Mental Health Check: Finding Balance
By Juliette Lemoine
Have you ever felt unworthy? Not good enough? Like a quitter, failure, or anything in between? I’m fairly certain we’ve all been there; I know I have.
For so long I felt like a prisoner of my own life, a victim of my circumstances (which happen to be very good ones). I felt a constant yearning to go out into the world and do things that fulfill me – anything BUT sit in a classroom for 8 hours a day, every day.
This yearn, this gut feeling that my life could be so much better if I chose to put in the work, haunted me.
When 2020 took a super fun turn and my life started to change, I spent months depressed at one of my lowest points, without letting anyone know. My plummeting mental health only became worse when I started noticing the same unfulfillment and laziness/settling for less in the people around me.
I grew apart from my friends, and I pushed everything away. I was so lost, so confused. I was sick of holding back tears at every social event and at random moments throughout my day. Sick of the feeling that my throat was closing and my head was spinning. Before this time in my life, anxiety was foreign to me. Then all of a sudden, it consumed me.
It took over my mind, my relationships, my perspective on the world. It robbed me of joy. I had had enough. So one day I decided to grab the reins of my life and make a change. I vowed to never again let myself believe that I was a victim of my circumstances. On quite the impulse, I started the 75 HARD.
The 75 HARD is a mental toughness challenge invented by Andy Frisella to strengthen confidence, fortitude, and self-worth. The challenge consists of 5 tasks that MUST be accomplished every day for 75 days. Failure to complete any of the 5 pillars means you MUST start over at day 1. There are no days off and no shortcuts.
The rules are as follows:
- Drink 1 gallon of water
- Stick to a diet
- Complete a 45-minute indoor workout & a 45-minute outdoor workout
- Take a progress picture
- Read 10 pages of a business or self-development book
I was so stoked to start this challenge, and I jumped right in. For the first month or so, I felt GREAT! I felt like I could prioritize and accomplish anything I set my mind to. I finally had control over my emotions, and I didn’t let my circumstances define me. I was so determined to make it to day 75 and feel like a brand new person.
Then, without me realizing, my anxiety crept back in, only 10 times worse. The 75 HARD no longer fulfilled me, it just felt like a chore. I began to dread my two 45-minute workouts after school, and even woke up at 5 a.m. some days to workout before school, just so I would have time to relax later.
The thought of failing, quitting, giving up – whatever you want to call it – absolutely tormented my mind. At this point my anxiety really started taking a toll on me. It was like the whole reason I started the challenge had reversed itself – I was no longer using it to control my life, IT was controlling ME.
I was so focused on the end result, the finish line, if you will, that I completely ignored and failed to recognize how much I had already accomplished, and how far I had come. I was so crippled by my fear of failure that I wouldn’t even let injuries from my constant workouts, or an obvious toll on my mental health stop me.
I had this mindset until one night when I suddenly couldn’t breathe. My chest got extremely tight, my left arm started hurting, and my heart was racing. We had just learned about heart attacks in health class the week before, so I started freaking out (and ignoring the fact that the likelihood of a healthy 17 year old girl having a heart attack is practically impossible).
The pain didn’t stop for an hour, so we finally went to the ER. I ended up being fine, and the doctor said I have a rib condition that is very common amongst young girls. Here’s the kicker – the only way to find out you have it is by going to the ER thinking you’re dying of a heart attack because it has the same symptoms.
If my overuse injuries and anxiety weren’t enough of a sign that I needed to stop the 75 HARD, this ER trip definitely was. The funny part is that I was literally sitting in the hospital bed reading my 10 pages from pictures I took on my phone before we left. I still had it in my head that I was going to wake up the next day and do it all again.
But the next day, I finally listened and caved in. I decided to stop. It killed me to see the time go by during the day, knowing that when the clock struck midnight, I would have officially failed. I was so upset. I had been looking forward to promises of mental toughness for 53 days. This was the most I had ever committed to something. Blood, sweat, tears, the whole 9 yards.
I wish I could remember which one it was, but I listened to a podcast that said, “personal growth happens in the dance between pushing your limits and finding stillness.” This simple statement helped me realize that I hadn’t found enough stillness. For 53 days, I was pushing my limit nonstop, and never giving myself a chance to catch my breath.
I started this challenge to build mental toughness, and I think it takes a lot of that to ditch the finish line you were running towards and backtrack to put your physical and mental health first.
Oftentimes I think we all either push ourselves past our limits, overworking ourselves in hopes of accomplishing a goal, or we overindulge in stillness. But what value does a goal really have once it’s been crossed off? This imbalance causes us to feel lost and unfulfilled. I’ve learned, however, that part of finding yourself is being lost in the first place. And maybe it’s not even about finding yourself, but creating yourself instead.
Taking initiative to change that imbalance is where fulfillment comes in. So don’t wait any longer – start doing things that make you a better person, but don’t hold yourself to some impossible standard. Take some time to check on yourself. Are you overworking yourself, spreading yourself too thin, incapable of giving your all to the things you care about? Are you doing the opposite? Lounging around and letting your situation define you?
You have to start somewhere, and the best time is now. Get outside, read a book, go cliff jumping, meditate, pray – I don’t care. Do anything BUT wait for the right opportunity. Because the truth is, it’ll never be the perfect time. Start today and don’t look back. You never know how much it might change your life for the better.