My favourite Muhammad Ali quote is this:
'It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe.'
The pebble in my shoe always breaks me. I don't sweat the big stuff, I sweat the small stuff; the tiny, mundane detail of daily life I can't control (late buses, lost passes, self checkouts). I'm the kind of person you want on your team in a dire emergency or a catastrophic crisis, but I’m not the person you want calmly helping you figure out how to put an IKEA cabinet together or patiently finding missing keys.
Those things make me unusually cross in comparison to the rest of humanity. And lately, minor mundane setbacks have begun to provoke a worrying new level of fury that I refer to as 'The Mean Reds' (to quote Holly Golightly from Breakfast At Tiffany's). And it's getting increasingly stressful.
I have a full-time job and four school-age children (complete with complicated diaries to manage) and the rising level of tension at home and work have reached a tipping point.
Action needs to be taken. Not least because it has begun to affect my sleep and nowadays I often spend a fretful four hours awake in the middle of the night.
Not just happily awake resting in the dark, but anxiously awake. I lie under a blanket of fear that quickens my heart rate and fills me with irrational terror, a flurry of 'what if' questions flood my mind as nightmare scenarios pop into my head about what might happen, especially to my children. This loss of emotional control is, quite frankly, exhausting and frightening.
I've also started to grind my teeth while I sleep to such an alarming level that my dentist wants to make me a mouthguard.
Consequently my energy levels are becoming erratic and unpredictable, which makes me erratic and unpredictable. And no one at home or work wants that.
So what to do? Running and swimming have proven to be good stress relievers for me. I'm not speedy in either of these sports but I rely on them for their meditative qualities. But it's the beginning of 2016 and I've resolved to learn a useful new skill.
A little research and a lot of recommendation suggests boxing ticks all the boxes. And if it's good enough for Gigi Hadid and Gisele Bündchen, then I definitely want to try it.
Former international women's boxing champion Cathy Brown is more a soul trainer than a personal trainer. She plans to combine Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) with mindfulness alongside teaching me to box in a ring.
After our first meeting, Cathy gives me my homework to get started on:
- No screens before bed
- No coffee after 1pm
- Two litres of water a day
- Reduce alcohol to weekends (I'm doing dry January so already on that)
- Download the Sleepstream app for guided relaxation
- Don't eat lunch at my desk
- Take 10 minutes a day to clear my head outside minus my phone
- No running.
My aim with Lorraine is to look at her lifestyle as a whole and find a more healthy and positive way of thinking, being and exercising using a mixture of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy OR Cathy Brown Training) and exercise using predominantly boxing, as in my opinion boxing is the best stress training for release. With CBT I'll be looking at methods of helping her formulate a new way of thinking about activating or triggering events that cause stress.
I'm also trying to slow Lorraine down, especially exercise wise. When you over-train or run for miles and miles, you might feel a temporary relief but long term you aren’t doing your body or mind any favours and you'll be causing an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone.
I've given her this plan for week one:
Monday: Boxing session with me
Tuesday: Weights routine
Wednesday: Weights session with me and acupuncture session
Thursday: Group boxing class
Friday: Boxing session with me and health screening at The Third Space
Sunday: Easy swim
Stay tuned for a full low-down of week one next week.
Image: Cathy Brown's left hook at WIBF WM / Getty