My Mental Health Story

Anxiety in a picture

My name is Alex Costa and I have anxiety and go through panic attacks. I am more than anxiety and panic, I am a hard worker. I’m loving, confident, and thankful. 

Back when I was a sophomore in high school, I broke my femur in football. That year I also went through my 1st big heartbreak. I almost lost my father and on top of that, we had a couple of deaths in the family that were recent. Talk about life throwing you a curveball.

I remember sitting in class and getting dizzy. I felt more of an off-balanced feeling. I would be sitting in class and get really hot out of nowhere so I would always start wearing shorts even on the coldest of days. I wore shorts and was freezing cold going to school but I knew if I would go through this feeling, I would always get really hot and start sweating. So at least I wouldn’t be sweating during class.

Senior Year

I remember getting so scared. I thought I had things wrong with my head and started googling things which only made it worse. I would go to school and be worried about if I’d have these feelings come up again. It even got to the point that I was being more careful about playing football. I thought if I had hit my head, it would get worse. It affected my junior year slightly and my senior year heavily to where I was always concerned about what would happen if I took a hit to my head. There was no way I could play the game feeling like this. You can’t play football and play scared, it just doesn’t work. Football was my life and as my senior year came to an end, it felt like I watched my dream slip away right in front of me. At the same time, I had a relief feeling because I didn’t like my coach my senior year, he ruined football for me so I was also excited to be done. 

It wasn’t until my senior year I talked to the girl I was dating and completely opened up. I left nothing on the table and she mentioned something about anxiety. I had heard of the term before and never thought much of it till that moment. Her mother was a psychologist so we talked to her and she explained more about it to me. As I found myself opening up about this and finally getting a name for what was wrong with me, it was such a huge relief. It felt like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. 

From that day on, I started to make small progress. 

Fast forward a couple of years after I graduated high school and tried college. Notice how I put “tried”. It was not for me. I had anxiety in class and sometimes felt like I had to leave early. My heart would be racing, I would be sweating and have that dizzy feeling at times. It was impossible for me to focus with that. Oh yea, did I mention I was diagnosed with ADD when I was younger? So trying to focus on tasks for school was never my strong suit. I failed out after my 1st year which I never really talk a lot about. So this is me being open with it. It just wasn’t for me, I was distracted because I was talking to a girl I liked, I was going through anxiety, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in and its year one in college so I was always hanging out with friends. As I received my letter saying I was kicked out, I felt like a complete bum. I would wake up early, go workout, come home and nap till 12. My life felt like a joke. Finally I dedicated myself to a career path after speaking with a mentor of mine. I never looked back and was fully locked in.

Lets fast forward again, maybe a year or 2 later. One day I was at the gym. It was before I was about to leave for DC to see my sister. I was sitting on the bench and started feeling my heart skip beats and felt very off. I had felt this before but for 1 split second. This was happening and wasn’t stopping. I instantly jumped up and was in a panic. I ran to the front desk to inform them about this, they were about to call the ambulance and I told them to wait. “Let me go outside and get some fresh air” I said. I calmed down and now was worried about my heart health. Woo, another thing to add to my anxiety. It happened a year after that again and it was one of the scariest days of my life. I remember laying on the ground outside of my gym at 5am and looking up at the sky thinking that was it. You really do see your life flash before your eyes in those moments. I wasn’t ready to go yet, I was like 21, I had so much to do still. 

I scheduled an appointment with the doctors and went to a cardiologist to do an ultrasound, EKG, and blood work. Everything came back okay and again, a huge relief but not satisfied because I didn’t know what the hell was going on with me. Was I broken? Was there something the doctors missed? 

Well, for your reading pleasure, let’s fast forward one more time, shall we? It’s August 21st, 2020, a year we will all remember for the rest of our life. It’s summertime and my friends invite me to stop over and hang out. I go over, we start talking and playing pong. My buddy and I were doing pretty good, although you guessed it.. My anxiety was also on my team. Let me paint you a picture of what happened next.

My heart starts to get faster, I have a feeling in my gut like I just finished eating a thanksgiving meal. You know, like where you feel so full you can barely move, breathe, and want to do nothing. Well, I finally said I needed to make a call. It was 12am so people probably thought I was a drug dealer at that point. I go out to call my parents because I was typically able to calm myself down. Well, no one answered and I call my sister, by this point my heart rate is getting faster and faster. I instantly think to myself, “oh no”. Yea, don’t do that if you have high functioning anxiety because it typically is like pouring gasoline on a flame. 

Well, the 2-minute drive back home felt like 200 miles away. I was speeding the whole time and every symptom of panic, anxiety, and fear showed itself. Heart rate is still speeding up, I’m losing my breath and can barely get a full gasp of air. There is something about not being able to breathe that sends your fear and anxiety through the roof. Oh yea, cause it doesn’t seem normal.

As I pull into my house, I remember unhooking my seatbelt and trying to get out of my car before I even put it in park. Raced inside and you would think everything settled down right? Wrong, it went down as the scariest panic attack I ever had. My heart was palpitating, skipping beats and wasn’t slowing down. I would dump ice cold water on myself and start hyperventilating as it shocked my system. I was praying, and wishing for it to stop. I remember thinking that maybe this time we would have to call 911. But would they even make it to me in time? I lost my breath every time my heart started to palpitate and skip.

Well after 30 minutes or so, it calmed down. It felt like 3 hours and I was emotionally and physically exhausted. My chest felt sore and I felt as if I looked death in the face that night. It was honestly traumatizing and was a huge set back for a while. To be completely honest, I am still recovering from that as I am writing this now. It was a downhill spiral of panic attacks and anxiety. But with this came a lot of positives.

I learned more about the topic of mental health than ever before. I watched video after video. Read article after article. Book after book and talked to a lot of great people in that time to understand this more. I felt completely hopeless at one point. I felt that I would never return to “normal”. That I was going to have this feeling of being trapped forever. Well again, WRONG. I am living proof that this mental barrier that you may be going through is temporary. The storm may come through but that sun will always come back out to shine on us.

As I learned more, I realized that I was doing this all wrong. I was fighting everything, most importantly, I was fighting myself. I was my own worst enemy. I learned a lot about going with the flow, not trying to make these symptoms stop but to simply ride the wave. I learned more about brain health and by doing so, your mind will follow. 

I am here to help you and show you that everything will be okay. I promise you will make it through it but the first step is making the initial effort to get help. And let me just say, there is NOTHING wrong with asking for help. I want this stigma to end. I am working with 2 councilors, I reached out for a psychiatrist. I am taking anxiety medication. Talked to doctors, talked to my family and it took a while but I finally reached out to my friends. These steps were the best thing I ever did for my mental health. I also started to learn more and create more awareness. I started to take care of my mind and body through better nutrition habits, mindfulness, exercise, and getting help. 

I am not here to say this is an easy fix because it typically isn’t, but I am saying you ARE WORTH IT. This is worth it. I am so happy you are here because I know how hard it can be. Please don’t lose hope. I am telling you, there is so much to try and so many things that can work. It just takes time and effort to find what works for you. This is why I wanted to bring the mental health page to Costafitness. I want to spread awareness, give you hope, give you things to try and I want to build a community that makes us feel at home. 

Let’s become mentally and physically healthier together. You are not alone and either am I. I love you, keep up the great work.

-Alex Costa-

Things will get better, I promise. Please keep trying and don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

10 Ways to Manage Stress

Stress is a constant knock on the minds door that can be hard to shake. It can beat you down if you let it and I fell victim to it for such a long time. I still do from time to time but I have learned many techniques and skills to cope with stress and anxiety. Let me help you by sharing 10 of my top ways to fight back and get rid of some of that stress and anxiety you have bringing you down.

  • “75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year – American Psychological Association.”
  • “Stress is a top health concern for U.S. teens between 9th and 12th grade, psychologists say that if they don’t learn healthy ways to manage that stress now, it could have serious long-term health implications – American Psychological Association.”

These are some alarming statistics I got from Gostress.com and if we don’t fix this, we could be in for some trouble down the road. So let’s get started.

#1 Exercise
This is a no brainer and I hate to be a broken record player because you have probably heard this a thousand times. This really helps though and if you haven’t tried it, I recommend you get out and exercise. This doesn’t always have to be strength training, it can be running, boxing, taking a class, working with a trainer, walking with your dog (which is a double whammy -see #5) or a friend. Just get out and move. This boost self-esteem and self confidence and also gets blood flowing which helps send more blood to the brain to help process thoughts easier. This also releases endorphins in the brain which is basically like sending love to your mind, body and soul to help relax and reduce stress. So what are you waiting for, get out and move around!

#2 Meditation
I used to think meditation was the biggest waist of time until I made myself do it for a month straight. Since then I try to mediate in the morning right after my workouts everyday.

Meditation may not get rid of all thoughts but it will help immensely with coping with the thoughts and making the mind feel more at ease with it. Trust me, this helps so so much. I went through such bad anxiety and when I started to use meditation for just even 5-10 minutes daily, it played a huge role in being able to fight back. I highly recommend HeadSpace. It is a guided meditation app that you can get on your phone and it has worked wonders for me as well as millions of others I’m sure. It’s a FREE app so go delete some photos to make more storage and download it!! There is also a subscription you can get for more options.

#3 Yoga
I did yoga back in high school during football and track but not daily. It helped a lot with flexibility and nerves before big games. I started doing daily yoga at the same time I started my daily meditation and they go hand in hand. These first three things on my list are literally how I start everyday and I can’t put into words how beneficial it has been for me with managing stress and anxiety on a daily basis. Yoga is a great form of mindfulness and mobility work for your body to stretch and strengthen muscles you probably forgot you had.

I highly recommend Sarah Beth’s yoga YouTube channel, it’s what I use everyday. I do a 10 minute yoga session everyday and usually try to switch it up each time. She knows her stuff and makes it so easy to follow along. Go get ya yoga on!

#4 Essential oils
I know, I sound like a hippie for this but don’t knock it until you try it! I added a lavender essential oil roll on to my bag after I had a massive break down a couple years ago with my anxiety and panic attacks. I still use it to this very day. I like the roll ons because I am on the go a lot and I can put it on my wrist for a smell I can easily have access to when needed.

They have a bunch of different scents and essential oil forms so go out and check it out and pick one that you enjoy. Lavender is popular for its calming effect but each smell has its own unique spot to help you so research and try it out!

#5 Seeing animals


This will most likely be everyones favorite part of this article. You might as well get in the car after you read this and go to a local pet store and play with the dogs. Studies show that being around an animal such as a dog can reduce stress, fear and anxiety. It does so by releasing oxytocin, which is a chemical in the brain the can increase your mood positivity.

Here is one of the studies I read about : “The effect of social support by a dog in comparison to support by a friendly human during a social stress test on the cortisol levels of children with insecure attachment representations was investigated by Beetz et al. (2011). The support by a friendly dog during the experiment was associated with significantly lower cortisol levels than support by a friendly human.”

Who doesn’t love spending time with a good boy/girl? Go give your dog some love, it will be beneficial for both of you.

#6 Talk to a friend or family member

My family are some of my best friends and I would never trade them for the world.


Although it may not be as good as an animal based off of what we just read, sometimes being able to interact with another person like a good friend or close family member can be a good way to have a person to help for advise and to listen to your problems.

A study discusses how having a low quantity of social support may increase mental health effects such as depression and anxiety, this is more common in high stress situations such as low income household in the study. So find some friends and family and hangout because friend networks can gives a sense of belonging which can help get through the harder times.

#7 Reflect on positivity
I know when you are stressed or going through any kind of anxiety attack, the last thing that comes to mind is about how thankful you are to have some bomb cold pizza waiting in the fridge at home for you.

On a real note, try to write some of the things and people you are thankful for each week and carry it with you so you can reflect on positive thoughts when you get a little stressed. These can be things such as family, friends, a date with your girlfriend or boyfriend, a task that was completed, an event you have coming up, nice weather, anything really that brings enlightenment or excitement. Take 5 minutes and just reflect on some positivity, it can lighten up the mood.

#8 Write and rip
This is a little quick and easy technique you can use if you need to get a little stress anger out. Write the topic down on a small piece of paper and rip it up. Do it 2 times if you need to, just make sure you try to recycle paper if you do this more than a handful of times each day or just try one of the other 9 techniques.

#9 Laugh & smile

Taylor and I laughing as we have a stranger try taking our picture


This kinda ties in with seeing animals in a way. When you smile and laugh it basically tricks your brain into thinking you’re happy.

There are a million ways to crack a smile and laugh. Go do something fun with your friends, family or boyfriend/girlfriend. Listen to a comedy podcast, watch comedies on Netflix, I recommend Chris D’elia, Kevin Hart and Sebastian Maniscalco. I also watch “What The Fit” Kevin Harts YouTube series, it is hilarious and you’re bound to get a laugh out.

Laughing will help relax your muscles from being tense due to the stress, so laugh it up just like Taylor and I in the picture above. I think we were laughing about the pumpkin and how giant it was, definitely was probably something else.

#10 YOUTIME
This may be one of the most important ones on the list and it is always overlooked. When you have a busy schedule, work a crap ton of hours, full time student, anything along those lines, you need to make time for yourself. I have a solid 2-4 hours of ME TIME almost everyday. I wake up at 4-5am, go to the gym by myself, comeback and then meditate, do yoga and then I’ll usually make breakfast and then watch a youtube video before I start my day. I get that almost everyday and it is super nice to be able to gather my thoughts and prepare to whoop the days a$s.

Start getting a little YOUTIME even if it’s a 20 minute walk in the middle of the day.

I really hope you find some takeaways that will help you because this is a subject that is important and needs more attention. Please share this with friends and family that it might help so we can decrease the amount of stress and anxiety the world fights on a daily basis. Have a good Thursday!

-Alex Costa-

Other resources:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-relieve-stress

anxiety#section16https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19331256

STRESS FACTS



Last Workout Before The Meet!

Click here for the video!

This was from Wednesday, my last lift / taper day before the meet. Weights felt smooth, getting excited for meet day!

Less than 24 hours till meet day, I am getting excited and nervous. When you have anxiety about a competition like this, it can make things a little more challenging. You may lose your appetite, have negative thoughts come to mind, or even start to doubt why you signed up in the first place. I am here to tell you that the ONLY thing or person standing in your way is the person in the mirror. I started having all of these thoughts last night and even this morning. Then I remembered how much work I have put in through the last 11 weeks leading up to this. I remember all of the anxiety attacks, panic attacks and every single bump in the road I went through. These aren’t anything negative, these were mini battles where you had to dig deep to beat them. These were learning experiences. We work too hard not to enjoy moments like this. It’s time to compete. Tomorrow it’s me against me, I am looking to get a higher total than last time. I am looking to prove to myself that I won’t let anxiety beat me, instead I will beat anxiety and make it my bit**! 

IT’S MEET WEEK BABY, LET’S GO!

I will not fall victim to anxiety,  I have taken so much sh*t from it over the years and I’ve had enough. I challenge you to be the one that beats down anxiety with me. We will not be a statistic that lets mental illness win, WE will take the challenge and beat anxiety down. 

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or any mental illness then lets stand up and take action. Let us be the ones that take control. If you need help then by all means get a friend or family member to help! Or even contact me!! I am on your side always and we will all get through this together. I love you all and I appreciate all of the support, its time to go have fun tomorrow. 

I am using this photo from http://mental-solutions.blogspot.com/2013/11/mental-health-hotline.html

Have an awesome Friday!
-Alex Costa-