How fitness helped me cope with anxiety disorder
Guest blog post by Maria Syngrou also known as the “FiTwins”.
Causes of anxiety disorder
Anxiety is one of the most common everyday problems of the 21st century. Fast pace lifestyle, work, school, bills, responsibilities and even personal relationships can be main causes of developing anxiety or anxiety disorder.
My struggle with anxiety & panic disorder
I have always been a very positive, happy and bubbly person that loves the interaction with people and is always up for new experience and challenges. Does that mean that I am less likely to develop anxiety or panic disorder? Absolutely not!
A couple of years ago, I was going through tough times because of an unhealthy and mentally abusive relationship. I was trapped and even though I knew that person was only causing me pain, it was hard to let go. Since I am a person that dislikes confrontation and arguments and was too scared to speak out my mind, I kept everything inside until I exploded.
I had just started working as a receptionist at a gym back in London and on my first day, while I was getting trained, I had my first massive panic attack. Since I never had been a stressful or panicky person before, I didn’t even realize that episode was a panic attack. I literally thought that I was dying and that there was nothing I could do about it. After my attack ended I was left with many worries and concerns about my health. I started having every kind of blood test, hormonal tests and MRI head scans, but all the results would come back negative.
Instead of being happy that all my results showed that I am 100% healthy and I am not dying because of a mysterious disease, I became even more worried and desperate. Why, since I was 100% healthy, would I experience dizziness, fatigue, muscle aches, heartburn, feeling nauseous, trembling and shaking on a daily basis?
I felt that I was losing my mind, I couldn’t enjoy life anymore and I was scared to even go to work in fear of an unexpected panic attack. I knew that I had to do something about it! I didn’t want to live the rest of my life in fear and worry so I promised to myself that I wouldn’t let my panic disorder affect my life.
Fitness played a major role in my recovery
Gym and fitness played a major role in my understanding of my problem and eventually my recovery. Even though I would feel terrified to walk to the gym, the moment I would get in and put my headphones on I would immediately feel like a different person. My passion for training it was my salvation! It kept me outside the safety of my house and forced me to face my fear everyday! It also kept me social and active and needless to say that exercising helps boosting the mood by releasing endorphins, serotonin and stimulating the production of dopamine.
Working out and eating healthy can help cope with anxiety at a great level. A balanced diet based on natural whole foods provides the nutrients our bodies need for optimal health and can help reduce anxiety symptoms. Asparagus, avocados, almonds, salmon, blueberries and spinach are just some of the foods that I include in my nutrition on a regular basis. All these foods happen to be key sources of good fats, protein and micronutrients which is why we can also find them in most athlete and bodybuilder diets.
Treatment Options For Anxiety Disorder
There is a variety of different treatments for anxiety or panic disorder:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Exposure therapy (this is a technique of CBT, which is how I dealt with my problem)
- Healthy balanced diet
- Medication treatments are available to relieve symptoms but they do not cure the disorder and may have side effects and can lead to addiction.
3 Steps To Recovery
From my experience I believe that the main steps to cope and recover from anxiety are
- Understanding the disorder
- Be willing to fight for your happiness
- Start taking action
Take Charge Of Your Life
We can make a conscious effort to work on our mindset and controlling our thoughts. With guidance and desire to become happy and worry free we can take charge of our lives.
Personal Trainer · Nutrition Consultant · Posing Coach
Maria is originally from Athens, Greece. She has always been into sports from a young age. In her childhood she took up various sports such as acrobatic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, volleyball and tennis. Besides her passion for sports she also expressed and developed love towards the arts and more specifically in fashion. In 2005, after graduating from high school she moved to London to study fashion design and styling. She enjoyed the creativity and artistic notion of fashion but at the same time she was exposed to images such as skinny figures and size zero, which had a negative impact on her personal life. Her body and lifestyle changed from athletic and healthy to very slim with eating disorders. That’s the point when fitness came back into Maria’s life as a salvation. The transition was not easy since she had to give up on the dream of pursuing a career in fashion. It was a crucial moment when she realized that fitness, training and healthy lifestyle is her real and number one passion that also saved her from disordered eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. Through this personal experience she believes that such a transition can save other people that are going through the same path. Maria is now a certified personal trainer, nutrition consultant and posing coach. She has competed in several NPC/WBFF shows in the bikini division placing within top 5 and top 2. Her schedule is full of training, prepping food and attending fitness related events such as expos, boot camps etc. Her main goal is to be an advocate of fitness and nutrition, inspire and encourage but most importantly educate people on how to get fit, healthy and strong through training and balanced dieting.
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