Standing on stage is Kim’s moment to shine. And when you hear her sing, you won’t wonder why. Her vocal talent is as apparent as her passion. For someone who performs with such confidence and conviction, you probably wouldn’t assume Kim suffers with anxiety.
It first started when she was just six years old. Bullied as a child, she often felt unsafe in public places and thought those feelings were normal. She struggled to digest food properly and developed trichotillomania, a condition which causes her to pull her own hair out. She fought a daily battle with her mind and didn’t understand why.
So, she began reading books about anxiety and realised that the way she felt didn’t have to be her normal. Years of research, management techniques, and support from professionals, family and friends have led to Kim understanding and accepting the true impact anxiety has on her life.
“You start to realise how much your brain will lie to you,” Kim says.
Now at the age of 32, Kim knows her anxiety. She recognises her triggers, and when she needs down time. If something happens that makes her feel anxious, she will have an afternoon nap to help her feel calmer, or call close friends for support. When it comes to managing her anxiety, her community is essential.
“Be honest with those around you. If they can understand what life is like for you, they can be more empathetic and can be there for you, because you’re going to need them,” she says.
“I have two friends specifically that I’ll ring and go ‘I need your help, I’m having this thought. Can you tell me, is that valid? Am I thinking that right?’. [It’s also important] having people I can cancel on if I need to, that [understand if I say] ‘can we not put on heels, can you just come over and watch a movie instead?’.
“You have to be real with yourself about who you are, what your capacity is, and live within that,” she says.
Kim has found solace is self-care; saying no when she needs to, nourishing her body with healthy foods, committing to a holistic routine of yoga, low intensity and high intensity exercise, and focusing on her wellness.
“Wellness is important for everyone, but I think for women specifically. We’re in this transition where we’re coming out from being home care takers and going into the workforce, but we’re still expected to do both. I think we’re carrying a heavy burden,” she says.
“You can see we’re not able to keep up with the life that’s expected of us, unless we are specific about our wellness. And that’s something that I’ve definitely learned over time, that I can’t afford not to have time that feeds my brain, feeds my body and feeds my spirit. And I think having a gym that shares those values is so important.”
Kim recently became a member at Fernwood Ultra, a new initiative of Fernwood Fitness dedicated to holistic health, wellness and fitness for women. Also an ambassador for Fernwood Ultra, Kim came to exercise a little later in life, but hasn’t turned back since, saying it has offered significant mind and body benefits.
“I plan out all my classes at the start of the week to make sure I get a good balance of yoga, HIIT, and some sort of low intensity exercise like Pilates. That helps me to make sure that part of my life is supporting what I need to do for the rest of the day.
“Sometimes, I’ll be like I didn’t have a class planned tonight, and something might have triggered my anxiety and I’ll be like, you know what, I’m either going to be sitting in my house and running [my mind] at a thousand miles an hour or I can go and get that out in the gym.
“Also, the yoga and mindfulness has been teaching me a lot about feeling tension in my body and releasing it. Yin yoga has been a bit of a game changer for me too.”
While dedicating time to her body and soul has made a significant difference in her life, Kim admits she is far from having all her ducks in a row. But she finds daily motivation in sharing her journey with other women and encouraging them to find the support that got her through her toughest days.
Whether it’s a random act of kindness, or cheering on another woman in the gym, Kim says we can all play our part in making the world a kinder place.
“Supporting other women is good for them, and good for you. It’s one of the most beautiful ways to live life when you’re other people’s cheerleaders,” Kim says.
You can follow Kim’s journey on Instagram at @kimelisecooper and @thishotmessau.
This story is a personal account. Always consult your GP, medical specialist, or mental health specialist, for health-related advice.
If you, or someone you know, needs crisis support, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.