Column: Though I am friendly and outgoing, I battle anxiety


Peyton Sams
Oxford Stories

If you know me, you know nerves are not in my vocabulary, nor have they ever been.

I’m the type of person who can talk to a wall, dance in front of a crowd, and have no reservations when it comes to being myself.

I take pride in loving how outgoing and in love with life I am. I’ve grown up always being the one not taking this whole life thing so seriously (and being the one asked to not be so loud all the time).

This past November when I came home for Thanksgiving, something happened after dinner. I began to feel different.

My heart started pounding out of my chest, overwhelming feelings of uneasiness came over me, I felt like I was going to pass out, and I couldn’t take a deep breath. I felt like pounds of bricks were resting on my chest, I was seeing black spots, and I couldn’t sit still.

I had never felt like this before, and it scared me that I had no idea what was happening to me. I totally thought this was God’s way of punishing me for eating a roll before we said the blessing.

I headed back to school and still found myself experiencing these symptoms at random times. At first, I thought dehydration, then I thought maybe it was the stress of finals. But something just felt different.

When I came home for winter break, I made an appointment with my doctor and learned I had anxiety.

But how could that be? Me? Anxiety?

There was no way. I had nothing to be anxious about, so why did I feel like this. I completely went into denial about the whole situation. I know my personality, and I know this just wasn’t right.

That’s one of the most frustrating things about anxiety – not knowing why you are anxious. I could be having a stress free day sitting on the couch watching Netflix eating a cosmic brownie (my kind of perfect day), and suddenly start experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

Your brain is constantly working, and can subconsciously tell your body to respond in such a way that doesn’t match what you are thinking or experiencing.

I’ve been in the middle of anxiety attack and found myself saying, “Snap out of it, Peyton. This isn’t you.” And that’s what makes this anxiety thing so tough. I’m not an anxious person. And as much as I try and fight it, it’s not just going to disappear.

It got to a point where I had to stop saying,“This isn’t me,” and just accept that thousands of people have anxiety, and it’s life. According to, about 40 million adults between the ages of 18-54 have anxiety. I didn’t want to fall into a statistic, and neither does anybody.

Exercise helps with my anxiety. I’ve always derived joy from working out, and have been told by several people that my personality was the perfect type to lead a workout class. It was that small encouragement from others that led me to become a cycling instructor.

I went through training in Oxford, and officially became certified to teach at PureRyde. Every time I teach a cycling class, my body feels completely relieved and at ease.

Those anxiety symptoms I randomly experience never come up while I’m spinning. My job isn’t just helping others reach their fitness goals, it allows me to feel completely free of any anxiety that’s sitting in the back of my brain.

I want other people who have anxiety to know that just because you have “anxiety” does not mean you are any less strong than the people around you. Just because you have “anxiety” does not make you weak, it does not make you any less, and it definitely does not make you shy…I mean, it’s me we’re talking about.

I want people who have misconceptions about anxiety to understand that just because someone has anxiety does not mean that something is wrong with them. So our brains like to work double time? Sounds just like extra calorie burning to me.


Me after finishing up teaching a cycling class

Learning I had anxiety was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in my life thus far. But weirdly, it has been a blessing. I don’t want to just be an inspiration to people with anxiety, but I want to inspire anyone going through anything.

I want people to walk into my cycling class and leave their worries at the door. I want the people who come to my class to push themselves past the point where they think they can’t pedal anymore … then do it.

I want them to have a place where we are strengthening our bodies and our minds. I want people who attend my cycling class to know that we all have our own issues we have to deal with in this world, but for this 50 minutes, it’s all about you.

The feeling that comes from teaching a cycling class is a feeling like no other. I completely feel myself let go, and my body and mind become one together while working perfectly in sync.

The energy I feel in those classes when a community of people comes together for a common goal has become an addiction. Becoming an instructor and leading others and myself to become the best version of ourselves continues to be the best anxiety medicine I could have ever asked for.

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