Working On It, Week 8: Saying Yes To Mental Health

This week in my quest for immortality, I’ve been saying “yes” to a bunch of new things. I’ve come to the realisation that my fear of looking dumb in front of people has been holding me back from finding new physical activities to love, and so I need a little help stepping outside my comfort zone. So, I called up every friend in my city who enjoys sporty stuff and asked them to come hold my hand as I try a new thing.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be hiking, surfing, paddle boarding, ice skating, golfing, trampolining and playing baseball and indoor cricket. I don’t know if I’ll actually fall in love with some of these activities. Paddle boarding looks pretty ridiculous and I’m skeptical. But I think I’d still like to try, even if it’s just to practice not caring about being shit at a sporty thing.

In other news, I’m continuing to love the heck out of Stop, Breathe + Think, the meditation app that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Did you try it? What did you think? I ended up taking on Dina’s suggestion to pay for access to the k.d. lang-led meditations. NO REGRETS.

Here’s what has and hasn’t been working for me lately:

Working: Rock climbing

The first thing I said yes to was climbing rocks. My friend Mon had invited me to the indoor climbing centre on previous occasions and so I texted her to see if the invitation was still good. It was! I felt safe and chilled with Mon as my guide. She’s also my dentist, so I figured if she can be supportive and non-judgmental re my flossing efforts, then she’ll be supportive and non-judgmental re my climbing efforts, too.

I got pretty into it. I’d been nervous about my lack of upper body strength but it’s true what they say, about rock climbing being mostly about the legs. I stuck to the entry level walls. Sometimes I went all the way to the top and other times just whenever it got too hard. Patience isn’t a strength, and I think climbing takes patience. When Mon reached a difficult peak, she’d stop to consider her next move and hang there ’til she figured it out. Not me. I’d look around, mentally shrug and signal for her to lower me down.

I’m feeling super good and happy about having tried a new physical thing. It was really fun, too. Now, four hours later, my body is starting to ache like it got a somewhat decent workout. We’re going back next month and I already can’t wait. A+, highly recommend.


Not working: Being chill

My brain is a pressure cooker right now and I’m not certain what to do about it. Short meditations have been great at helping me wind down but they’re only effective right before sleep. When I try in the morning and afternoon it only takes a hot second to revert back to being the most highly strung.

I think part of my problem is that I’m a fixer. Usually at the first sign of stress I’ll run to find some practical solution that’ll make everything chill again. I can’t do that this time because there’s nothing to fix. I’m moving overseas which means so many wonderful amazing things. But also some terrifying things, like leaving known comforts like friends and family and pay cheques. Best case scenario is I’ll be unemployed for only three months, and there’s not a damn thing I can do to change it. It’s stressing me the heck out.

So, I’d like to start doing some activities that will hopefully benefit my mental health and ward off nervous breakdowns. This is a brand new focus area for me and I’m not confident about where to start. How do you take care of your feelings and your brain? If you have suggestions please call them out.

Working: Yoga

A few weeks ago I mentioned attempting and enjoying Adriene’s beginner yoga videos. At first I struggled with copying the poses while looking at my computer screen and trying to maintain my balance but that’s starting to get easier. What’s really working for me in terms of motivation is remembering how amazing and straight my spine feels after each workout, and also how adorable it sounds when Adriene says “y’all”.

This week I’m beginning Adriene’s 30 Day Yoga Challenge. Last week a few of you mentioned wanting to do it with me — if you’re still keen, let’s start this week! Any day you like. To everyone else, sorry in advance for banging on about it in the next four posts.

Enough about me. How has your past week in health and wellness been? Is there anything you’ve been kicking ass at or struggling with? Let us know in the comments! And if you haven’t yet heard, we’ve set up a Working On It social group. It’d be pretty cool if you join us.

One last thing:
Last week some of you expressed interest in there being a little more group participation and engagement, so I’ve decided that every now and then I’ll throw down a little challenge that isn’t tied down to a particular type of exercise. And if you’re not into it then no worries! It won’t be for everyone. But if you are keen, here’s this week’s:

Say ‘yes’ to something. I don’t mean force yourself to accept an invitation to do a thing you’ll hate. I just mean that if you’ve ever thought a particular activity looked fun or interesting — a fitness class, a cooking class, a social sports thing, etc — but you’ve never made a move to find out, take the first step this week. Text a friend, do some research, get the ball rolling. Tell me what you’re going to say yes to in the comments.

Coming up next week: :(

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Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. Yes to rock climbing!! My GF and I started going a couple of weeks and it is so much fun! I have even signed up for an Intro to Bouldering course so I can get a handle on technique before I injure myself any more, and bought my first bit of kit (a chalk bag with cats on it because cats).

    Plus, awesome things about my centre – a) they have a free ‘women’s improvers’ class every week, which means fewer 6 foot+ tall dudes telling me that I (5’3″) can ‘definitely reach’ that next hold (definitely can’t) and more awesome ladies to hang with, and b) they’re run by a charity which offers opportunities to youth groups, people with SEN, vulnerable young people and other groups – my borough live has super high levels of youth poverty and generally massive income inequality, so these things are really important in the local area.

    Also, yes to trampolining!! I am yet to find anywhere around me where I can go that’s not a competitive squad and/or two hours across town with training sessions at 9PM on a Tuesday. But it is so much fun, and such good exercise.

  2. Rock climbing – seconding all the yes!

    I started on a Groupon three and a half years ago, and still go a minimum of once a week. The progression for me was to build up a little bit of strength, then start climbing routes, and then challenging myself to do the puzzle-solving of harder/more complicated routes. Best advice I ever got for life came from this sport: “Climb until you fall off!”

    Bonus: having climbed in several different states all over the country, I’ve never been anywhere where other climbers weren’t friendly and supportive of each other. Even if some of their encouragement isn’t quite useful (see: 6 foot+ tall dudes that Ellie mentioned above), it invariably comes from a good place.

    • I’m going to remember “climb until you fall off” next time, thanks for that. Maybe I won’t be so quick to give up when I can’t immediately see where my foot should go next.

  3. I downloaded the Stop, Breathe and Think app after reading your words and am finding it great. I feel calmer for maybe a few hours, but the other feelings (gratitude, compassion etc.) last a couple of days I find – which obviously is excellent. I’m increasingly tempted to splash out on the k.d lang pack also….Cheers for introducing this thing to me/us – a genuine game-changer!

  4. Sometimes I don’t necessarily feel better right after meditation, but after cumulatively doing it for awhile. Which makes it hard to keep doing it, because there’s no instant gratification. Also omg kd lang-led meditation?! I’ll have to try that app when my subscription runs out for Headspace.

      • Yep, but they have a lot more modules, usually 10-30 days, with different themes, like anxiety, stress or relationships. They have a free 10 day intro one and then you have to pay. I had tried a bunch of other free meditations before, but this one has been the one I’ve been able to stick to, possibly because I paid for a year, or possibly because the guy’s voice doesn’t make me fall asleep like other ones I’ve tried. I haven’t decided if I’ll renew.

  5. Adriene’s videos are great. I completed the 30 day challenge and am looking for a new one! Maybe I’ll go back and start again with y’all

  6. “I’ve come to the realisation that my fear of looking dumb in front of people has been holding me back from finding new physical activities to love”

    Thank you for writing this sentence. It’s so real.

    • YES. this past week I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by the support I’ve found from rad 40-something year old dudes at the skatepark. Everyone was a beginner once, and if you love something you want other people to love it, too! FOLLOW YOUR BLISS, Y’ALL.

  7. Relevant quote I saw a few days ago: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

  8. I signed up for a boxing class! It’s unclear if the class is contact or not, but I’m really excited either way. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until mid september for it to start. My favorite part is that it’s an hour an a half long 3 days a week so I basically won’t have to make myself go to the gym ever.

    • That sounds awesome! I’m a little jealous. I love boxing classes but the ones at my gym are too early in the day. I’m hoping to sign up to one when I move to Chicago.

      Keep me posted on how it goes!

  9. I did trampolining for the first time a few weeks ago! Super fun, because I looked up a few of the basics beforehand. It’s a bit of an adventure doing it with glasses, though. Probably won’t go again unless I take some lessons.
    But the place I went also offered trampoline dodgeball sessions, so.

    Big thing is that my lower back really ached the next few days. Be sure to do lots of stretches before and after. (And probably after the shower, too)

    My big athletic-ish thing recently was, um, attending concerts. Went to kind of a music festival thing and was jumping up and down a lot and fist pumping and dancing and all that jazz. Also wotagei. It’s hard not to apply wotagei to every pop song I hear, now.

    • I had to google ‘wotagei’, no regrets. Concerts can certainly be a great workout. I used to mosh at punk concerts and always felt totally wrecked after.

      I hope your back recovers soon!

  10. Congrats on rock climbing! Maybe I should make that my YES because I’ve been wanting to sort of do it for a while now. It looks hella interesting and challenging and FUN!! Either this or yoga. Who is this Adrienne person again??

    Re: being chill…I’m not sure what to say, I can’t decide if I’m a chill person or not. A lot of people say I am but I think I’m not really? I think working out in general has helped me deal with some anxiety and anger in the past. Not many people know this but the reason I really got into working out was because Christine and I had hit a really really rough patch in our relationship.

    I really understand your need of wanting to fix things. Like if you could just do something so that it could be done with. I too like keeping my stuff in order. It took me a while to really grasp that there are things that are out of my control and I can’t do anything about them so I’ve learned to sort of roll with the punches. I guess in a way that’s what makes me chill. Also going to the gym, as my mom puts it ‘helps me cope’ with like life in general. I guess Christine would say the same thing about me also, if I’m ever having some unfriendly feelings towards someone or something, I deal with it with the iron in my hands.

    Also that endorphin rush.

    • Yes, say yes to rockclimbing, if it’s in your area. Then tell me how it went!

      I also find that going to the gym helps me cope, for sure. Especially if I’ve had a terrible day at work. It re-sets my mood completely.

  11. i’ve wanted to try some sort of martial art or other for basically my entire life, and i’m telling myself i’m going to do it for real once i move. unfortunately though, i don’t have a fixed date on moving other than “soon.” i’d like to get into rock climbing, too. the camp i went to as a kid had a climbing tower, and i really liked it then, so i imagine i still would. that’s another for “when i move” though.

    i was doing the longer beginner yoga with adrienne video for a bit there, planning to work up to something more ambitious, but then i got distracted from it and haven’t started back. i need to get back on track with that. i really like her videos. it’s funny to me that you like when she says “y’all” ’cause it’s such a normal word for me as a southerner that i’m not sure i’ve ever noticed her say it!

    • I hope you can start a martial art soon! I feel you on having those frustrating “when I move” plans. My big one is joining a sports team, maybe softball or soccer.

  12. Rock climbing looks so fun! I also have no upper body strength so I’ve always stayed away, maybe I’ll try it though! At least if I’m horrible at it they can always bring me back down. I love the idea of reaching out to all your sporty friends too, what a great way to do new things without getting super intimidated.

    • Well, it’s an awesome way to build up upper body strength! The first time I went I only lasted about 15 minutes I think, but I could feel the improvement from one time to the next and it was super encouraging. I’ve only been a couple times since finishing school for various reasons (gymn access and unrelated injury) and I miss it! My sisters are super into it, I get some serious arm envy when I see them…

    • Yes, sporty friends! Or even just friends who don’t get intimidated easily. In terms of trying new things I’m finding them to be the best solution by far.

    • Yep – like Mira says, it’s an awesome way to *build* upper body strength. At first, you’ll definitely be sore after you climb, but not where you’d usually think. (It’s the forearms, not the biceps!) But then if you stick with it, you’ll start noticing that everything everywhere on your body starts feeling stronger and you’re barely sore, if at all, after you climb. It’s a kickass feeling!

  13. I’m going to start the Superhero’s’s journey on Darebee with a friend next week! (I meant to this week, but guess, what? She’s busy running a 10k on Saturday, so next week it is and it’s going to be a..challenge.)
    Anyone want to join in?
    P.s.: I stumbled across this today: #Fitnessgoals
    Anybody have any advice on doing pull ups? The more muscle I gain, the heavier I get, the more muscle I need…
    I’m planning to do a pull up by the end of the year, pointers will be gratefully accepted!

    • I can only do a couple of chin ups, but when I was starting out I would give a little kick to rock myself and then make it up from there. Holding and lowering slowly are helpful, too.


      Great describing the mental and physical aspects of doing a pull-up. I installed a doorframe pullup bar in my room a few weeks ago because I’ve always wanted one and I LOVE ITTTTT.
      I cannot do a pullup and never have done one. But I’m determined!

      As in the link, I am doing strength-building things like Sara suggested such as just doing the lowering part of the pull-up, as well as flexed arm hang and attempting to pull myself up (still engages muscles even if I can’t actually get there). Push-ups and planks too. Pull-ups require a lot of upper core strength.

      Pull-up challenge of 2k15 woo.

      Part of the reason I’m doing strength training is to be able to last more than 15 minutes at the rad climbing gym across the street. It’s too expensive to not get my money’s worth, but I’m looking forward to trying it once I can do a pull-up wooo!

      • I AM using the pull up machine at the gym. So I will try to get my hands on the bar…literally.
        The bar is way up high and I’m 5’2″…I’ll figure something out.
        Maybe they have a ladder.*sigh*
        Actually, a friend took me bouldering a couple of months back and I was super upset that it wore me out so much, so quickly.
        There’s a big difference between looking like a rock and actually being able to drag your own body weight all over one.
        I really am striving for the latter, because I am planning to be able to control my own weight in any space, not just on my two feet, does that make sense?
        Push ups,it is, then.

    • Negative pull-ups! Love them. Hop up to a chin up and lower yourself slowly to the floor. You could start with two sets of five, and build from there. Good luck! This was my goal a year ago, and now I can do 3-4 in a row.

    • I second lowering slowly from the pull-up position, that really does help and I’ve been told by coaches that it’s better than kipping to get up there first because that can lead to bad form habits and later possibly injury. Also if you have the chance to do it in front of a mirror try to make sure you are pulling evenly with both arms–I have a tendency to pull harder with my dominant arm in pull-ups if I’m not paying attention. And if you have access to a giant Theraband/workout band loop you can tie that onto the bar and put one foot into it to use it as an assist on pull-ups when you’re starting out. It makes them way more fun and actually does build more muscle than you’d think!

  14. I’d love to try rock climbing! It seems that there is no climbing center in the place where I live, at least according to Google; I’ll ask around as soon as I have some time.

    I’m running every other day. I usually run max 3k and always feel like that is the best I can do. My running partner runs 4k when she’s alone. I’ve been wanting to try, but never really had the occasion, so running 4k will be my challenge for this week. It’s not much, but I couldn’t think of anything else… August is a pretty dull month over here. But I love challenges! Also, I’ll be alone since my friend is on vacation. It should be challenging, but not impossible.

  15. re: being chill. I think sometimes it’s okay to not be chill. I have a history of anxiety (panic disorder), and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to not have any anxiety whatsoever. I’ve learned that it’s normal and healthy to have some anxiety, so maybe try embrace the uncomfortable feeling of not being chill. Breathe into that uncertainty. Think about it while you’re working out, and be confident in how amazing and strong you are (both physically and mentally). A friend once said to me, “I was not put on this earth to be comfortable.” I completely agree with that, and I try to put myself out there more, say yes, and be uncomfortable. I guess I should be telling myself this right now, but baby steps, right? Rome wasn’t built in a day, and transforming myself is a long process…I can’t expect to wake up with a completely transformed body and mindset. I’m also learning to be more kind to myself. I’m too hard on myself, and I get discouraged if I miss a workout or eat a higher-calorie meal. I’m making big changes in my life, and it’s hard, I’m not perfect, so I’m bound to mess up once in a while.

    • Yeah I agree with it being okay not to be chill. I think it’s just what I expect from my brain because it’s kind of like my personal mood baseline? So apologies if I implied that it was ‘normal’, so to speak.

      I’m really into everything else you’ve said. I do struggle with being uncomfortable when my mood isn’t as I think it should be, and your friend’s words will be good to keep in mind.

  16. I’ll say yes to this yoga challenge. I could list a few reasons why I couldn’t possibly do it right now, but really I can do it.

    I’ve been using the Stop, Breathe and Think app for a few months now, and I love it. I took an eight week course in mindfulness based stress reduction and it was one of the most effective ways to reduce anxiety (for me), but I haven’t continued to meditate 20 minutes every day. The app helps.

    I’m continuing to run, I am within sight of hitting my goal of 1.5 miles in 15 minutes. I’ve also printed some of the pages from Darebee to put together my own weekly at-home routine. I didn’t manage to do every single day last week, but this is a new week. I like the idea of working out at home: no excuses!

    • Well done on the running! Good luck with hitting that 1.5 mile goal.

      I hope you like the yoga challenge!

  17. For the past week I’ve been saying yes to rugby -a sport I thought about playing a few years back but decided to bail- because I can’t make it to the other group fitness/sports activities that I’m used to.

  18. Thanks for this – made me really think about rock climbing. I did some scrambling (almost-climbing) on a hike recently and it changed my perception of myself. I always thought I had no physical co-ordination, but it felt so good to prove myself wrong!

    I’m saying yes, for now, to learning Irish and saving up to apply for Irish citizenship. My grandmother is Irish and I visit family there every 2 years. I’m really excited to embrace my heritage.

    • I hope you get a chance to try rock climbing soon. I was pleasantly surprised by how well my arms and legs moved together without falling off the wall; hopefully you’ll enjoy it and it’ll boost your co-ordination confidence even further.

      Good luck with getting your citizenship!

  19. I downloaded the stop breathe app but haven’t used it yet
    Will try to do 30 day yoga challenge with you guys

  20. Nothing is more relaxing than listening to k.d. lang telling you to focus your attention to the touch of your body on your seat

  21. Is the link to the ‘Working On It’ group not working or is it just me?

    I started the Yoga Challenge a couple of days ago and it’s great! Adriene has a great sense of humour and makes me feel comfortable about challenging myself.

  22. I’m on vacation, do I wilk start yoga challenge on sunday, already at home.
    Next week I’m trying indoor climbing, hope it’s fun enough :)

    • Thanks, phone. I wasn’t nearly finished! More walks, more yoga, less cheese is my pre-wedding mantra right now, so maybe I’ll take that yoga challenge!

  23. Yes! I love rock climbing. It makes me feel so badass as a short curvy busty woman, because most of the serious women you see out there are long and lean, and I’m there just defying all that. I learned to stop making excuses: if I can’t reach a hold I must find another way. If I’m not “skinny”, I must rely on technique to get myself up the wall. And improvement comes easy when you stop making excuses and start having fun.

    • You go! Badass attitude. Stopping the excuses has definitely been one of my biggest challenges

  24. i’m going to try to do the yoga challenge with you! i’ve been wanting to get back into yoga, and using chronic wrist pain as an excuse. but i’m just gonna try it. one thing i’ve always loved about yoga is that it’s about what you can do and pushing your own boundaries, not about being perfect.

    I’m excited you tried climbing! i really liked that climbing centre in Sydney that you went to. i think of all the climbing gyms i tried while traveling on that side of the world, the sydney one was my favorite. maybe you can come to my gym when you’re in new york next? i’m part of a pretty awesome queer climbing group called Crux. the social aspect is about 50% of why i go to the gym as often as i do. my climbing friends have become my closest friends here.

    • Talking to you and Nate about climbing definitely helped me motivate myself to try it, so thank you. I’ve already booked in two more climbs. And yes I’d love to come to your gym the next time I’m in NYC! The group sounds rad.

  25. You look so tough in that rock climbing photo! I’m glad it was such a great time. I can’t wait to finally try it.

    Would it help to do yoga in the morning? I’ve never done this but I feel like it might be a relaxing way to start your day. And it would hopefully keep you chill a bit longer than if you were to use the meditation app after already becoming stressed. I’ll keep thinking of other suggestions too!

    • I just looked up indoor climbing centres in Chicago and we are in luck.

      Also yes I think you’re right about yoga being a good way to start the day. I can’t imagine getting up an earlier than I do right now but maybe it wouldn’t be too horrible.

  26. I’m having the most adorable problem one could have, because of my schedule changes I’m doing the floor parts of my work out when Gordita is wakeful. She is very concerned, has a baby tongue and has burrowing power of +10. Meaning I get a puppy creature trying very hard to ascertain if I am still breathing or if I need to be resuscitated by licking my face and digging for my face using her face if she can’t reach my face.

    Push ups becoming laughter sessions and uh thing I forget what is called but I’m standing on one leg upside down become a lesson in discipline for both human and canine.

    I’d answer the 30 Days of Yoga challenge with a yes but little dog need more discipline like medium dog and we’re not there yet.
    Yoga Mat=/Crash Mat and ER visits are expensive.

      • Oh man none of those would work for a pup that’s not already sleeping on you.

        I have puppy curls, but even though she’s a very tolerant little dog she can only stand doing it for about 60 seconds before demanding freedom.
        Military press can be done in theory but I would NOT suggest it.

        If she didn’t eat ropes I could do what I did with my dog and Gogo Yubari it up with our fetch game.
        Playing fetch can be a work out if you have a dog park or enough land to pitch like baseball ect, or you’re juggling fetch with 2 dogs at the same time.

  27. I’m going to say yes to the trampoline. I tell the kids I’ve had too many babies to jump, but this week I’m saying yes.

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