Lifting weights to lift my mental health
Maia first encountered depression and anxiety during her teenage years as new-found social pressures began leading her down a path of self-consciousness and self-doubt. But by dedicating herself to a life of healthy eating and weightlifting, Maia was able to take back control of her life and her wellbeing.
We all know that teenage life can be tough. Shifting from just over a decade of little to no responsibility into a world of new friends, new environments, and new possibilities can be a lot to handle. As a result, many cases of mental health issues emerge during our teenage years. In fact, an estimated 1 in 7 young people between the ages of 11 and 19 are thought to be living with at least 1 mental health issue.
It was during this period in her life when Maia first began experiencing issues with her own mental health. Manifesting in response to the many new social pressures that came with teenage life, she began to experience a strong sense of self-consciousness and isolation that would eventually take its toll on her mental health.
The symptoms were eventually confirmed as the result of social anxiety and depression that Maia continues to experience to this day. When she's feeling particularly anxious, Maia often feels fidgety and restless, which in turn can make her feel even more self-conscious.
"I become hyper-aware of my symptoms which can make things both physically and mentally worse," says Maia. "This can mean that I can get tired very easily and I often need time to recharge."
But over the years, Maia has built a strong sense of resilience gained by taking a holistic approach to her health and wellbeing. As a result, she now has much better control over her emotions and her physical symptoms.
The importance of communication
From achieving general day-to-day objectives to focusing on safeguarding our mental health, effective communication is essential. Opening up helps us talk through any troubling thoughts we may be having and, with the help of friends, family or professionals, overcome them.
For Maia, talking about her mental health was, and still is, a key ingredient to keeping her mind healthy.
"If things are particularly overwhelming with my mental health, it means work, simple tasks and relationships with others can be much more challenging, in turn making it hard for me to put my 100% best self into," says Maia.
"But being open with others about how I'm feeling, and being open-minded with myself can really ease any burden I may be bearing.
"Verbally getting everything out there without judgement, and generally feeling heard, really helps. Sometimes you might not necessarily need a solution but just someone willing to listen and understand you."
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Taking a holistic approach
But communication is only part of the solution for Maia. In her own words, "even if you have a great support system, you are the only one who can help you."
Understanding that much of the energy needed to overcome mental health issues comes from within, Maia decided to take a more holistic approach to her health, including dedicating herself to a healthy diet and exercise routine.
“I have identified that my physical health affects my mental state. So for example, not getting enough vitamins can affect my cognitive and therefore emotional function," she says.
To help, Maia ensures she sticks to nutritious foods while embracing the world of weightlifting, and specifically powerlifting. And although it isn't for everyone, powerlifting is something Maia really enjoys, which to her is essential in order to access the mental health benefits of exercise: "the key is to make it fun and rewarding!"
Outside of working out and eating healthy, Maia also ensures she sticks to a healthy sleeping pattern, and makes use of grounding and mindfulness exercises like meditation which she says are extremely helpful for lifting her mood.
Put yourself first
With all of this said though, perhaps the most effective step Maia took in reclaiming her mental health was to put herself first. When she began to pay less attention to what other people thought of her, she says, any mental distress she felt became less of a burden for her.
And that's the main message Maia wants to pass onto anyone feeling the strain of self-consciousness and self-doubt that comes with social anxiety:
"It isn’t selfish to do what is best for you, including taking care of your mental health," says Maia. "Feel what you need to feel, without letting them consume you, because your emotions are valid.
"You are allowed to take yourself out of situations you don’t feel comfortable in. And, most importantly, you are not alone, you are loved, and you are valued."
Written by Natacha Andueza
Story researcher for Talking Mental Health Twitter: @natachavbosch Instagram: @aimforeunoia This article was produced in collaboration with the person who provided the story. If you would like to share your story but need support doing so, contact a member of our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.