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Muscle Sport Magazine

How Fitness Helped Me Cope with an Anxiety Disorder

Courtes of Maria Syngrou

By Maria Syngrou – Anxiety is one of the most common everyday problems of the 21st century. Fast paced lifestyle, work, school, bills, responsibilities and even personal relationships can be main causes of developing anxiety or an anxiety disorder.

I have always been a very positive, happy and bubbly person that loves the interaction with people and am 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 very harmful (mentally) 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 confrontations and arguments and was too scared to speak my mind, I kept everything inside until I exploded.

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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 deadly 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?

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I felt that I was losing my mind; I couldn’t enjoy life anymore and I was scared to even go to work due to 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.

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  house and forced me to face my fear everyday. It also kept me social and active and needless to say that all this exercising helps with metabolizing a lot of adrenaline and stress hormones that are released in our bloodstream as a result of anxiety attacks.

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Working out and eating healthy can help cope with anxiety in a great level. Asparagus, avocados, almonds, salmon, blueberries and spinach are just some of the foods that help minimize the anxiety symptoms. All these foods happen to be key sources of good fats and protein that we can find in most of athletes and bodybuilder diets.

There are a lot of different treatments you can find online to beat anxiety or a panic disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy (which is how I dealt with my problem ), working out and meditation. Unfortunately, there’s also lot of different medication treatments available that I would definitely not recommend because of the side effects and future dependence on them. From my experience, I believe that the main steps to cope and recover from anxiety is most importantly:

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1) Understanding our disorder.

2) Be willing to fight for your happiness.

3) Start taking action.

We don’t have to go down the ‘’antidepressant’’ route. After all, anxiety is not an illness or disease, but rather is a mental state that we can actually have control of through guidance and desire to become happy and worry free.

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Photos courtesy of Maria and Chrysa Syngrou

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