PHOENIX — For the past 20 years, fitness expert Chris Powell has helped countless people transform their lives, getting them through some of the most challenging times in their lives.
But Powell himself also experienced a difficult chapter in his life, which made him realize how important it is not just to stay physically fit, but also mentally fit.
Powell opened up about when his life took a turn. "It started about 2015 and progressed up to 2019, and I mean well into the pandemic. But it was actually in 2019 that I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. And it was both anxiety and depression. And at that point, that was the point at which I was referred to a psychiatrist... to deal with the anxiety and the depression. But through the process, I learned some other really powerful tools to help my mental health and cope with the stress, the anxiety, and, to bring myself much more present to the here and now," said Powell.
Powell had gotten a divorce, and being in the public eye while trying to protect his kids was a struggle. "Everything felt so empty and hopeless; that would be the best word to describe as hopeless. And I couldn't see a way out," he remembered.
But with the help of medication and different techniques for mental health, he overcame his depression. "I was all about, you know, nutrition, exercise. That was my physical stuff. 20 years. And it was like, Oh, this is the answer, but it wasn't. It wasn't helping me. And it wasn't until I started to learn mindfulness, meditation, breathing, acts of kindness, and gratitude that these are the different things that the therapists were teaching me. I started to utilize those," said Powell.
Now Powell wants to share some of those techniques with you.
Here are three tips to have a healthy mind.
Talk to someone
Powell said, "It doesn't have to be a health professional, or you know, a mental health professional, just a friend. And perhaps they can help guide you to the right people where you can get the help that you need."
Powell explains, "I do it every single day, and I have for the last three years, is I wake up, it's either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. And I think of three things in my life that I'm truly grateful for. And it can be the same things. But it's not just listing them out. This is the secret here. It's not listing out, you have to actually think about each one. And you have to feel the gratitude because it's not just again; it's not writing it. It's feeling the gratitude."
Learn to breathe
Powell uses two distinct breathing techniques. The first one is called "box breathing." He describes, "It's incredibly powerful at calming the body immediately like the Navy SEALs uses it, first responders uses it when they're in these extremely stressful times to bring them here and now and for extreme mental clarity. You simply inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds with your lungs full, exhale for four seconds. And then hold for four seconds with the lungs empty, and then inhale. You simply repeat that for one minute, two minutes, three minutes, however long it takes for you to all of a sudden to bring yourself back into control. And it's wild how powerful it is."
The second breathing technique is called a "physiological sigh." He explains, "So what you do is you take two deep breaths in through your nose you go, I think you full exhale almost with the sigh and this is one that I utilize at night, especially sometimes if I can't quiet my mind, I'll utilize the physiological site at night. And I utilize box breathing during the day to handle stressful situations."
Powell saod being mentally fit is like being physically fit, it's an ongoing process. He explains you can't go to the gym and suddenly you become fit. We need to practice both every day to stay strong from the inside out.
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