Beat anxiety like a boxer


black and white picture of boxer winning anxiety fight

Never let a bad experience go to waste!

Use it don’t lose it. There are far too many “bad” past experiences that can help us when times get tough. This is not some self-help bullshit but “facts” as Rafa once said, but we won’t go into that right now!

Well I can safely guarantee that we all have past life experiences that we can recall and put to use when we need them.

If you haven’t had any negatives in your life, I don’t believe you! I was going to say you’d be a lucky person to have had a life with no downside. Tough times help you grow as a person, tough times help your character.

They even give you a funny story to tell, well sometimes it’s funny.

Don’t change the memory, change how you see it

We’ve all been there – being broke, a break up, fired from a job or not getting the job you set your heart on. It doesn’t even have to be emotional it can be physical too. The ankle injury you had when the doctor said you’ll have to give up running. Or the neck injury you had and were told you definitely couldn’t practice ju-jitsu.

I’m still running, the lesson is don’t always trust doctors!

Think about your own bad times. The times you can recall without much emotional reaction. This is not meant to belittle anything that is raw and you are going through now. You have to work that out in your own time and way. The majority of people will have a list of things that happened in their past that that do not harm us now.

Think about this for a moment…

At the time we thought it would last forever. I thought this is it. This is how it’s going to be. The anxiety builds and builds. The mind plays tricks on us and looks at the worst case scenario. It’s what we are programmed to do. A survival instinct. Left unchecked negative habits can form and we don’t even see the patterns. The questions arise – why me, is it a jinx when will my luck change?

We got through it though, we healed and we came back.

See the bigger picture and learn from it

It’s not you, you’re not that important scheme of things. It’s just life throwing body and head shots at you. If a boxer gets in the ring for the first time and takes a few hits that’s understandable. That’s normal. What’s not normal or plain stupid is not learning form the experience.

Einstein said the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result

 So you’ve took a few hits what next?

You decide to not step back in the ring. This is not acceptable. I’ll leave that with you.

You’re brave so you step up again and the same thing happens. Whack, whack, whack! Hate to say it but tactically you’re a dope, whether in life or in a boxing ring. I’ve been guilty of this too.

Remember absorb adapt learn

Take what you have experienced and learn from it. Think win or learn. Develop habits that will serve you through life. You’ll never eliminate all anxiety but you can defend against it, avoid the worst of it by seeing it coming, counter and attack it when the time is right.

A boxer who is never tested will never improve

Take the lessons from life and use them to you advantage. If you find the pressure building in work and it leads to an anxiety attack, use this information for your future benefit. Ask yourself how can you defend against this? Did you eat well at the time? Were you sleeping well? Did you neglect the gym that week? Drink too much alcohol?

Next time you could remove yourself from the situation for a brief period of time to calm yourself. Or endeavour to train harder, eat healthy and drink less beer!

If you didn’t get the job you wanted, analyse the reasons to see how you can perform better next time. It could be a small thing like starting your preparation a week earlier.

Or a big change like going to college or university to become more qualified. This is hard but it can be done as I did it.

Take ownership of you present and future

We can’t control fate but we can control our response to adversity. This is not about dwelling on the past but using it to our advantage. It can take a while to change our way of thinking, but I can genuinely say it has helped me when things go wrong in life. I’m far from perfect but seeing the bigger picture is a habit worth cultivating. It even helps take the bitterness and anger away which only drains me anyway.

I would like to add that certain things in life will knock us for six and this tactic may not help for everything. However even extreme circumstances can bring the best out of people. Check out Victor Frankl, Mans Search for Meaning.

Start with the small things

If you struggle with this concept start small. The person you dislike in work, just say hello, ask them if they want a drink. It does work. Then build up to bigger more serious issues. In the end you start to think everything happens for a reason.

All the s**ts from your past are just people not s**ts. They taught you to bob, weave, defend and attack! Haha.

That feels much better.




The athlete with anxiety is a rare sight!

Anxiety and the athlete

Sometimes we don’t see what is right before our eyes. How many times have we watched the New York, London or Berlin marathon but missed something more than outstanding physical endurance? How many times have we watched the World Cup and only admired the beautiful game and great goals? Or watched world championship boxing, only noticing great technique and tremendous heart? We watch, but miss something that can change lives. Sport helps fight anxiety and this far outweighs winning or losing. This applies from amateur level to the highest professional level in sport.

The power of sport

The beauty and power of sport to transform an anxious mind and body is for all to see. Whether in team sports like football and rugby or solo pursuits like running and martial arts. Like many challenges in life, the pleasure comes after the pain. The effort you put in is equal to the gains you take out. I doubt many people love their first run, the first time in the gym or getting jabbed in the mouth in a boxing ring! Taking positive action and not giving in to the pain brings great rewards.

Sport transforms an anxious mind and body. Action is the key. Action is the only way to overcome mental and physical pain.

You never know how great the food is by looking at the menu. Obvious I know.  However the point is worth making and applies to all areas of life. Small steps build momentum. I love a small step, a small step means you have started. A small step means you’re on your way.

The shy athlete 

Look at the confidence of Conor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather , or Christiano Ronaldo. These may be extreme examples of confidence but sport develops confidence at all levels. If you have ever witnessed an amateur 10 km race, before during and after, you will see confidence, energy and passion in abundance. This is the antithesis of the person living with anxiety.

Body and the mind as one 

The connection between body and mind is well established in eastern philosophy. Anyone who trains the body knows this connection. Meditation is an amazing tool for quieting the anxious mind. Exercise can be a form of meditation. For example I believe the runner’s high is a form of meditation and demonstrates the connection between body and mind. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger described lifting weights to meditation –  the body and mind as one.

Hope comes in many forms

To conclude sport and exercise are vital tools to fight anxiety. I would go further and say it should be integrated in our lives on a daily basis. It relaxes muscles, which in turn relaxes the mind and keeps us living in the moment. After a workout I feel like the future is going to be bright. Positive goals and plans come to mind. Anxiety is a habit ingrained in the body that repeats for no good reason and exercise breaks the cycle of nervous energy. Exercise chips away at the anxiety and builds a subtle confidence in us. We often don’t realise the benefits of exercise until we stop doing it.

Tony Soprano once said “Hope comes in many forms”. Momentum can be built. If you can’t run, walk, if you can’t lift weights, target one press up. Break it down in to manageable chunks. Don’t take my word for it, just do it, see for yourself.