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I lie on my bed and ponder how to start this blog but nothing is coming to me. It’s pathetic that I’ve hit writer’s block on the first sentence. Checking my phone I see that it’s nearing one o’clock. I have an assignment due this weekend that I have yet to begin... I struggle to find the motivation to do it.
I don’t feel like seeing friends or going out today. Yet I don’t feel like staying in bed all day either. It feels like there’s nothing I want to do today but I also don’t feel like doing nothing.
This paradoxical feeling isn’t new to me, I’ve been suffering from poor mental health for a while now. Although today seems to be bad, it is incomparable to some of my worst days. I look up to my roof for inspiration for writing this post. I’m greeted with a poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Many people know the iconic figure as an actor, others may know him as the former governor of California. To me, he is an inspiration. Not many people know how difficult his life was early on, people understandably only know him after he reached fame.
Schwarzenegger did have a very successful career yet even he suffered from mental health issues. When he became Mr. Olympia, Schwarzenegger suffered from various body image issues. It’s hard to fathom that the man with such a sought-after body can suffer from such issues.
He openly admitted that the stress placed on him due to studying, filming, and bodybuilding took a massive toll on his mental health. These issues were neglected, and later severely affected his ability to hit the books, hit the gym, and film. In fact, his mental health deteriorated so much that he admitted that he used to throw up when he saw himself in the mirror.
If there’s something to learn from Schwarzenneger, it’s that maintaining good grades and being a good student is important, but so is your health. I say "health" instead of just "mental health" because physical health, mental health, and social health go hand-in-hand.
One of my favourite fitness coaches, Don Saladino (lovingly called “Donny Boy” by my friends and I) who is known for training Sebastian Stan and Ryan Reynolds, described everyday life as a series of different stresses and that our health is our capacity to handle those stresses.
Donny Boy preaches the importance of recovery and not to stress your body more than it can take. Recovery is vital for the body’s ability to absorb the stresses it has endured and get stronger. This idea is important to bodybuilding: as muscles get stressed and they have a period of recovery, they come back bigger and stronger.
I always thought this only applied to bodybuilding but I realize now that this is also applicable to our overall health.
As you can see from my poorly drawn clipart below, too much stress causes your health (mental and physical) to decline, which can add more stress to your body causing your health decline further and so on. It’s quite a vicious cycle.
So how do we take care of our health during stressful times? It is easy to preach but hard to practice. Let’s break health down into three main components: physical, mental, and social. To take care of your health you must focus on taking care of these three elements.
Physical health is simple enough to take care of. It’s vital that you are eating enough throughout the day and getting some physical activity. No matter how much work you may have, you cannot sacrifice eating. Many people recommend eating 3 meals a day, but personally eating 2 big meals has worked out fine for me - I find this schedule to be more time-efficient, but finding an eating pattern that works best for you is imperative.
The average male needs to eat around 2500 calories, whereas, the average female needs around 2000 calories. However, you should ensure you’re not just binging on snacks, as you need the right amount of carbs, fats (don’t be scared of them), and protein. A meal plan helps properly schedule and document your eating habits.
If you run into trouble while making a meal plan, remember there are lots of online resources to assist you! This website leads you to a great meal plan generator: Eat This Much: The Automatic Meal Planner. Obviously, you don’t need to follow it religiously and you can definitely make some wiggle room for the foods you like.
I am quite into bodybuilding so I have a pretty strict meal plan, but I also have an insatiable sweet tooth. So instead of outright going “cold turkey” on sweets, I incorporate small amounts of it into my diet. This makes me feel good and helps me stick to my meals. Make sure your meal plan is enjoyable.
Obviously you should make sure you’re getting enough exercise. Exercise doesn’t need to be a whole CrossFit routine in the gym, although if that’s what you like go for it. Exercise can be as simple as a 30-minute jog throughout your neighbourhood a couple of days a week. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever you have to do. Make sure if you are exercising that you eat properly.
Proper rest is important as well. Although 7-9 hours of sleep is recommended, I know it can be hard getting that amount so at least aim for 6 hours. Your circadian rhythm resets every 1hr and 30 mins. Most scientists recommend that your circadian rhythm should repeat 5 times (7hr and 30 mins) for a good night’s sleep. However, other people say that only repeating 4 times (6 hrs) is good enough.
Next is mental health. This one isn’t as easy as physical health. Improving your physical health is pretty similar for everybody but improving mental health is unique to every person. The key thing is giving yourself some “you time”. Find something you really enjoy and dedicate at least thirty minutes a day to doing it.
I enjoy the guitar so I dedicate quite a bit of time playing or writing songs. The idea is to make sure you have a bit of time every day to alleviate your stresses and allow your brain to rest. Exercising and eating well has a positive effect on your mental health (as can the occasional sweet treat). Not to mention, sleeping enough is essential to good brain health.
You can see why I grouped physical and mental health together; there is a lot of overlap between the two. Improving one tends to improve the other.
Social health is incredibly important. Having a good supportive group of friends and adults is essential.
We need people. There are a lot of things we can do ourselves but there’s an equal (if not, greater) number of things we can’t do ourselves.
The people we surround ourselves with have a great impact on who we are and who we become. A common proverb says that you can tell a lot about a person based on their closest group of friends. Make sure you surround yourself with people who are good for you, and whom you feel comfortable opening up to.
Likewise, ensure that you’re also there for your friends if they need you. Although it may not seem like it, we’re all going through similar problems. I think the best way to end this segment would be with a quote from one of my favourite TV characters, Uncle Iroh from Avatar the Last Airbender: “while it's always best to believe in one’s self. A little help from others can be a great blessing”.
Something I cannot emphasize enough is to seek help when you need it. Sometimes we may let our health decline past what we think we can handle. Seeking help is perfectly fine and you’ll feel better as a result.
If you have a physical health issue it’s important to see a doctor. However, if you're dealing with mental health issues, ensure you have appropriate support, such as friends, parents, adults, or a therapist. There are a lot of mental health resources available, like this one here. Likewise, healthcare is mostly covered in Canada so don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you need one.
When I was in a bad place I didn’t want to bother anyone with my problems so I internalized them. This caused a rift to open between my friends, family and me. I did suffer a lot because of it but when I decided to open up to my parents and friends, they were nothing but understanding. If my family and friends are reading this, I am incredibly thankful for you.
People who actually care about you will not judge you. Instead, they’ll do whatever they can to help you. When I finally talked to a therapist she was very supportive and helped me out a lot. Most campuses have mental health counsellors but there are a lot of other resources you can use. We all find ourselves struggling at some point; be mindful about it and seek help when you need it.
My final point I would like to get across is the importance of perseverance. Declining health is NOT YOUR FAULT. That being said, it’s your responsibility to overcome your problems. You may have days (like me) where all your motivation is gone and everything feels wrong. It may feel like the world is sprinting ahead while you’re being left behind. That’s when you need to force yourself to start something. Don't hesistate, just start it.
The Law of Inertia states that an object at rest wants to stay at rest. Likewise, you need to give yourself that PUSH to keep yourself going. Oftentimes, just starting something gives us the momentum we need to move along. For example, doing a whole workout may seem daunting and you might lack the motivation to do it, but force yourself to start the warm-up. The warm-up can give the momentum you need to tackle the workout.
Remember that no matter how bad things seem, they are temporary, but how you respond to these problems will shape who you are in the future. Perseverance is key!
I’ll end this segment with another quote that really touched me. This quote is from Guy-Sensei from the show Naruto: “Don’t let anything steer you off the path you’ve drawn for yourself. Forge ahead to the end! Stick to it! Be everything you can be!”
Writing this blog reminded me of how bad my depression was earlier this year. Due to a variety of internal and external reasons, I fell into a deep depression; a fact that shook the people who knew me. I was always known as a jovial guy but depression can hit anyone.
At the peak of my depression, my friend told me something that served as a wake-up call. He told me that “time doesn’t stop for you, it keeps moving forward at the same rate it always does”. I think he meant that everything moves on and it’ll get better but I took it as the world will not stop just because I feel too depressed to do anything.
After he told me that, I tried to overcome my depression. I exercised, fixed my diet, slept properly, took time for myself, told my friends and family what I was going through, and eventually saw a counsellor. All the advice I have given you were things that I did to help myself and it worked. I’m not gonna lie and say that I’ve fully overcome my problems, not yet at least. However, it's a good first step.
I stop staring at Arnold, smack my cheeks and force myself out of bed. I fold the sheets to officially start my day. I still feel hopeless, but forcing myself to get out of bed will give me the momentum to get through the day. I know my problems won’t go away by today or even tomorrow, but I can take the victory that I didn’t let these problems defeat me. Instead, I persevered. These little victories add up overtime and will eventually result in a monumental victory. Hopefully, when I overcome my problems I will come out a much stronger person.
Stephen King often wrote great works but had trouble sticking the landing, I hope I don’t run into the same problem.
I want to express that even though it seems like I have figured a lot of stuff out, the journey was difficult. I had good days and bad days. But as I said, my response to these bad days shapes who I am. If there is one thing I want you to learn from my rambling, it’s that while being studious is admirable, it should never take priority over your health and wellbeing. Neglecting your health will be detrimental in the long run, so please be mindful of that. Most importantly, don't be afraid to ask for help and never give up!
You’re too full of potential to let declining health get in the way of your future. Good luck reader, the future is bright and you’ll do great things. Take care of yourself and keep persevering! If you have any questions or would like to talk, you can email me at [email protected]
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