This month's "Share Your Story" featured guest blogger is Christina Myers. Enjoy!
START BY DOING JUST ONE THING.
Purchasing my first Refocus band was one of the few positive things I did for myself just as I started a nasty downward anxiety spiral four years ago. I was in a position so many have been in before me: knowing the time had come to finally leave that dead-end job and take a big step forward into the world of the self-employed. Just a few weeks prior to starting my first “real” job, I lost my grandfather and decided to leave my grad school program. As a first-generation college graduate, I felt so accomplished being one of just five students accepted into a very selective Ph.D. program--I got in straight out of undergrad, which felt so special! Six months in, I was having second thoughts. Not because the program was academically difficult (it was hard!), but because I constantly felt like I was moving in the wrong direction. The more I learned about the realities of post-Ph.D. life, the less excited I was to earn a doctorate. I wanted hands-on time with real people, helping them. Spending most of my time locked in an office while graduate students worked in my lab didn’t appeal to me. Looking around me, it seemed like all Ph.D. candidates were pretty miserable, so I just told myself it was normal and tried to ignore my growing unhappiness. I chalked it up to being “part of the process.” Losing my grandfather was the last straw. Growing up, I always admired my grandpa’s way of taking the road less traveled and doing what made him happy, no matter how unconventional it may have been. Sitting at his memorial service, I knew I had to make a change. At first, I didn’t know how to tell anyone what I was feeling. My friends and family had done so much to celebrate my big acceptance, how was I supposed to tell them that I was giving up just one year in? I had convinced myself I was a failure, that everyone I knew and loved was going to be horribly disappointed in me.
In an effort to make the news easier to give, I figured I should find a job. The graduate program was paying me a stipend, and (against their instructions) I had kept my part-time jobs from undergrad, but I knew I needed more to pay the bills. It seemed logical that being able to say “I’ve decided to drop out of school, but don’t worry, I already found a job!” would make it easier for me to tell my parents. A quick evaluation of my qualifications (BS in Sports Medicine and Nutrition, some experience teaching fitness classes in college, being a former athlete, and ¼ of a Ph.D.) made personal training seem like a natural choice. I justified the choice with the thought that it was only a temporary solution while I figured out my game plan.
So what was I still doing at this temporary job three years later, no closer to “figuring it out?” Don’t get me wrong, I learned a LOT during my time as a corporate gym personal trainer. I gained years of valuable experience working one on one with clients and learning from those around me. That three years was also a crash course in handling workplace sexual harassment, the reality of the gender wage gap, and how little the people at the top of the corporate ladder care about the people at the bottom. Thankfully, I had two really great managers who did everything in their power to help us enjoy our jobs, provide continuing education opportunities, and constantly remind us why we got into fitness in the first place. When they both announced their exit in the same week, I knew that was my cue that I needed a change. Again. But this time, I had an idea.
My athletic background, a newfound passion for strength sports, and a desire to reach more people than I could in a commercial gym setting fueled my decision to go out on my own. So I started my own business, both in-person and online. I knew my ultimate goal was to transition from personal trainer to strength and conditioning coach and to eventually “settle down” into teaching exercise science at the undergraduate level. So I dove into the continued education and certifications I would need to make those dreams a reality, including saving to pay for the graduate degrees I knew I would need down the road. I was so excited to be able to do things on my own terms, to finally have the freedom to realize my goal: empowering women to find their strength.
But yall, starting a business is not an easy task. There are times when I’ve been really proud of myself and my business, and times when I’ve completely questioned my sanity and capability to be a business owner. Things were growing fast, and I was presented with several exciting opportunities that came with tons of new responsibility early on. I often said yes, and then scrambled to figure out how to make it work after the fact. I took on the task of directing all of the USA Powerlifting competitions in my state, though I didn’t fully realize how big of an endeavor I was committing to at the time. The first year and a half of being self-employed were so full of surprises that my mild anxiety became major, and I found myself having panic attacks at least once a day. Business was good, but I was a mess. When I felt overwhelmed (basically 24/7), I would just freeze. I felt like I couldn’t get everything done, which led to being so paralyzed by anxiety that nothing was getting done. In the car on our way out for a date, my boyfriend asked me what was on my mind because I wasn’t holding up my end of the conversation. My response: “I’m just thinking about all the things I have to think about.” He said, “I think even your anxiety has anxiety at this point.” The constant apprehension was wearing me out, affecting my life and relationships outside of work and my overall health. I knew I needed to see a doctor, but even that was cause for panic, so I just kept putting it off, falling deeper into the spiral.
During one of my almost daily episodes where I was too caught up in feeling frozen and panicky to actually accomplish anything, I picked up my phone and opened Instagram. One of the first posts on my feed was a Boomerang of someone flipping a Refocus band inside out. If you follow me, you know I am a sucker for quotes (yes, I’m one of those people!). So a quote that I could wear on a bracelet? You better believe I was on the website checking out with my Reward band in less than thirty seconds. “START BY DOING JUST ONE THING” immediately jumped out of the page at me and I knew that was my band. All I did was order a bracelet, but that single action was one of the first times I felt like I had control in weeks. That was the day I finally made that doctor’s appointment. Things on my to-do list started to get done. Very small things at first, but the growing sense of control slowed down the anxiety spiral just enough, and I started to feel up to tackling the medium things. When my band arrived, I wore it constantly. A couple of months later, I ran the biggest powerlifting event in my state’s history. We had a record number of female competitors-- first-time lady lifters celebrating their newfound strength and confidence. To this day, March 25th, 2016 is still one of the most rewarding memories I have. Being able to share something that empowered me with so many other people was truly an incredible experience. To think that my personal issue with anxiety almost took that empowering moment away from so many hard-working women still makes me cringe.
Of course, my anxiety wasn’t magically cured by wearing my Refocus band--if only it were that simple! It took a few months on medication, therapy, and creating more efficient systems in my business to really get things under control. But being able to flip that band over anytime I was feeling overwhelmed kept me going. It was my constant reminder to just choose a task, whatever felt manageable at that moment, and start on it. Then I would take that momentum and keep it rolling, tackling one thing after another until I was done with the task or project. Soon, I was able to get off the medicine, managing my anxiety in other ways, including using my band to reel me back in when I started to feel like I was off in the deep end. There are ups and downs, but now I never doubt that I will get through them, as long as I just start with that one thing. These days, my collection of Refocus bands is pretty extensive, but my original Reward band will always be my most cherished.