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  • Writer's pictureSteph

The one where Steph works out and then everything works out

Updated: Mar 5

A water bottle, a pair of trainers, a jumping rope, a sports bra, and a smartphone on a white surface.

One of the most frustrating things about my burnout was that I did not feel motivated to do anything much once I’d come off the hamster wheel. I took some time off and did absolutely nothing, apart from eating and reading. Plenty of burnout books out there will emphasise the need to practise self-care and cover the basic needs like proper nutrition and hygiene before tackling anything more challenging. Well let’s just say, I definitely struggled with step one.

People wanted to meet up but I did not feel like going out. At some point I realised that I hadn’t made it past the bin shed in seven weeks. And even those short forays happened under the cover of darkness so I was less likely to run into my neighbours (and for run, read: shuffle). The longer I stayed in bed and ate junk, the more my resistance to being a part of society seemed to increase. Which, unsurprisingly, led to more frustration and more emotional eating.

At some point, I stepped on the scales and I weighed more than 100kgs. That kind of gave me the shock I needed to make some changes. I started to get back onto my indoor rowing machine. I started ordering in healthier groceries. I charged my Fitbit and made sure to get my hourly steps in. The rowing sessions increased from half an hour to an hour to ninety minutes. I started to get my 10.000 steps a day in, then 20.000, then 25.000.

After working so hard on a daily basis, I felt less inclined to “ruin” my efforts (and my day) by eating “bad” food. Cutting out sugar and processed foods led to my mood becoming more stable. And because I did not need to quickly wind down after a long and hectic work day, I did not feel the need to drink alcohol any longer either, which improved my sleep quality. All these changes stacked up and helped me lose about 25kgs.

It still took me a while to work up the courage to leave the house. Because my thinking had not caught up with the changes to my body yet. But one day I had to attend an appointment and I rediscovered how nice it felt to move my legs properly, walk in a green space, really breathe. I then challenged myself to leaving the house every day for 30 days, even if it was just to walk one round in the neighbourhood park. The effect on my mental health was profound.

I recognise that I was in a very fortunate position, having the time and the resources to focus on my physical health, to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. One might question the wisdom of this, but the spillover effects have been vastly beneficial:

  1. Exercise has given me an outlet for my feelings and normalised an elevated heart rate - I’ve learnt that if my heart beats like a hammer, it’s not necessarily my anxiety shouting.

  2. With more strength and more endurance came more physical confidence. Daily tasks were easier, stairs more manageable, I straightened my shoulders and walked more purposefully.

  3. Pushing my physical limits led to more mental courage. I knew that I could do hard things and endure discomfort because I had proved that to myself again and again.

  4. Disproving some self-limiting beliefs (“I cannot run due to my dodgy knee”) led to more curiosity about what other stories I was telling myself that might be ready for deconstruction.

  5. Seeing and feeling the tangible results of consistently showing up for myself was a powerful reminder that habits trump willpower and motivation.

If you are working on a long-term project to improve yourself and have got experiences or tips to share, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or schedule an intro session here.


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