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Ellie Goulding: How fitness helped me overcome panic attacks and anxiety


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British songstress (and fitness junkie) Ellie Goulding has multiple hits (remember when “Burn” and “On My Mind” were playing on the radio constantly?) and has been performing for arena-sized crowds since breaking onto the music scene more than seven years ago.

Outside of the studio, she’s collaborating with like-minded brands—such as Nike and Core Hydration, the pH-balanced water—to inspire self-confidence in her followers. So it might come as a surprise that secretly, Goulding struggled with anxiety for years.

In this Well+Good exclusive, Goulding shares in her own words how she overcame the panic attacks that could have ended her career.

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Ellie Goulding
Photo: Nike

My life completely changed when my career started taking off in 2010. I was thrilled, of course—sharing my music with the world was a dream I’d been working toward for years—but it was a lot all at once. Suddenly, I was living alone in London and everything was happening so fast.

I started having panic attacks, and the scariest part was it could be triggered by anything. 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.

I started having panic attacks, and the scariest part was it could be triggered by anything.

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.

Last year, I was asked to perform at the Grammys—a massive honor but, as you can imagine, pretty nerve-wracking. In the moments before I walked on that stage, I gave myself a good talking-to. I was annoyed for being paralyzed with nerves every time I was about to perform on television. I told myself that this was exactly where I was supposed to be and if other people believed in me, I had to start believing in myself.

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Ellie Goulding
Photo: Core Hydration

But there was another way I found inner confidence: boxing and kickboxing. I love that extra kick of adrenaline. Keeping fit doesn’t mean spending hours at a gym; the key is to find a workout you really love.

I find gyms mostly male-dominated, so I prefer classes, like at Barry’s Bootcamp or Equilibrium TrX. The more I started doing classes and also working out with my trainer, Faisal Abdalla, the better I felt about myself.

It wasn’t about any change in my outward appearance; it was about seeing and feeling myself better better and stronger.

And it wasn’t about any change in my outward appearance; 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.

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.

Goulding isn’t the only celeb to experience panic attacks—Kendall Jenner has, too. And If you have your own struggles with anxiety, here are seven science-backed ways to deal (no pills required). 

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