So after posting my blog yesterday about WhatsApp anxiety I got a text from one of my close friends who lives in Asia. I would text her now and then to check in (she was pregnant) and usually there is a big gap between our texts so our conversations are quite long because there’s a lot to catch up on. She messaged me today with a picture of her new baby boy; it made my day! She was one of my 8 unread messages, she had replied to me on 12 June and I hadn’t read or responded to her messages. She still messaged me despite this and shared good news with me. It made me think that maybe even if there’s a long gap between responses people will still be happy to receive a response? I checked two more messages (they were voice notes) and responded. I am now done to 5 messages! Maybe I can clear them by the end of this week?
Today I had to face another bad habit I’ve always had. I have no patience and I give up on things easily. Like, really easily. If I can’t learn it quickly then I will give up because I think I’ll never get there and it’s just too hard for me. I don’t know where this comes from! Could it have something to do with my schooling? I was in an easy primary school and constantly excelled without doing that much work (I have been procrastinating since I was in school!), so I was used to being top of the class. I’m not sure what happened, but the expectation to naturally excel at anything I tried made me into my worst enemy. I expect things to come easily to me and when they don’t I will drop it. I took ballet, karate, tennis, squash, horse riding, drawing, painting, mosaic, ice skating, piano and violin classes at different times in my youth between ages 5 to 16 years old.
My mom never had the opportunity to develop a hobby or learn a sport/instrument so she wanted very badly for me and my brother to pick something up. It’s disappointing to me that I didn’t stick with any of these, because I really enjoyed some of those activities. I was privileged and had access to so many opportunities, so it is a shame and I do regret it. I go horse riding once every few years and I really enjoy it, but my abilities are limited. I only got as far as trot when I was taking my lessons. Once the horse started going faster (canter) I got too scared and quit because it was hard and I couldn’t imagine mastering it. This habit has also prevented me from going for new opportunities or trying new things. I’ll think, “nope, that’s too hard I could never do that. I don’t have the ability.” I have struggled with this mindset throughout my life which is why I think I sometimes feel unfulfilled.
Now with time and a LOT of hindsight, I have learned that if you stick to something you will get somewhere. It IS possible. You may not be perfect, but you can be competent. Starting this blog was a big step for me because blogging is a long game. You can’t really get an audience overnight: patience is mandatory. It will take time and lots of content for me to get there. I’m really scared I’m going to quit eventually. It’s something I really want to do, so I am trying not to fall into my old patterns. The keyword here is “commitment”, which brings me to today’s task:
ACTION: What will you do today to be active?
As above, one of the things I always struggled with was exercise. I started becoming overweight when I was 9 years old and only managed to shed the weight off when I was 14. It came about with my braces and exercise. The braces meant I couldn’t enjoy food as I did before (constantly getting stuff stuck in my braces was not fun). My mom used to go to the gym so she started taking me with her and then I joined her squash clinic. I liked squash; my teacher was a tough and intense twig made of muscle. She was really really thin with sharp cheekbones and no body fat. She hardly smiled except when I showed some improvement. She worked me really hard and I ended up giving up after one tournament.
Since then I’ve had an ongoing battle with exercise. I would get a gym membership, start for a few weeks and then stop because I hated the gym. This happened on and off for years. After I finished my studies, I had a gap year before coming back to the UK for work. I was living at home and had a cushy 9-5 job so I joined the nearby gym and got a personal trainer. She signed me up for 6 days a week (I know, they were desperate for clients). And I did it. I trained for maybe 6-8 months? I was in the best shape of my life, I had home-cooked healthy meals every day because I was living with my parents. I got used to the gym and I learned how to exercise.
Then I moved away.
Of course, as you probably can guess, it all came to a screeching halt. My diet was awful, my hours were all over the place at work and I didn’t set foot near any exercise equipment. My first 6 months were miserable. I started experiencing really bad depression and anxiety, worse than I had experienced in years. When I would get home I would go straight to bed and I couldn’t get up. Dinner usually consisted of cereal or toast. I will talk about this period of my life in greater detail in another post, but let’s get back to the exercise wars.
After a while, I started getting used to my job. I moved to a team where I had a better work-life balance. I would finish work at 7 instead of 9 most nights. So I thought, hey, why don’t I start working out again? I started cooking more often after seeing my colleagues bring in food from home for lunch. I joined a gym nearby with my company discount. I started exercising regularly again.
Then I got married.
The months leading up to my wedding were intense. I had a lot of issues at work and I was stressed about the wedding. When it was all over I thought, phew I can relax now and have a break from my diet (I was doing the 5:2 diet at the time). I started eating more. I thought to myself, “I was worried about my weight for months and being strict with food, I can relax for a few weeks, right?” The few weeks turned into 2 years and 20 kilos. I am not joking. My weight fluctuated over my lifetime but I never gained that much weight. There were a lot of factors that went into it, including my mental health problems (I thought getting married would make them go away. Guess it didn’t, huh? Who’da thunk it??), work and being newly married.
I was on a trip with my mom last year and she gently suggested seeing a nutritionist when I told her I couldn’t stick to my diet. My mom has always been a source of anxiety and stress-Middle Eastern culture values appearance very highly and she would always judge me especially about my weight. So she realised after a while that I don’t take criticism about my looks well. I was going to ignore her but I thought I should give it a go at least, I’ve tried a lot of other things. Once I started eating healthy I started dropping the weight, which got me to start exercising.
I tried to treat it as a habit. Just like brushing your teeth, making your bed, etc. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not, its something that needs to be done. I decided to try it for a few weeks. I took it easy-my goal was to get into the habit and not to bench press 20kg or whatever. And it worked! I started going regularly. Soon after I started, I discovered spinning. I was always against it because it looked too hard. My friend at work was going to spin regularly and she suggested I try it. It was a trendy studio with dark lights and loud music. Again, I broke it down. I’ll do the free trial which gives me three classes and see how it goes. To my surprise, I loved it! I’ve discovered I much prefer exercising in the dark so no one can see me struggling, haha! The more I did it the better it was and I actually looked forward to it. Me, Amna? Looking forward to a brutal cardio exercise class? Never! If you told me that even 6 months before I had started I would have laughed in your face. I was doing really well, I got into a routine of going twice a week.
Then lockdown started.
I was doing ok in the beginning, but then I got ill (not sure if it was the virus or not..) and Ramadan started so I stopped exercising completely. I was talking about it to my friend when I skipped yet another day of exercise and she told me about “No Zero Days”. The concept is that you have to do one small thing every day to reach your goals. So if your goal is to get fit, even on the days you don’t feel like it you go for a 5 minute walk or something similar. That concept coupled with a 28-day workout plan I saw online (here I thought if I can follow this for 28 days then I can stick with it, even I don’t exercise as intensely as the program suggests). I now do some form of activity 6 days a week. And it’s not too difficult anymore. If I can’t do the more hard-core exercises I will go for a walk. So on this day I went for a 30 minute walk and I felt great! Another tick for my 10 day challenge.
Until next time,