Writing by Freya Bennett // Photograph by Makeda Sandford
I had it so deeply ingrained in me that in order to conquer my life long battle with anxiety, I needed to master yoga and meditation. I tried so hard through my teen years and early 20’s to get into yoga and although I definitely enjoy yoga and do feel relaxed after each class, there was something missing when I lay there trying to relax.
The few occasions I could relax in a yoga class, it was utterly blissful, but I had to have been very relaxed already that day in order to reap the benefits of a yoga class in this way. If I turned up to yoga after a busy day, an anxious day or even a very creatively inspiring day, I just couldn’t switch my brain off and I would end up feeling restless and annoyed at the whole process.
I had tried boxing years ago when I was going through my first breakup. I needed something energetic, something I could take my anger and hurt out on without actually hurting myself or anyone else. I absolutely LOVED it at the time and found it a huge confidence boost but ended up moving away from the gym I loved and slowly forgot about my enjoyment of boxing.
2016 was a pretty horrific year for a lot of people and for me it was no different. I’ve talked about my struggles a lot that year but basically after a traumatic event, my anxiety spiraled out of control.
My anxiety manifests around health so I was sure I was dying of something, and if it wasn’t me, it was my husband or my mum. I also have a pretty morbid anxiety around death and every morning when I woke up and didn’t hear my cat meow straight away, I assumed he was dead. This goes for everyone else in my house, and extends to anyone I love who I happen to be thinking about at the time. Mostly, when my anxiety is stable, I manage to laugh off these worries–despite them still existing–but during this dark time, it became harder and harder to shake that black shadow from my shoulders.
I would be worried about my well being and everyone I love to the point of crying every afternoon when the anxiety became too much. I felt like doom was around every corner and I even began to obsess over things like astrology, and tarot cards telling myself that I could foresee bad things happening all over the place.
During the winter of 2016, I joined an all female wellness centre and started with yoga, as once again, I assumed this would help with my anxiety. And while it definitely helped in a way, I wasn’t getting what I truly wanted out of the classes.
After a few weeks, I decided to try the more intensive classes and I started off with boxing. As soon as I arrived, there was a buzz of activity. Everyone was chatting and interacting–unlike in a yoga class and I felt more a part of something.
Once the class started it was non stop! The warm up was very energetic and pretty much got my heart rate to its peak straight away, and once we started the actual boxing, I was exhausted. What I also loved was working in partners. Having someone across from you, encouraging you and supporting you is such a great feeling–especially when it’s a stranger! Not only was my brain not able to think about my anxiety from pure exhaustion, but I felt connected to these people I had only just met.
From the first class, I was hooked. I ended up doing boxing twice a week and a Yin yoga class to balance everything out and wind down. My anxiety all but disappeared and I think I discovered that for me, I need to get myself to exhaustion in order to help my brain relax. Punching out my anxiety really worked!
I haven’t been able to do boxing in about a year as I was pregnant all 2017 and am now in recovering from pregnancy and a C section but I am so looking forward to sweating out my worries again.
Everybody needs something different, but physical movement, whatever it is, is such an important aspect of conquering mental health issues.