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Biohacking refers to the pursuit of human optimisation by improving your nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress management, environment and other factors.

Biohackers will often use technology to help collect data about their biology so they can measure the impacts of the various “hacks” used. Examples of this include heart rate variability monitors, sleep trackers, mood apps and auditory stimulation.

Dave Asprey, the creator of the Bulletproof blog and Bulletproof Coffee, defined biohacking in a 2014 TedX talk as “The art of controlling your biology and performance by changing the environment inside and outside your body.”

The main difference between general self-improvement and biohacking is that it’s a systems-based approach. This treats the body as a system with inputs such as food, sleep and exercise and outputs such as mental performance, physical performance. Biohackers improve the inputs to get better outputs.

Why would you become a biohacker? Goals can include things like better memory, increased focus, better physical performance in sports or longevity.

For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be referring to biohacking in the ‘wellness’ sense as mentioned above. There’s also a growing subset of biohackers known as “grinders” who use implants and chemicals to change their bodies. Examples of this include implantable RFID chips. This guide will not yet delve into this side of the definition.

Where to start with biohacking diagram

What is the “quantified self” and how does it relate to biohacking?

Self quantification is the tracking of different personal metrics in order to obtain knowledge about yourself. You can then use this information to improve yourself.

Metrics can include your heart rate, mood, weight, hours slept, food and anything else you can measure about yourself or your environment. The quantified self movement often utilises technology to help capture these metrics, with popular examples including wearables such as the Oura ring and Fitbit, and apps like Daylio and Sleep Cycle to record mood and sleep respectively.

Self quantification is often used by biohackers to monitor the inputs and outputs of their human ‘system’ to see how they can improve themselves.

For example, a biohacker may log their mood and activities each day for a month, and then use this to find out what activities are making them unhappy, and what activities are making them happy. They could then (hopefully) remove the activities dragging them down, and do more of the activities that make them happy.

More information: The term ‘Quantified Self’ was actually coined by two journalists: Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly. They now run Quantified Self Labs, a company that runs conferences and other meetings for the quantified self community.

Where do I start with biohacking?

Biohacking and self-quantification can be tough for some to begin because the human body is so complex.

The easiest way to narrow it down is to first ask yourself what your goal is. For example, my own biohacking goals are to be more focused at work, perform better in my favourite sports, and finally increase my overall health and longevity.

Once you decide on this, you can look at some popular hacks in each area to begin with. As mentioned above, self-quantification is an important activity in this space because it can help biohackers learn how their hacks are actually impacting their body.

Because of this, before trying out a new change, some biohackers will take baseline measurements of the outputs they wish to improve and obtain more general information about their body. This is usually in the form of a DNA test like those offered from 23 and Me, Ancestry or MyHeritage, and/or blood tests from a medical professional or services like i-screen (Australia), or WellnessFX (USA).

Here’s a roundup of some popular hacks to conduct further research on, as well as some tools and apps to help with measuring the impact they have.

Important: Some of the biohacking suggestions below and on the web in general for supplements, products, gadgets, foods and practices do not have large amounts of supporting research or evidence behind them. Be safe! Consult medical professionals before trying anything that could have an impact on your health, and be skeptical when evaluating the marketing claims of products which sound too good to be true. You don’t want to end up hurting yourself or wasting a lot of money on worthless products.

Biohacking cognitive abilities e.g focus, memory

How to measure:

  • Productive hours. You could measure this with RescueTime, which is an app and browser extension which categorises the time spent on your devices. It’ll give you a basic reading of the time you’ve spent on entertainment sites, social media etc. Hopefully a successful focus hack will see the number of productive hours increase while unproductive time spent decreases.
  • Mood. You can use Daylio if you use an Android, or Moodnotes or Reporter if you use an iPhone. This will help you log your mood and activities each day to evaluate later. You can then track your mood and activities after implementing a new hack.
  • Brain response. You can use brain training apps to see the before and after results of your biohacks. For example you could measure the time spent to complete an activity, or the score obtained.

Biohacks to consider:

  • Auditory stimulation. BrainFM is an app and web application that you can use to boost your focus, sleep quality or meditation (hence why it’s repeated below). According to the BrainFM website, they’re in the process of producing peer-reviewed studies about its effectiveness, but their pilot study claims it can increase attention and reduce mind wandering.
  • Nootropics. Nootropics, otherwise known as ‘smart drugs’, are substances that specifically work to increase mental function. These can be natural or synthetic, and can be either over-the-counter supplements or perscription drugs. The most widely known include caffeine and creatine, all the way through to Modafinil and Adderall. The Get Hapi blog has a great infographic talking about what makes a good nootropic, listing the properties of a good nootropic including: having at least three double-blind placebo-controlled studies showing safety and efficacy, and having few side effects or toxicity. Joe Rogan’s famed ‘Alpha Brain’ supplement from his company Onnit is an example of a nootropic. Other popular examples include Mind Lab Pro and Qualia Mind.
  • Meditation. You’ll see this repeated a few times on this list, but the benefits of meditation have been verified in many scientific studies. Some have shown that it reduces memory loss in older adults and can increase your attention span. There are many different ways to meditate. My favourite and one of the easiest for me personally is mindfulness meditation, where you simply become aware of your breath and then gently remind your mind to refocus on it whenever it wanders.
Biohacks image

Biohacking sleep

How to measure:

  • Sleep Cycle. Sleep Cycle is an app for both Android and Apple which tracks your sleep quality using your phone. You turn the app on and it then records your sleep quality and wakes you up at a period in your sleep cycle which is your lightest.
  • Oura ring. The Oura ring is an amazing piece of technology (at the time of writing I’m eagerly waiting for my ring to get here!) which tracks your sleep, resting heart rate, HRV and body temperature. It then stores this information and uploads it to the cloud where you can analyse it. What most excites me about the Oura ring is that it’s much smaller than many other wearables, and you can wear it while working out as it’s made from titanium and is water resistant.
  • Beddit. Beddit is a sleep monitor strap which you fit to your bed. It then records data such as your heart rate, snoring, breaths per minute and sleep quality. It was acquired by Apple in May 2017, so is now available through the Apple store.

Biohacks to consider:

  • Blue blocking glasses and Flux. Lighting has a big impact on the brain. Blue light in particular can disrupt melatonin production which stops our body from receiving the usual signal that it’s time to go to bed. Blue blocking glasses, as the name suggests, removes blue from entering your eyes. Flux is a free app which you can install on your phone, tablet or computer which removes the blue light from your devices after a certain time (mine is set to activate at about 7pm). New phones and tablets today will also include a ‘night shift’ setting which does the same.
  • BrainFM. As mentioned above, BrainFM has a sleep mode which they claim in their pilot study increases slow-wave sleep (SWS) activity by 24-29%. SWS is the sleep which move your daily memories into long term memories.
  • Cutting down on caffeine. After listening to Matthew Walker’s podcast with Kevin Rose about sleep, I realised just how much of an impact caffeine has on sleep quality. It has a half-life of five to seven hours, meaning that even if you have a coffee in the late morning or afternoon, a good portion of the caffeine could still be in your system come sleep time!  At the time of writing I’ve been caffeine-free for almost two weeks, and have felt a massive jump in my alertness and restfulness.

Biohacking your diet

How to measure:

  • Bodyfat percentage. There are a number of ways to measure body fat. Calipers can be a cheap and easy way to get your body fast tested, although they rely on the skill of the person using them. A more accurate method is a DEXA scan, which can cost between $40 – $100 depending on where you go.
  • Blood work. Companies like i-screen and iMEDICAL (Australia) and WelllnessFX (USA) offer a range of blood tests to help monitor the success of any dieting biohacks. With these services, you carry out your test at a regular blood collection center and then get the results sent to you.
  • Calorie counters and food logs. MyFitnessPal allows you to enter in the foods you eat each day to get a calorie amount.

Biohacks to consider:

  • Cut out sugar. Some research is starting to show that sugar has many negative effects on the body, including inflammation, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, less energy, and maybe even links to dementia and cancer. I have personally limited sugary drinks in my diet to one per week, and limit my desserts or sugary treats to once or twice per week (usually on the weekend).
  • Ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet. This in turn forces your body to start using fat as its main food source instead of carbs. Some studies have found ketogenic diets to have positive benefits on losing weight and some diseases. It’s a big change, so be sure to do plenty of research before trying it.
  • Intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is simply when you fast for a certain interval. There are many different splits and ways to do intermittent fasting, such as the 16/8 fast, where you don’t eat for 16 hours and restrict your eating to the remaining 8 hours. In the past I’ve done this by having my last meal at around 9pm and then eating again at around lunchtime the next day. Intermittent fasting has been shown to have some benefits such as stabilising blood sugar, helping you to lose weight, reducing oxidative stress and more. As I mentioned above though, seek medical advice and conduct your own thorough research before making a change like this.

Biohacking your recovery after sports

How to measure:

  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV) monitor. Heart rate variability is the difference in the time interval between your heart beats. Contrary to what you would assume, it’s healthy to have irregular intervals between heart beats. Research has also shown that more regular time intervals can signal stress, while a healthy irregularity in intervals can signal a more relaxed state. A HRV monitor can take the form of a phone app, wearable like the Oura or Fitbit, or even a finger or earlobe monitor. By measuring your HRV every morning you can tailor the intensity of your daily activities to your state. If your HRV shows you’re in a stressed state for the day, it might be better to preference relaxing or low intensity activities for example.
  • Sleep monitor. As mentioned above, sleep monitoring could show you the quality of your sleep and whether or not you’re getting enough deep restorative sleep. You can then implement changes to improve it.
  • Mood logs. A mood log with one of the apps mentioned above could be useful to track how you feel each day to note whether or not you’re feeling recovered.
  • Exercise/activity logs. A simple spreadsheet could be used to track your performance in your chosen sport or activity to plot how you’re performing.

Biohacks to consider:

  • Recovery training. Trainers like Joel Jamieson also use active recovery methods like Tempo training, where you do 10 seconds of work at a moderate intensity (about 70% maximum intensity and speed) and then 60 seconds active rest period. Joel actually has a ‘rebound’ protocol for helping with recovery including recovery breathing and then going into other phases including the active recovery above.
  • Sauna. Joel Jamieson also recommends athletes with a HRV score above their regular baseline can use sauna treatments to help with recovery. Dr Rhonda Patrick’s sauna report has a great collection of research showing that sauna use is also beneficial for muscle growth.
  • BrainFM. BrainFM also has a setting for calm and meditation.
  • Meditation. World-renowned trainer Joel Jamieson recommends athletes with a HRV score below their baseline average can use relaxation strategies like meditation or even floating to help prevent overtraining.

Other biohacks to consider

Standing desks

One biohack I’m a huge fan of is using a standing desk. This is common news to many in the wellness space, but to quickly summarise, constant sitting has been linked to many health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure and more. Alternating between sitting and standing can reduce this. I now have a standing desk both at home and at work. Recent research in Australia has even estimated it could save $84 million in healthcare costs by reducing the risk of certain diseases.

Standing desk biohacksUnless you’re on a strict budget, I highly recommend getting an affordable motorised standing desk like the IKEA Bekkant. This cost me just over $600 AUD and about an hour to put together.

Bulletproof/Butter coffee

Bulletproof or butter coffee is coffee with added butter and MCT oil. It’s claimed by Dave Asprey that the butter and MCT oil can provide a great source of ketones, which gives you sustained energy when compared to glucose. I love the taste of butter coffee and find it gives me a nice burst of energy, but it should be noted that many of the claimed benefits associated with it aren’t accepted by all. There’s a great analysis on Gizmodo about the claims which have been made about it.

Where are the biohacking communities on the internet?

Biohacking communities
There are quite a few thriving biohacking communities on the web if you’d like to get started. Below is a list of active communities depending on your platform of choice:

Facebook:

Reddit subreddits:

Forums:

What are some good biohacking blogs, social profiles and podcasts to pay attention to?

Below are some good places to start to get into biohacking.

Tim Ferriss. Tim’s blog The 4-Hour Work Week has many tips and tricks for biohackers. Many of his books also have plenty of tips, primarily The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef.

Ben Greenfield Fitness. Ben Greenfield is a biohacker I found out about from his appearances on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast (1069 and 1120). He experiments with many crazy methods for increasing performance or health, but he also writes extremely detailed guides to important key areas such as sleep, anti-aging, self quantification and more.

Quantified Bob. Bob Troia is an entrepreneur, biohacker and quantified self proponent. Bob runs many experiments on himself to test hypotheses. He even offers API access to his data!

The Quantified Body. The Quantified Body podcast explores the use of data and technology to improve your health. It’s a great podcast and includes guests such as Ben Greenfield, Dom D’Agostino and Aubrey De Grey. Topics range from the ketogenic diet, fasting and meditation, to heart rate variability and wearables.

Smart Drug Smarts. This podcast primarily approaches biohacking from a nootropics perspective, but actually has great episodes on all facets of human optimisation. It’s also a high quality show, nicely produced and edited to cut out filler.

Kevin Rose. Kevin Rose is an entrepreneur most well known for creating Digg. He now also runs an awesome newsletter and podcast which is full of ideas for biohackers to explore. Notable guests include Dr Valter Longo on longevity, Tim Ferriss and Ben Greenfield.

Dr Rhonda Patrick. Dr Rhonda’s Found My Fitness blog is the headquarters for her podcast and genetic reports. It’s also where you can find her awesome reports on topics such as sauna use.

Bulletproof Blog. Dave Asprey has made plenty of contributions to the biohacking space, and his Bulletproof blog continues to give helpful tips for topics including diet, exercise and more.

Robb Wolf. A personal favourite author and blogger of mine because of his realistic applications of biohacking concepts, particularly relating to diet. Robb Wolf is a biochemist-turned blogger who is also a powerlifting champion, amateur kickboxer and BJJ purple belt. His blog and podcast covers many topics: paleo and keto diets; anti-inflammatory lifestyle tips; and fitness and sleep.

Chris Kresser. Chris Kresser is an author, acupuncturist and health blogger with years of experience. His popular blog cover topics including the paleo diet, ancestral health, gut health, low carb diets and much more. He also has some great books about alternative medicine and the paleo diet.

Healthline and Examine.com. When trying to evaluate the benefits of different supplements, foods and more I’ve found Healthline and Examine.com very helpful. Each site delves into the science and links to papers to help you dig deeper.

Mark’s Daily Apple. Mark Sisson, the creator of Mark’s Daily Apple, is one of the most respected members of the ancestral eating community. His blog offers clear explanations about the latest studies relating to health, and he’s my first port of call when wondering whether or not a food is actually healthy. His book The Primal Blueprint has a great outline of how to live healthily according to our ancestral roots.

Peter Attia. Dr Peter Attia focuses on longevity, and has a great blog and podcast with numerous in-depth articles covering topics including keto diets, exercise, metabolism and more. He also has a great podcast with Tim Ferriss and Joe Rogan which is where I learned about him.

What are some wearables to consider when starting in biohacking?

If you’re jumping into biohacking or evidence-based self improvement in 2018 and beyond, you’re lucky. There are a number of great wearables to help gather data at the time of writing. Here are two of the most popular and versatile picks:

Oura ring. The first version of the Oura ring was actually the result of a successful kickstarter campaign in 2015. The latest 2018 version of the ring is smaller than the original, and squeezes in the ability to monitor your resting heart rate, heart rate variability, sleep quality and body temperature. It’s also claimed to have a week-long battery life, is water resistant and scratch proof, and the small size makes it useful for constant wear. At the time of writing I’m still waiting on my ring, so stay tuned for the review.

Oura ring

The new Oura ring.

Garmin Vivofit. The Garmin Vivofit came first in The Wirecutter’s roundup of best wearables for a reason. They liked this fitness tracker because it has an accurate continuous heart rate monitor, allows you to monitor heart rate variability and allows sleep tracking. According to The Wirecutter’s tests, it had up to seven days of battery life when its GPS function was turned off, and it’s also waterproof.

What are some apps to consider when starting to biohack?

Reporter. Reporter is a paid iPhone app which asks you questions throughout the day to record how you’re feeling and what you’re doing. You can customise the questions it asks, and questions can range from who you’re with to how many coffees you had today. The information can then be exported and combined with other data.

Daylio. Daylio is a free alternative to Reporter which is available for android users too. It allows you to log your mood and your daily activities. You can create custom activities too.

BrainFM. I’ve mentioned BrainFM a number of times above, and for good reason (I listened to it while I wrote this guide). It’s an app and browser application which allows you to select from three modes: focus, calm and sleep. It then uses algorithms to build a music track which is claimed to bring about cognitive states, such as focus. For example, in the focus setting, frequencies in the 12 – 18 Hz range are used. I personally find it useful for keeping me productive during tasks such as writing or researching.

Sleep Cycle. Sleep Cycle is an iPhone and Android app which turns your phone into a sleep tracker. It uses your phone’s accelerometer or microphone to analyse your sleep and track your natural cycles. You can then analyse the data to find out your sleep quality, including the time spent in deep sleep vs awake periods or periods of restlessness. It also has an alarm function where it wakes you up when you’re not in deep sleep to make your wakeup as smooth as possible. It’s available as a free app and has premium features too.

HRV4Training. This app uses your phone camera or compatible heart rate monitor to measure your HRV score. I used the phone camera method each morning for over a year, which basically requires you to put your finger on your camera for a short time to analyse. It requires a very dark room, so I would simply put the phone under the covers of my bed and analyse my HRV before I got out of bed. I am now replacing this with the Oura Ring.

Meditation apps. I personally don’t find guided meditation apps useful because I find the instructions to distract me from the act of meditating, but I’ve used Headspace in the past and found it somewhat useful when getting started. Kevin Rose also has a meditation app called Oak which seems great because the team is proactively looking to link the app with wearables such as the Oura ring. Unfortunately it’s only available on iOS currently.

Where to next?

If you’re interested in starting on your own biohacking journey, consider joining one of the communities above, or start following one of the personalities mentioned. Whatever your reason for jumping into the biohacking scene is, realise that you’re changing your body, so research any changes you’re considering to implement to make sure they’re safe and worth the money.

Did I miss anything?

Let me know in the comments section of this post if I should add anything in, or if you want to share parts of your own biohacking journey that’s cool too!

I recently had a laugh after re-reading my initial post on what to expect after the first few months of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).

It was funny because the me that wrote this was in a very early stage of jiu jitsu, and while I’m still a total beginner on my BJJ journey, I’ve learned a lot since then.

By January I’ll have been training for two years, and in that time a lot has happened in my BJJ life.

I’ve graded to white belt four stripes, competed several times, gotten ringworm a number of times, upped the number of times I train per week and have had to take time off due to sickness, being overseas, injuries and everything in between.

More importantly I enjoy BJJ even more than what I did when I started.

With that being said I thought it would be interesting to jot down some thoughts about what to expect in your first two years of training, at least according to my own experience.

1. Expect and accept having to take time off

The first expectation you should have in your first couple of years of training is that there will be periods where you will have to take time off training, and that’s fine.

As I alluded to above, I had to take time off training during my first two years because of ringworm, some nasty injuries, holidays (both overseas and interstate) and work deadlines. At first, I grew frustrated that I couldn’t train and that I would miss out on a valuable technique or chance to get better.

Each time after a break I would have my first roll and have the same feeling: I would feel tired as shit but relieved to be back. After coming back from overseas I actually felt that I was better on the mat, although that might have just been the benefit of coming back with fresh eyes.

There are two reasons why I no longer feel that occasional short breaks from training are negative:

  1. You can always be learning even when you have time off – you can mentally rehearse techniques from your training log or watch videos online
  2. Infrequent short breaks don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, which leads onto my second point:

2. Consistency is key

During my time in jiu jitsu I’ve made many friends who started at around the same time as I did. Many have been much better than me. Especially at the start of my jiu jitsu, I felt I was terrible compared to other students on my level.

Over time I’ve realised that no matter how good your natural talent is, there’s no replacement for showing up every week at training. Someone can have tonnes of natural talent, but if they come to training haphazardly or stop after six months, even someone like me can surpass them over time.

Consistency and time on the mat has had the biggest impact on my game overall. I’ve found extracurricular YouTube videos also useful, but not as useful as just showing up.

3. Find a mentor

As you start to make friends in your gym you might find yourself asking certain advanced students for pointers. In my case I just kept bugging one of the brown belts with questions at the end of class about techniques I didn’t understand (of which there were many).

I now have a number of friends that I can go to with questions to help clear things up.

Being able to roll with a mentor is great too, as you can pick up on subtle things that advanced students do subconsciously, and they also might point out flaws in your game.

4. Roll with everyone

As you start to progress you’ll gravitate towards rolling with the same friends or training partners.

I’ve found there’s something to learn from rolling with all shapes and sizes, so it pays to be open to rolling with people you don’t regularly train with too.

You may not get to play your usual game with someone much stronger/heavier/lighter/weaker than you but you’ll learn at least one thing from it to apply to future rolls, so it’s always a useful experience.

5. Don’t miss out on training – you don’t know what will happen next week

We all have days when we just want to bail on training and relax at home.

On these days It’s always a good idea to suck it up and head to training. This is because you don’t know when you’ll catch a cold, get ringworm or have a family function on and have to miss class in the future.

Even if you’re tired, cold or just not feeling into it, just think about the feeling you’ll have after a good training session.

I’ve had times where I’ve bailed on a class because I wanted some time at home, only to then miss out on another class that week due to something unforeseen. This further reduces the number of classes I’m able to make that week, and thereby impacting my consistency target.

6. Don’t neglect the mental component

I’ve had poor results in the four competitions I’ve had so far. This is due mostly to skill, although I noticed that I was lacking in the psychology department too.

I tried to tackle this by reading three books: The Champion’s Mind by Jim Afremow, Mental Toughness Training for Sports by James E. Loehr and 10-Minute Toughness: The Mental Training Program for Winning Before the Game Begins.

There are lessons to learn from each of these, but the book that I found easiest to follow was 10-Minute Toughness by Jason Selk. The other two books were very comprehensive, but what most resonated with me was the simplicity of 10-Minute Toughness.

In 10-Minute Toughness, Selk advocates a five minute pre-training warm up and a five minute post-training debrief. I’ve been doing this regimen for almost a year now and have felt much more in control of my mental side during training. In 2018 I will be employing these strategies to help with my competition.

There you have it! I hope this has helped give you an idea of what two years in BJJ looks like, at least according to my experience.

What’s your experience of BJJ been? Let me know in the comments below.

When I was 20 I experienced my first panic attacks. My first symptoms were shortness of breath and heart palpitations which made me think I was going to have a heart attack.

Over the weeks that followed I visited the hospital twice, had a number of doctors appointments and met with an evil eye curse specialist (thanks Mum and Dad) until I finally found out I had a general anxiety disorder.

At first I was ashamed. I had a trip to Thailand planned with my friends which I later had to cancel because I was in the wrong headspace. I stopped heading out to clubs and parties. I felt like I was doomed to watch life from the sidelines.

By this point I was experiencing panic attacks every day and was also starting to experience other fears I had never had before. I remember being in a lecture room at university one afternoon and needing to sit near to the aisle because I felt claustrophobic.

I would fixate on my breathing and then grow afraid that I was unable to get a full breath of air. On other nights I would lie awake feeling my heartbeat and being fearful I would have a heart attack. I would stay home a lot because I felt frustrated and afraid.

Soon I reached rock bottom. I wasn’t excited about the future anymore. I was just afraid.

After taking a few weeks off to collect myself, I went back to my part-time job at a homewares store.

Each time I worked I would say hello to Jack (name changed for privacy reasons), a salesperson in the kitchen supply store next door. We would exchange pleasantries and have a quick chat about what was happening in each others’ lives.

On my first day back I had to bring some rubbish downstairs to the bins in the loading dock. Jack happened to be going down as well, and he asked me where I had been.

“Oh just at home taking some time off. I wasn’t feeling well, I had some heart palpitations and stuff…” I trailed off embarrassed. I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was really going through, so I tried to play it off as a physical illness.

Jack looked at me for five long seconds.

“Sounds like anxiety to me,” he said.

I was speechless. I was surprised he had guessed correctly after thirty seconds of conversation. Up to this point I had never even met anyone else who had an anxiety disorder, let alone know how to notice the signs in someone else.

“Just know that you’ll be fine. I went through it a few years ago, and it was hard, but you’ll be fine in the end.”

“Really?” I mumbled.

“Spend time with your friends and family and take your mind off it. You’ll be fine,” he said.

Jack talked about his experience as if it were a bad case of the flu from a few years back. It gave me the confidence and optimism to regroup. I started to feel much better already.

You’ll be fine.

Jack said the three words I needed to hear at that time. They came from someone who had actually been there themselves and I’ve been thankful for the conversation ever since.

I’ve thought about that conversation many times since then, particularly when going through difficult periods.

I was recently reminded of it again after talking to one of my own friends who is having a difficult time with anxiety.

A long chat with him at the gym reminded me that while anxiety is no longer a problem for me, others are fighting their own battles. Now it’s my time to pass on the same words Jack said to me, although tempered with my own experience.

Although much fewer and further between, there have been times since then where I’ve felt terrible or have had panic attacks. My mind has taken me to difficult places at times. But I’ve never forgotten what Jack said: “You’ll be fine”.

And you will be fine.

The only reason you can recognise a period of your life as being ‘the worst’ or ‘rock bottom’ is because you have good memories to compare it to. And this means you’re able to experience good times again.

No matter how fixated you are on a particular fear or thought, it inevitably passes. You still need to eat, sleep and work. Just remember that even in your worst period, someone else out there with an even harder experience has come through the other end okay.

Lucky for me my family doctor encouraged me to visit a counsellor.

I would chat to the counsellor and leave feeling great, and the best part about it was that the counsellor suggested strategies and tools which I successfully use to this day.

One strategy she suggested was practising mindfulness meditation. This was challenging at first. At times I was bored, fell asleep or felt it had no effect; or a combination of the three.

But I had no choice: I had to make it work for me or I would be depriving myself of a tool that science has shown works to address anxiety in many different ways.

Over the last four years I have meditated between 5 – 7 times per week for 20 mins per session.

The other tactics the counsellor suggested included eating as healthy as possible, limiting alcohol consumption, staying away from drugs (except caffeine – I’m only human), and surrounding myself with friends and family. I regularly employ all of these tactics and have had gotten value from each of them.

Regular exercise was another suggestion which had tremendous effects on my mood, and I’ve personally noticed that the more cardio-intensive workouts I do each week the less anxious or stressed I feel.

I also read a great book, When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life by David D. Burns M.D. which helped me work through some of my issues in a systematic way. This book helped me ultimately destroy my fear of having a heart attack.

The tools above have minimised my anxiety to a point at which it doesn’t bother me anymore. I rarely even notice it in a regular month, even if I’m very stressed with work.

But this was only possible because of those first words I heard from Jack. These were the first authentic words of encouragement from someone who had actually gone through it.

So now I pass them onto you: No matter how bad it is right now, it’ll pass. And if you try out some of the strategies I’ve mentioned above, you might even feel better than you were before.