had to do, in part, with how the relationship ended but let’s not focus on that.)
I carried that anger with me for the next 18 months, as I proceeded to do something about my sorry excuse of a life. What started initially as a reaction to the breakup quickly became a habit: I was now actively looking out for myself.
The anger eventually subsided, but not until after I felt like I was no longer a worthless person, and that took a while. If not for some important friends, I would probably still be feeling angry, writing these very words.
(Was I really worthless? Absolutely not. But the circumstances at the time certainly didn’t prevent me from feeling that way.)
There’s a bunch of people who think that getting better just means you have to “leave your comfort zone” which is absolutely ridiculous advice if your body is constantly in fight-or-flight mode.
I think it’s more common than you think, especially given that our lifestyles generally aren’t as healthy as they used to be generations ago. You can especially see this in the tech world: lots of folks working in this industry just aren’t taking care of their health.
Let me tell you my story. At the end of 2020, my heart rate (at rest) came in at ~70 bpm. This was after I was already on medication (beta blockers) since my resting heart rate (originally) was even higher. You see, increased heart rate and blood pressure will turn you into a mess, and this was certainly the case for me.
Now, if you are overweight, you are going to make your heart’s job a bit more difficult, which means that it will need to pump faster in order to get enough blood to where it needs to go. This will have an effect on your blood pressure, which you generally don’t notice unless it is very high or very low.
If your blood pressure is too high, you may find yourself suffering from headaches and are at an increased risk of stroke. You may also become aware of your heartbeat, like your heart is working really hard. Guess what? It is. On the flip side, if your blood pressure is too low, you are at risk of passing out. Also pretty bad.
Here’s what the high blood pressure did to me:
- I had frequent headaches and was hyper-aware of my heartbeat
- My ability to deal with stress had become pretty much non-existent (i.e. causing more avoidant behaviour than ever)
- Things that would not prompt any kind of stress response before, now did
- I felt like I was constantly in a state of fight-or-flight, making simply being difficult
- I started getting panic attacks
Long story short: all signs point to anxiety.
I ended up consulting a cardiologist. In order to manage my blood pressure and deal with these issues I’d been told to take a small dosage of beta blockers. That helped manage my condition initially, but it wasn’t until I started working out (i.e. working on my cardiovascular health) that things really improved.
It had gotten so bad that panic attacks in 2020 prevented me from driving my car. In 2021, things had gotten better, but it took until 2022 before I was finally fine again.
Now, after drastically improving my cardiovascular health by working out daily, I was able to stop taking my beta blockers, improve my blood pressure and lower my resting heart rate to 55. That all happened this year.
Most importantly, my anxiety, while still present at times, has become actually manageable and most importantly: holy shit, is this how most people live their lives?
I was living life on hard mode, feeling the way I was! It wasn’t until very recently that I actually realised that this was the case.
I was recently thinking that one of my key regrets is not acting when it was needed. Inaction is a deadly killer, since the consequences of inaction are mostly invisible until you realise (too late) what has happened.
I realize how many times I could have acted, but did not.
Here’s an exercise for you, the reader: think about that one thing that you know you have to do. You know what it is. You could have already done it. It could have had a measurable effect on your life, a significant benefit, by now. Why are you waiting so long to do it?
The truth is that we all come up with excuses in life and honestly, it’s only human. You just have to push yourself a little every now and then, and you’ll make progress.
However, sometimes we want something but we don’t put in the work. Why is that? Well, sometimes we are held back by our bodies. Anxiety can hold you back, like it held me back. But it can also be a lack of sleep, inner turmoil, insecurity, or a health issue. Life is hardly as simple as “just do it, bro”, and it’s important to accept that.
If there’s something holding you back, you have to identify the cause correctly, and act accordingly.
In order to be able to do the work, you may need to go on a journey, like the one that I am currently on. Look, there’s a good reason why so many self-help books sell well… but you probably don’t need any of those. Just keep these rules in mind:
Take Responsibility: Admit your mistakes. Analyse your mistakes, and try to be better. But own who you are, be honest. (Taking responsibility for the truth is equally important.)
Don’t Go Back: In life, you do not want to go back to something, someone, or a situation that was not beneficial to you. Aspire to move forward. Never again!
Be Healthy: A healthy diet and workout regimen are both part of a healthy lifestyle, along with various other things, like good sleep, good mental health, good company, not overexerting oneself, etc. Do not underestimate how important this is, and you may want to focus on this first.
Avoid Inaction: If you really want something, you will act. If you don’t, there may be some other problem that you need to resolve first. But aim to act, even though you may find yourself resistant at first.