By Tegan Kraklio
Elaine Mundt is like many of us: married, mother of three, a full-time job, and dreams for the future. She “bleeds black and gold” for the Hawkeyes, has creative outlets, and enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Unfortunately, she also suffers from anxiety and depression, and early on would not seek help. She thought, “‘strong people’ just deal with it.’”
An emergency room visit helped change her mind, and she found joy, confidence and a life well lived through treatment.
Part of that included doing self-development and intentional activities to help her continue to grow as a person, which led her to the challenge she did in December. She shared it with followers on her Instagram account.
“As someone who is anxious about everything, I want to do something to challenge myself and to conduct a sort of experiment.” Mundt wrote on her Instagram. “I also want to be an example, through my awkwardness, ridiculous fears, and possible ‘failures’ along the way, that we all can do hard things.”
For two weeks, she did something scary every day, and shared the experience publicly.
“By making it public, it held me accountable to continue and do it every day,” she said.
The challenges she came up with were varied, but the important thing was that each was uniquely challenging to her.
Followers of Mundt’s Instagram read about her experiences receiving a mammogram, touching a Mexican Red Tarantula, and going through a revolving door.
She drove to work on a snowy day, went shopping with a friend and allowed them to choose her outfit, did a closet purge, and more.
She admitted that she felt embarrassed that the most difficult challenge for her was going to work without makeup.
“Some of my other challenges actually took my breath away just thinking about them,” said Mundt, “and a fear of no makeup was something so vain and ridiculous that I didn’t assign the impact to it beforehand.”
The challenge with the greatest reward was climbing a 52.5-foot rock wall, she said.
“What made this the most rewarding for me is that it was really a parallel to life,” she said. “First of all, my fear was an irrational fear. I was harnessed, and therefore could not fall. Reality doesn’t matter when anxiety trumps rational thoughts. When I reached the first ledge, I considered being ‘satisfied’ and going back down… Just like in life, looking back often doesn’t serve a purpose or add value to your journey forward.”
She says she is able to use the experience as motivation to overcome new challenges, by reminding herself that she was able to do something scary that at first seemed impossible.
Mundt said that the challenge showed her that fear it what we make of it.
“We all have fears, some big, some small, some irrational, and for those with anxiety, even ordinary things in life turn into terror. I’m not sure where I heard this first, but F.E.A.R. is False Evidence Appearing Real. If we are using our imagination to conjure up something scary, we can use it to envision something amazing [instead.]”
Doing that repeatedly, she said, can help a person push through their fears and challenges, helping them grow. She likened it to exercising a muscle, and said our brains are the same way.
“Mental illness is, unfortunately, still a somewhat taboo subject,” she said. “The only way to bring it to light is by talking about it and sharing and helping each other.”
In light of the new year, Mundt says she has goals instead of resolutions.
“I’ve learned that resolutions are too easily broken or forgotten, whereas building habits and intentionality makes improvement second nature and drives you to your goals,” she said.
Because Mundt bravely challenged herself and shared the experience, others have been inspired. She says a friend contacted her to say they were following in her footsteps, and challenged themselves to donate blood even though they were terrified on needles. She hopes to continue inspiring others through her social media accounts.
“I’m starting a Mental Muscle Monday content post in my Facebook group and Instagram page, and hoping to help others while holding myself accountable.”
Elaine Mundt’s Mental Muscle Monday can be seen at her social media accounts through Facebook (Warriors) and Instagram (y_not_warriors).