Anxiety · Gym · Physical Health · Self-Care · Social Anxiety

Braving the gym

I almost let my anxiety run me out of the gym without working out this afternoon. But first, a little backstory.

First, I HATE GYMS. I think they are awful. I’ve yet to meet a gym that I felt comfortable at. So many people I don’t know, so much spandex, I sweat profusely, so much…everything. Did I mention I once passed out in my college gym while on a treadmill and broke my nose? I absolutely hate gyms. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Over the summer I started jogging again both to lose some weight (the Freshman 15 is nothing compared to the Ph.D. 40) and to help with my stress level. I completed the Couch to 5K plan and kept up the jogging for 2-3X/week through the first couple weeks of the Fall semester.

Then, as usual when I’m stressed, my exercise (and self-care) inevitably trailed off until I wasn’t exercising at all. There was weight gain. I’m talking the kind of weight gain that keeps you from wearing 85% of your clothing (at this point, I’ve only got 4 outfits I can wear to work). I was eating sweets every day and using the drive thru with too much frequency. In addition to not looking great, I felt gross and uncomfortable in my clothes. I kept telling myself that when classes ended I would get back to jogging and yoga. Not surprisingly, when classes ended a few weeks ago, I did not start jogging (it’s cold!) or doing yoga at home.

I have a professional conference I’m presenting some of my research at in Washington, D.C. in mid-January. My first one so of course I’m anxious about the whole thing. It’s a requirement for school. Adding to that anxiety is concern (terror) about whether I’m going to have anything appropriate to wear. All my “professional” clothing is too tight. I don’t mean a little snug, I mean that it looks borderline obscene and rips if I try to sit down. I’m really strapped for cash, shelling out for this conference already added over $1000 to my credit card, so I really can’t afford to go out and buy a suit in a larger size.

That’s how I ended up with a gym membership. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make myself start jogging in the cold weather. So, I joined Planet Fitness because they are the least expensive gym in town (see above comment about lack of funds) and I’m desperate to lose weight so I can fit into my clothing. I broke down and did that on Friday (today is Monday). I’ve been each day since Friday (except Saturday – we helped a friend move which counted as my daily workout). The first couple of days weren’t too bad – I managed to find times that the gym was relatively empty. The physical set up is not great for me – I wish there was a set of stairs that didn’t require me to walk across an open floor to get to the second floor– the workout equipment on the second floor is less intimidating.

Today was very unpleasant. It was a bad day at work. I went to the gym as planned, changed into my workout clothes, and looked in the mirror (MISTAKE). I realized that, what was an appropriate workout shirt to wear outside in the August heat, showed more of my body than I was comfortable with now that I was inside of a building with a bunch of people I didn’t know. I wanted to put my regular clothes back on and run out of there. I almost did. It took me several minutes to convince myself to walk about of the locking room. The walk to the stairs was so uncomfortable – I felt that everyone was staring and judging me. Logically I know that most of the people in that gym didn’t give a flying **** about me or my clothing, but it felt as though they were all looking in my direction.

I managed to make it up the stairs and onto an elliptical machine in the corner. Which was fine until ten minutes later when two women started using other machines near me. I heard them and almost stopped my workout and ran back to the locker room. The idea of them being so close when I was feeling vulnerable because of my clothing and crappy day was a lot to handle. I didn’t fully do my cool down because I was so eager to get out of there. I called my sister before I left the locker room, so I didn’t have to make eye contact or interact with anyone on my way out.

So, obviously today was not a pleasant experience for me. However, I want to try to identify some positives in the situation to lessen the memory of my anxiety

1. Despite my mind and my body telling me to run away, I did not. Yay for
me!

2. I managed to walk across the open space to access the stairs to the
second floor…twice. Despite my fear and discomfort.

3. I was able to continue using the machine when surprised by other gym
patrons. My anxiety was present but did not prevent me from
accomplishing my goal.

Tomorrow, the real test comes. After such an unpleasant experience, will my anxiety convince me to skip tomorrow’s workout? It will be a battle between my desire for health and my desire to not be around people. Who will win?

As always, ending on happy doggie note. Check out the picture of the pup above. He’s so sweet when he sleeps.

Anxiety · Life Anxiety · Slowing down · Uncategorized

Slowing Down Is Almost Worse

Hello all! I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. As you can probably tell by my last post, life was pretty hectic for a while. There was family illness, work chaos, and school pressure. It took all of my energy to get out of bed and run from one responsibility to the next. I had no time or energy left over self-reflection (my mind/body were in survival mode). Things have calmed down for now (knock on wood) so I’m hoping posting can be a regular thing again.

As I mentioned, there was little time for me to think about myself or life over the past several months. In a way, there is something I find comfortable and familiar in being over-booked and stressed. I don’t always like it but I’ve felt like that so many times in my life that it is almost reassuring – I know how to be in survival mode. My path forward is always clear when life is like that. I just need to do whatever is necessary to make it to the next minute. I don’t have to think as much, it is almost like I turn part of that anxious brain off for a brief time. I know how to function as a stressed out individual. I’m not saying I like it. Nobody enjoys not sleeping, lack of exercise, and binge eating. It makes my body feel gross and then I stress more at the fact that I’m not taking care of myself.

BUT, honestly, sometimes not feeling overwhelmed and at the end of my rope is worse. I don’t know what to do when I’m not pulled in 50 different directions. If I’m not thinking about others then I have to pay attention to myself. It’s uncomfortable and unnerving to do that. I have to think about things that are going on in my mind and my body. I have to think about why I feel angry at people in my life that I care about. I have to think about why I don’t feel fulfilled or satisfied with some aspects of my life. I have to deal with an underlying desire for more in life, even though can’t identify what “more” I want. I have to face feelings that I am trapped in some ways. Trapped in a life of repetition, in a cycle of work -> home -> cook dinner -> watch TV -> sleep -> work again without end. It feels like I’m being smothered by monotony. There is no escape from this cycle because that’s just how life is – it’s how we survive.

I could go on and on, getting darker and darker in my thought process, but I’ll stop there. This is why I stay busy, this is why I take on too much, and this is why I over-extend myself. Because it’s easier to walk around thinking about how much I have to do than to thinking about some intangible thing (“more”) that I can neither define nor achieve. I’m aware that this desire for something is part of my anxiety – the opposite part side of being anxious about juggling a bunch of different responsibilities. I’m less familiar with this side of my anxiety – it’s particularly disconcerting. I’m looking forward to when an onslaught of responsibilities and problems return – at least I know what to do with all of that!

Last, but not least, check out the pictures of the pups at the top! They are rarely still enough for me to take a picture of all 3 but I lucked out the other morning. Just wanted to end this on a positive note!