Photo:Image by Ashley Goodall
During my days as an entrepreneur in my early 20’s, something was horribly wrong.
I had no idea what was wrong.
Every day felt like I was living like a prisoner in some third world jail where I couldn’t escape and had to endure the worst treatment known to humankind (I later realized my mind was the one that was dishing out the sentence).
Life went along just fine until everything came to a grinding halt. The business I’d helped build became the last thing in the world I wanted to be around anymore. There was a war about to be waged and I had no idea what was to come.
In the space of a few months, I gave up my career, sold most of my possessions and began to feel incredibly ill. I tried everything I could to get better.
Through some kind of miracle, I realized that maybe something was wrong in my mind.
I felt myself always being anxious for no reason at all. My palms were sweaty, my hand would shake continuously and I couldn’t be alone in a room with another person for more than a few minutes.
This led me to make a phone call that would change everything.
I rang the number for Mental Health Australia. I told them I needed help and they listened. I described my problem and they told me that professional help could work. So, as scared shitless as I was, I went and saw a psychologist. It took ten sessions, and sure enough, the doc told me what I already knew: I had a mental illness.
Apart from seeking professional help, I was able to cure myself naturally without drugs.
Here’s how I cured my anxiety:
Stop hanging around people that make you anxious.
Some of my friends made me anxious. Most of the time they were fine, but occasionally they’d do drugs.
I’ve always hated drugs and being near them makes me anxious. I committed to staying away from these friends and that meant I had to never see another drug or be around another person that was on drugs again. This helped reduce my anxiety.
A huge change in food.
The food I was consuming was making me anxious. At the time, I was drinking 3–4 cups of coffee a day and at least one can of soft drink.
I stopped overstimulating myself and drank lots of water instead.
I went from eating sugary foods to eating a lot more fruit and vegetables. By not artificially pumping myself up with food and coffee, I managed to lose all of my pot belly which stopped the bulge that could be seen through my t-shirt.
Stories of the impossible.
Reading stories of those who had achieved the impossible became my Saturday night pleasure.
Instead of going to nightclubs and watching my friends take drugs, I committed to battling my anxiety by reading more and slowly changing the way I thought.
I read stories about Tim Ferriss, Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, Warren Buffet and a whole host of people I’d never heard of.
Many people knew these names whereas I didn’t. That was because I hadn’t read a book in years thanks to my obsession with trying to become a DJ.
Writing down my thoughts.
It probably comes as no surprise that writing became part of the cure for my anxiety. Writing about what I was feeling helped me understand the illness I was trying to defeat.
Mental illness is one of the hardest things to defeat because a lot of the triggers lie deep in your unconscious.
One way I found to tap into my thoughts was by writing.
I wrote down my thoughts as a way to help other people who may read them. It was a simple decision that really helped me move past all the clutter that was stored in my brain from dealing with anxiety since I was six years old.
Many of us take for granted walking. I did too for a long time.
When anxiety became something that tore my life into a million little pieces, I found walking to be a stress relief. It happened by accident when I’d ring one of my mentors late at night for advice. I would leave the house and walk around the block to talk to him.
One night he didn’t answer my call and so I ended up walking around the neighborhood by myself. The walk was calming and it helped me deal with my anxiety.
From that day on, whenever I felt like I was really anxious, I’d go for a walk.
Rediscovering the gym.
I’d spent plenty of time at the gym over the years and the rush of endorphins I got at the end of a workout was strangely addictive.
As my mental health began to improve, I included some light gym work to help me get back on track. I typically did light weights and ten minutes of high-intensity cardio three times a week.
It wasn’t much, but it definitely helped.
I found the gym to be a meditative place where I could escape my thoughts and focus on recovering from years of anxiety.
Before dealing with my anxiety, I was typically sleeping about six hours a night. This meant I was waking up tired and when you add that to the anxiety it was a nasty concoction of mental fatigue.
I experimented with my sleeping pattern and began sleeping for about 8.5 hours. This helped me recover a little better from each day and have the energy to keep looking for solutions to my anxiety.
The other observation with my sleep was that I was drinking tea before bed that was keeping me awake. I cut out tea and avoided drinking lots of water before bed which would make me want to go to the bathroom during the middle of the night.
It was around this time that someone told me I should assess how much light there was in my bedroom. Between the TV before sleeping and the broken window blind that I never shut, I found I wasn’t sleeping in a dark room.
I remember as a child sleeping at my grandma’s house in pitch black darkness and being able to sleep easily.
I went back to sleeping in darkness again and found it revitalizing.
Sleep helps mental illness a lot.
Giving up alcohol.
Given all the changes I was making to my health to try and resolve my issue with anxiety, I experimented with not drinking. Originally the experiment was supposed to last one month. It ended up lasting two years.
Alcohol was something I used to numb the anxiety and by giving it up, I had to use natural ways to calm myself down which were a lot better for my mental state in the long run.
Drinking shots and trying to get drunk is the worst way to deal with a mental illness.
I’ve always worked very hard in my career and been stressed about trying to make money.
When I came face-to-face with my anxiety battle, I had to surrender to the fact that overworking was making my anxiety worse. I opted for days off and for the first time in seven years, I took a holiday.
Getting away from the stresses of life helped me see my mental illness for what it was: something I could cure with discipline, courage and a new outlook on life.
The last two solutions I discovered towards the end.
I discovered meditation very late in my battle with anxiety. It was one of the biggest changes in my health because focusing on my breath and being present was exactly what I needed.
I’m glad I discovered meditation towards the end of my battle because otherwise, I wouldn’t have made all the other changes I mentioned previously. Mental illness can be significantly reduced, in my experience, by practicing meditation for a minimum of ten minutes a day.
When I first heard about writing a list of things I was grateful for each day, I laughed. I had no idea how that could possibly have anything to do with my mental illness.
What I discovered was that I was anxious because I was always trying to chase more and that if I could just be happy with what I had right now, I wouldn’t be so damn stressed and would actually have time to cure my anxiety.
Everyday I write three things I’m grateful for at 9 am. It’s saved in my calendar, so I don’t forget.
I would never have thought that this far-out practice would be one of the most rewarding things I’d discover in life.