A few weeks before I was supposed to start a science degree, I looked at my course list and knew I couldn’t do it. I decided to take some time off, and a couple of years later, I was living on my own, working full-time as a server and still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had always struggled with anxiety, but this time it felt different.
I remember sitting around my apartment one day waiting for my shift to start, and realizing that my heart was beating really fast. I didn’t like my job, I was broke and I wasn’t taking care of myself – I was drinking too much and had gained a whole bunch of weight. I hated feeling like that, so I decided I needed to do something. Anything.
I Googled “things to make you feel better,” and walking for 30 minutes a day came up. That Google search changed my life. I started walking every day, and eventually running a little bit. The more I moved, the better I felt – physically and mentally. Gradually, I started to fall in love with taking care of myself and being active. I felt like I was worth something. Sitting on the couch with my heart pounding didn’t have to be it for me.
During my first semester in the nursing program at MacEwan, I decided to try out the gym. I was so embarrassed and uncomfortable the first time I went – I didn’t even know where the gym was and had to ask for directions – but it quickly became a habit. I get up at 5:30 a.m. every day, take the bus to school and work out for an hour. For me, taking care of my physical health is directly tied to my mental health.
But I don’t put too much pressure on myself either. Sometimes people feel like working out has to be all or nothing. It’s not. If you’re really busy with exams, of course you should study. But I find that taking a half hour to move – or even a few minutes to do a push up or two – improves my brain function, helps me calm down and just makes me feel better.
– Madeline, 2nd year student, Bachelor of Science in Nursing
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This story is part of Changing Minds: Creating a healthy campus – an initiative that makes mental health a priority. The program connects training opportunities, support services, resources and stories from real people across the MacEwan University community.