*This is my personal experiences about how boxing helped me overcome anxiety. It should not take the place of medical advice from a health care practitioner
We often have people bring their kids to boxing to “toughen them up”, I hear it all the time as a coach. I think boxing is life changing, especially for anxious people but not because it toughens them up, because it teaches important life lessons. My name is Kirsty I am a mother of 3, and while my kids are now teenagers when I started boxing, they were only little (7, 4 & 1 to be exact). Let me tell you a little bit about my journey and then I’ll share with you my top 10 reasons why I think boxing could help you feel calmer, sleep better and have you feeling strong and healthy! I know it’s cliché but boxing has changed my life and all for the better.
Back in early 2009 I had just given birth to my 3rd child. Out of the blue I started feeling overwhelmed, stressed and definitely not myself. I’d always been strong and brave and suddenly I felt weak and lost. Somewhere in the last 9 years of being a mum I had forgotten who I was as a person. I loved being a mum and wife but that became my whole identity. I’m pretty sure I had only introduced myself as my kid’s mum or my husband’s wife for the last 9 years.
After a battery of tests to rule out anything physical, I was diagnosed with post-natal anxiety and so began a string of appointments with psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, midwives, naturopaths and anyone who might be able to help me fight this invisible battle inside my head. My husband and my mum were amazing and supportive but I just couldn’t seem to find any balance as my life swung wildly between just coping and barely coping at all. In the beginning I thought it must be a mistake, there must be another explanation, I was stronger than that, but as time wore on, I accepted that I had anxiety.
Making a plan at first was hard. Everything feels impossible when you can’t sleep and you carry around this feeling of dread like a weighted blanket. My first hurdle was educating myself and changing my mindset to accept that having anxiety didn’t make me weak or a failure. Next, I found a great psychologist who I really connected with which was super important because it gave me the focus and accountability to make a plan to move forward, something I couldn’t have done alone. It was very much trial and error as I my anxiety came in waves. Some days I couldn’t even leave the house. Something as simple as food shopping caused a sea of tears and often took 3 or 4 go’s to get it done.
One day, on a particularly difficult afternoon a boxing match came on TV. I didn’t like boxing and watching 2 men pummel each other terrified me. It was at that exact moment I thought to myself if I am going to feel scared all the time then I am going to give my brain a reason to be scared! I picked up the phone and started trying to find a coach/club. This was a challenge because I had 3 kids and my oldest has autism and so I either needed somewhere with a creche or flexible hours so I could train while hubby was home.
I eventually found a coach, Franco. Finding a good coach is super important! You want to find someone who is experienced, caring and brings out the best in you. I was lucky enough to find all of these traits in my very first boxing coach. In the beginning I just wanted to learn how to box for fun but boxercise didn’t appeal to me at all. I wanted to learn REAL boxing and I’m glad I did. Franco’s belief in me and his encouragement eventually led to me competing in Amateur Boxing at 31 years old. After just 12 weeks of boxing (along with my psychology and naturopathy appointments) my anxiety had almost completely gone! I was sleeping better, I was a happier mum, I was eating better and I had lost 10kgs! I’ve never felt healthier or happier than when I was boxing.
THE TOP 10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD DO BOXING TO IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH:
- RELIEVES STRESS The world can be a stressful place and stress makes anxiety 1000 times worse. In fact, many of us who have had or have anxiety avoid people and the world for that very reason. Boxing has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, release endorphins and act as a catharsis; an experience of emotional release. It also allows you to be a part of a group or you can do it independently if you don’t want to make small talk!
- MAKES YOU LIVE IN THE MOMENT They say anxiety is worry about the future. Well boxing will take all of your concentration so you won’t be able to think about anything else while you are doing it. The footwork, the combo’s, the head movement, the defence, the attack. I love that when I box my mind cannot focus on anything other that exactly what I am doing. I forget about the bathroom that needs cleaning and the bills that need paying and for that hour it’s just me and the rhythmic pounding of leather
- BUILDS CONFIDENCE While boxing is not the same as self defence there are definitely components of it that are very helpful in a self defence situations. Punching out combo’s on the bags or pads makes you feel stronger and more in control. Boxing is difficult and so when you finally master that new drill or combo it gives you a sense of achievement that in turn builds confidence.
- HEALTHY OUTLET FOR EMOTIONS Have you ever been so mad you want to punch something? Despite what society tells us these feelings are very normal. Boxing gives us a functional and healthy outlet to get rid of that negativity energy and instead focus it on something useful and healthy.
- INSTILLS DISCIPLINE & ROUTINE When we are feeling anxious or lost, having a routine and accountability can be the catalyst for positive change. Discipline is important for everyone. It teaches us that short term sacrifice can achieve long term success and success makes us feel happy and increases confidence.
- CONNECTS YOU WITH YOUR BODY Boxing connects you with your body and mind unlike any other sport I’ve every done. It teaches you focus and improves coordination, and that is just non-contact boxing. If you decide to compete or spar you learn complete focus under intense pressure. It makes you feel alive
- LEARN YOU ARE NOT MADE OF GLASS In a world where we are over informed of all the dangers and tend to wrap ourselves in cotton wool boxing offers us a chance to experience the ‘dangerous’ in a safe, controlled environment
- TAKING TIME FOR YOU MAKES YOU A BETTER PERSON I thought taking time for myself was selfish but what boxing taught me was that it was OK to take time for me. When I take time to look after me, the kids, my husband, my friends they all reaped the rewards of having a happier more motivated me which in turn made their lives better
- LOOK FITTER AND STRONGER WITHOUT THE BULK Boxing burns loads of calories and is still low impact which is great if you have bad knees. It releases tension in the shoulders and neck if you learn the proper boxing technique from an experienced coach or trainer. Because you are working with mainly bodyweight at high intensity you get a great shape in your arms, legs and core. It really is a full body workout!
- CHOOSE YOUR LEVEL OF SOCIAL PARTICIPATION Boxing can be done with a partner and is a great motivator if you find yourself a dedicated training partner. Alternatively, I train lots of people on the spectrum or who are introverted who like boxing because they can train with a group for motivation but work independently on a bag where they don’t need to make awkward conversations about the weather.
So, there you have it. If you are feeling anxious, stressed or depressed boxing, in conjunction with a good psychologist or councilor, can be an excellent outlet for those unwanted emotions. The most important thing is to find a good trainer and club so that you minimise your risk of injury while maximising your fun! If you don’t know where to start try reading our blog here <insert link to blog>How to find a good combat gym.
Leave a comment in the link below and tell us how boxing has changed your life or feel free to post questions and we will get back to you as soon as possible.