It was March 13th, 2020 at 2:00 PM. I was sitting in my English class and staring at the walls, trying to ignore the pain that my braces were causing. The words “Justin Trudeau’s wife has been diagnosed with COVID-19” brought me back to reality.
That day ended up being the last day that I was at school for a while. I checked the news everyday and though it was overwhelming but I couldn’t stop myself because I needed to find some kind of reassurance that everything was going to be okay.
I didn’t leave my house for a month after the WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic.
The passing days felt like one giant blur of YouTube, reading, puzzles, occasional exercise and constant fear. My mental health quickly started to deteriorate to the point where I could barely get myself out of bed. The simplest tasks like brushing my teeth and making my bed were becoming difficult. I had difficulties focusing and I struggled to get anything done. I couldn’t sleep at night because my brain would not stop thinking. I was physically and psychologically exhausted. My life and the whole world, it felt like, were falling apart and there was nothing I could do. I felt helpless.
Eventually I hit rock bottom. I was emotionally numb. It felt like the world was against me, that I had no one to talk to, that I was completely isolated from everything. The days felt long and short at the same time. Music provided some relief, but still, it felt like things were never going to get better and that I would be stuck like this forever.
In mid May 2020, my dad asked me if I wanted an Apple Watch, and I said, sure, who doesn’t like a new gadget?
It ended up changing my life.
The watch’s fitness app which allows you to track workouts and see how many calories you’ve burned, how long you’ve exercised for and your heart rate. For walking or hiking workouts, the watch tells you your pace per kilometer. I hadn’t exercised properly in so long, but I decided to start walking daily. I started off by walking 2 km per day. It wasn’t much, but it was still something that would end up helping me get myself back up again.
After a few weeks of walking 2 km daily, I felt confident enough to walk a greater distance. I started walking 4 km once a day. It took me an hour to walk 4 km but I didn’t let that discourage me. I kept going even on the days when I wanted to give up. Eventually, I started walking 8km per day without a problem.
Falling asleep at night became much easier. My brain finally started to shut off as soon as my head hit the pillow and I was able to fall asleep at a normal time. Waking up also became easier. When the sun peered through my blinds, I got up right away and didn’t lie there for another hour dreading my life. Whenever my dad asked me to take out the dogs on a walk, I didn’t get angry like I would’ve a few weeks ago.
Exercising changed my whole perspective on life and gave me hope that I could make it out of the darkness. We know that the mental health benefits of exercising include reduced stress, better sleep, increased happiness, better self confidence, and more energy. As someone who has been through a depressive episode, I can confidently say that the benefits of exercising are much greater than that.
Something as simple as a wearable device felt like it changed my life for the better. But of course, it was only the impetus to start exercising, which is what really made the difference. It made me realize that I can get better, if I can manage to find the motivation to put in the time and effort.
No matter what happens in life, things will eventually get better and there will be sunshine after a storm.