Tough times occur during every person’s life, but the use of exercise and a healthy diet can give you the mental game you need to get through it all. Whether your troubled times last minutes, hours, days, or months, this post is to give you advice and show you how getting active and eating healthy were a necessity to get me through one of the most trying times of my life.
As you read, this I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “How does this kid know what I’m going through? He’s twenty two. How bad could times have been in his life?” You’re not wrong to think things along those lines. So let me tell you my story and how I got through it.
I played hockey and lacrosse from the time I could hold a stick in my hand. Growing up I was always seen as an athlete. I was seen at the same level academically as well. When the time came to go to college I chose to pursue my athletic career at an academically prestigious school, the University of Pittsburgh.
I maintained good grades through my freshman season; in which I earned a starting position. The team fell short of a national championship, but we still had a phenomenal season. After the season was over I couldn’t wait to start preseason in the fall.
Fast forward to October of my sophomore year. I retained my starting position, my grades were higher than they had ever been the year before. I was enroute to almost a 4.0 GPA. Then in one preseason game, crack. I got illegally hit from behind helmet to helmet behind the play. I briefly lost consciousness and walked off the field on my power. I had a headache and felt a bit nauseous. Later that night it got worse. I ended up being helped by my roommates to the ER because my surroundings started spinning and lights were giving me bad headaches. I couldn’t walk in a straight line or stand up. I knew this was bad. A few days later after rigorous amounts of tests, a neuropsychologist sat me down and put it simply:
“You have a severe concussion. This isn’t your first but you haven’t experienced anything like this. Your season is done.”
I asked if I would be able to play again to which he responded, “You can keep playing college lacrosse and score a few more goals but, if you get hit in the head again by even a small hit or stick I’ll have to teach you how to use a fork again.”
That was it. Just like that I was no longer an athlete.
Soon my GPA had plummeted as well. The two things I had identified myself as my entire life were gone. During this time I got depressed. I couldn’t go outside because the noises of buses and the light gave me headaches. I couldn’t watch TV because it was over stimulating. I couldn’t read for longer than 20 minutes or I would get tunnel & blurry vision. I couldn’t study or pay attention in class. This went on for months I was a mess.
I gained weight I didn’t feel like eating healthy. I didn’t workout because thought – what was the point? Luckily my roommate (who is still one of my best friends to this day) dragged me to the gym. He made me just get on a bike and ride next to him. It was at a light pace and only for a short time but, for the first time in months I felt like I accomplished something. Slowly and not easily I began working out more and more.
Once or twice a week turned into four to six times a week. After my workouts became more regular I stopped eating pizza or burgers, and ice cream for almost every meal because it made me feel slow and lethargic. This slow but constant change led me out of my depression because day in and day out I had a chance to succeed. Some days I did, some days I didn’t.
It wasn’t on a lacrosse field under the lights or in a classroom, but it still felt like it gave me purpose.
Troubling times happen to all of us – hardships in relationships, work, the list could go on. However, from my own experience using exercise and healthy dieting can be one of greatest therapies or remedies one can find.
It doesn’t have to be monumental. Take the stairs at work. Go for a walk instead of watching TV at night. Eat an orange instead of drinking an orange soda. Simple tasks like these seem mundane and unimportant but making similar small and subtle changes can snowball into a major positive impact in your life. So if you’re experiencing troubling times and reading this, I hope this helps and always remember, “It is the small things. Every day deeds by ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay.”