Can We Talk About Mental Health?
“Everyone has inside them a piece of good news. The good news is you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is.” – Anne Frank
I have been postponing this specific newsletter for a very long time for reasons still unknown to me. May be I shied away because I felt like I didn’t have the right to talk about mental health because I am not a certified specialist in this area. However, I have so much insight on how fitness has improved my mental health and I have been meaning to share this with you. World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
In my article titled “Let’s Stop Talking About Summer Bodies”, I raised emphasis on the fact that fitness should not be a lifestyle you embrace because you want to look good or for cosmetic reasons. Most times, we tend to get off our wellness journey once we achieve the results we want because we don't appreciate the long term benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle.
Sometime in 2012 during my third year of law school, I had one month left to hand in my dissertation and I was panicking beyond words. I had a combination of writer’s block and general stress because on top of submitting my paper, I also had to study for my final exams. When you are a student, you are literally scared of failing because of the stigma that accompanies it and you constantly want to make your parents proud. So I started drowning in my own fears.
I needed to find a way to keep going and remain productive. Since I had read ample magazines on how fitness helps cope with stress, I made a deliberate decision to invest in my physical health. Developing a healthy outlet improved my concentration and memory while studying and it kept me energetic and happy. My mood significantly improved and I slowly started realizing that my outlook on failing exams shifted to a positive one. I applied the discipline I learnt at the gym to my books and as you can see, it worked out in the end.
Now let’s talk about dealing with break ups… Yes! I am going there. I promised to be honest about my experience, so here we go. Sometime in 2012, I went through a really rough break up where I was cheated on in a public manner. My self-esteem was close to non-existent, I was partying too much (it was the period when Blankets & Wine was popping), I was hungover most of the time and I cried every night for a very long time. I was depressed and at my lowest.
I realised that partying was only making me feel worse as it was a temporary fix. Since I was back in Kenya, I decided to try out a gym a friend had recommended called Salmer Fitness in Karen. Shout out to my trainers John and Collins! These guys whipped me into shape and within a few weeks, I could feel myself bouncing back. A part of me knew that staying active would help me cope with stress but I always found myself doing the complete opposite by staying in bed all day nursing “summer bunny” hungovers.
Long story short, when I was introduced to weight lifting and kick boxing, I realised that with every complete workout or set of kicks, I felt unstoppable and bad a$$. Literally! Watching my progress from squatting without weights to increased weights made me feel like anything was possible if you put in the work and remain consistent. Fitness helped me to appreciate the importance of emotional intelligence. It taught me how to be patient because with every increased resistance, my muscles grew stronger and I started embracing discomfort. Just like in life, I learnt to look at adversity as an opportunity for growth.
Moving on to 2016, I was working at a law firm and was completely miserable. (My sister was so worried about me) Knowing that I couldn’t avoid the legal training, I needed to find a coping mechanism. I changed my gym membership to a close facility near the office at a place called Gem Suites Apartments. Eating healthy and hitting the gym every morning five days a week enabled me to make it through the day without going through a mental breakdown.
In the same year, I failed my bar exams which forced me to resit and remark which was very expensive. Again, I found myself applying the same tactics as I did back in university. Before studying, I would make sure to get in a workout which kept me centered, focused and set me up for a productive revision session. I strongly believe if you start your morning with a workout, you automatically set yourself up for success. I experienced the same benefits as I did before, and yes, I was eventually admitted as an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. See how life works out?
No matter what you are going through in life, every day above the ground is a good day to be alive. On the days you feel like you are carrying the world on your shoulder, just breathe and have faith that everything works out for the best.
There is something in you that the world needs.
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