Title: Living a Healthy Lifestyle … what does that mean to you?
By: Katharine Ayling
My passion for keeping fit started out as the curious child who had to try every sport imaginable! Gymnastics fast became my firm favourite and I think that is also where I started to build my hugely competitive side. Being competitive has its pros and cons – pro; I always want to achieve, con; regardless of how much it takes out of me; mentally, physically and emotionally unable to realise when to stop.
A few years back, I went through a rough patch – I had broken up with my long term boyfriend and been on a string of dates none of which were working out, I felt like I wasn’t progressing in my career and hearing “it just takes a bit of time” was starting to really grind on me. I was starting to notice that I wasn’t finding much joy in the things I once did, going to the gym became a chore, cooking nice meals were replaced by eating food not as nutritious and I didn’t have the drive to better myself as a person. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety but that alone made me feel unworthy and being on antidepressants made me feel like I was a failure.
I felt unwanted and lost, I didn’t know where to start to “mend” myself except for working with my counsellor and CBT training. I would say for about a year I started to feel I was more positive, and I moved into my own flat to prove to myself this was all part of the bigger journey I was on, however I hadn’t set any real goals. That year was great, I felt very proud of myself for being what I believed was “happy” alone. I focused on going to the gym and used it to set myself up for a good day mentally – going to the gym in the morning before work made me feel more energised about myself and thoughts, ready to hit the day. I had my dream job, and everything felt like it began to fall into place. Looking back now, I realise I hadn’t planned for the journey, I hadn’t thought it out or set myself goals or targets. I’m not saying this is a bad thing to just go with the flow at all, for some people that’ll work, and they will be extremely happy, but…cue Covid-19!!
Like many of us, having my job, daily life and activities pulled from under my feet within a matter of days was a shock to the system to say the least. I went through the ‘I can bake banana bread’ stage, ‘I am going to come out of lockdown having learnt 3 new languages and 3 new skills’ stage, the ‘let’s get the best body of my life with home workouts’ stage (I am now the proud owner of a handful of online courses I enrolled on but have yet to complete, a spin bike and multiple weights which are quite happily collecting dust) – all to realise I was trying to follow trends which were never going to work for me, I didn’t have my own goals to look back on and re-adjust. I fell back into a depressive state of feeling unworthy, lost, unwanted and without purpose. I needed to find my why…a phrase I had heard of but never really paid attention to.
What is ‘finding my why’ you ask? Well, you start by thinking of the things you enjoy, you begin to find the things that aren’t worth wasting your time on because “do they actually bring health or happiness to your life?” It is about finding the reason why you do things, for you, to achieve results for you – not anybody else, just yourself. A fellow FHN ambassador (she knows who she is!) invited me on a meditation journey with Deepak Chopra about learning to live in abundance. It was a 21 day course, instructions sent each day via WhatsApp and it was easy to follow along, we could do it in our own time which helped me feel there wasn’t too much pressure for me to have to achieve. For the first time in my life I felt ok if I missed a day, I felt calm if I had to begin the following morning with the previous days meditation because I knew I was enjoying the journey.
I began to figure out my own personal goals, to create balance and abundance in my life. These would be around challenging my negative thoughts, setting out a plan of places I would like to go (once we can travel again!), how I would refocus my time around keeping fit, drinking enough water, eating healthy and doing just 10 minutes a day of self help and improving myself for me.
I highly recommend a few books which have personally worked for me (and I haven’t read a book since Year 11 GCSE when we were forced to read ‘Of Mice and Men’);
· You are a badass – Jen Sincero
· Live like a Monk – Jay Shetty
· And here is one if you want to wake up feeling like Beyonce each day try No Matter What - Lisa Nichols.
I have been incredibly lucky to have a supportive boyfriend and best friend; both have been so helpful in different ways. My best friend has presented me with all the felt tips a girl could ever need to write things down, screw them up or burn them and write down our goals and frame them! It may sound mad, but I have found it really interesting just how much something so simple can help to visualise what I want to achieve and help me get there. Goal setting, without realising, is usually a big part of our life. For example, deciding that you are going to save up to go on a bucket list trip or committing to go to the gym a certain number of times to help you feel confident in your bikini on holiday. It is just as important to set personal goals as well as professional goals – which we all seem very comfortable doing, so why not give this one thing back to yourself.
I’ll be honest and am ok to admit I absolutely have relapses now where I fall back into a state of mind believing I’m not good enough or I am unworthy of love, looking for outside validation to make me feel good about myself. As recent as the last couple of weeks have been a struggle but taking a few small steps at a time made me realise I could begin to challenge all the negative thoughts and limiting self-beliefs I had about myself. Things will get better and we will be where we want to be doing what we love most.
Trying to find my why has taken a lot of time and I still am not 100% sure on the answer, but the exercises I have started and continue to do are helping I know that much. I have always been so focused in the gym, to have the best physique I could and feel like I have achieved, but I truly believe it starts with your mind. Working from the inside out. Find what works for you – yoga, meditation, listening to podcasts, reading books, talking to your friends, self help books and exercises, reflecting, physical exercise, baking, learning something new. Whatever it takes and whatever makes you smile is so important. It’s ok not to be ok but staying there and remaining there is not ok, that is giving up.
I’ve realised living a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about how I look or how much I can lift in the gym, it is about the need for balance in all areas of your life, body and soul (and lots of water!). Your thoughts become your feelings, your feelings become your actions and your actions become your results. Everything starts with your thoughts and albeit rather challenging at times, I am starting to try and balance my life out with as much mental exercise as I do physical exercise. I hope that we can all find our re-balance after an extremely tough year and those who have found alternative hobbies/loves during this pandemic perhaps have found your “why” – those who are yet to find it, I hope working on your mental health as much as you put into your incredible careers, loving family and friends will help you, but I know this much, we are all incredibly strong individuals who can achieve great things when we put our minds to it. Take some time this week to look back on what you have achieved, you probably will be surprised!