Sometimes life has a way of knocking us sideways when we least expect it, and when it does it takes all the strength we can muster to pick ourselves back up, piece together the broken bits and carry on.
Testing limits isn't always about pushing yourself physically through endurance challenges and big feats. In fact, my most challenging experiences, the kind that have shaken me to my very core, have been related to my mental wellbeing.
It's true that everyone one of us is fighting a battle. I’ve always been very honest about my struggles with anxiety, knowing that talking is helping to break down barriers and normalise a sensitive subject for the greater good.
In a positive state of mind, I am madly and deeply in love with my life and the opportunities I've been given. I don't take any of it for granted and it means a lot to be able to share my journey with you. But social media, for all its goodness, can easily disguise the truth and it's important to me to readdress the balance.
Late last year my anxiety had triggered and I had reached a real low. I didn't talk about it at the time for fear of exacerbating it but my confidence had taken a battering and I struggled with a constant feeling of thick dread that I couldn't shake off. Everything made me anxious and although outwardly I held it together, inside felt like I was falling apart.
Despite this, I found a way to haul myself out the other side - eventually - and now, looking back, I can see that even in those moments of real weakness and self-doubt I was able to find the strength to believe in myself enough to move forward again. Often, my own resilience when I think I have nothing left to give has surprised me.
Now, out the other side, and given this week 'Blue Monday', the most depressing day of the year, came and went I wanted to share the strategies that I have implemented to help me through.
1) Exercise. It's such an obvious one but I cannot stress enough the power of exercise when you need to clear your head and make sure you're thinking straight. It will be the last thing you want to do, but it's the thing to need to do. I spend Blue-Monday eve (is that a thing? It is now) hiking with my family as part of a challenge Berghaus set me to beat the blues, and I felt great for it. It cleared my mind after a long flight the night before and helped me set myself up for the week ahead.
2) Get outside. Nature has an overwhelming power to bring calm and clarity. Something as simple as going for a walk is a good way to quiet the mind and re-channel thoughts.
3) Breathe. Take long, deep breathes and you'll notice an immediate difference. If you can, then meditate. I sometimes do this on train journeys - it doesn't have to be something you set aside time for, it can form part of your day.
4) Stretch it out. It's no secret that yoga, like paddle boarding, has been transformational to my life. Just 15 minutes a day (there's loads of free or cheap apps you can follow to make it super convenient) and you'll feel the positive benefits. Try it!
5) Socialise. No matter how much you want to be alone, don't. I don't mean all the time - it's important to be alone to think, process and understand too, but surrounding yourself with family and friends, laughing and enjoying just being in that moment is key to maintaining happiness. There's too much focus on the past and the future, and we're left in a constant state of wishing for more. We need to be happy with what we have, and realise how lucky we are to have special people in our lives.
6) Share your story. Talk to people to work out why you feel the way you do. When you keep feelings to yourself the magnitude often increases and tackling them seems almost impossible. Open up to people you trust and listen to them.
7) Book a flight. Sometimes what we all need is a healthy dose of perspective - a new location, new people and new experiences - to re-calibrate and remind ourselves how fortunate we are and how big and beautiful the world is.
Finally, I want to leave you with a line from a poem my Dad taught me as a child, that has always resonated and is something I always go back to when I'm feeling low: