Ellie Goulding reveals how she used exercise to overcome her debilitating anxiety

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Kayleigh Dray
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Ellie Goulding has always been honest and open about her mental health issues, addressing everything from her crippling panic attacks, to the moment she decided to see a therapist for help in getting on top of intrusive thoughts.

Now, in a powerful new essay, the singer has explained how taking up boxing and kickboxing has helped her to manage her debilitating anxiety.

“I started having panic attacks, and the scariest part was it could be triggered by anything,” she writes in Well + Good. “I used to cover my face with a pillow whenever I had to walk outside from the car to the studio.

“My new life as a pop star certainly wasn’t as glamorous as all my friends from home thought. Secretly, I was really struggling physically and emotionally.”

Goulding, trying to understand what triggered her anxiety in the first place, writes: “I think part of what sparked my panic attacks was not feeling confident enough to believe in myself—I was scared I wasn’t as good of a singer as everyone thought I was.

“And as the stakes grew, I was afraid of letting everyone, including myself, down.”

Goulding reached out to her friends and family for help – and began seeing a therapist. Over time, she realised that it was important that she work on her self-esteem issues.

“I had to start believing in myself,” she says, before going on to explain that she turned to boxing and kickboxing as a means of working on her “inner confidence.”

“It wasn’t about any change in my outward appearance,” she writes. “It was about seeing and feeling myself get better and stronger.

“It carried over into other areas of my life, and now I truly feel that exercise — however you like to work out — is good for the soul.”

She finishes by writing: “I still feel nervous before performing, or have pangs of anxiety from time to time, but it’s not crippling like it used to be. It took time, but I’ve accepted that everyone feels nervous before they perform – it’s not just me. And now that I believe in myself more, that confidence comes through, whether I’m working out, singing onstage, or just hanging out by myself at home.”

Anxiety symptoms are often hard for sufferers to put into words; there is usually a sense of danger or threat, of not being able to cope with what might happen – a “nameless dread” that provokes such physically real symptoms that it can be utterly unbearable for sufferers.

The severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person, and can include:

  • Restlessness
  • A sense of dread
  • Feeling constantly “on edge”
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Heart palpitations

If you suffer from anxiety, experts advise that you visit your GP to explore the number of treatments available.

You can find out more information – including a series of approved self-care tips – on the Mind website.

Images: Rex Features


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.