My name is Zac Hersh, but I go by “Z.” I am a 23-year-old recent college graduate, certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, mindfulness and meditation coach, and an accomplished distance runner, and triathlete. I am also the co-creator of the Mood mobile app.
For most of my life, I have dealt with a significant amount of anxiety. These feelings were subconsciously present for the first 21 years of my life. I say “subconsciously” because I thought being in that state was the normal way of life for everyone.
My junior year of college, however, I hit a wall, experiencing panic attacks so severe I stopped going out and ultimately lost most joy in life. It was like being at the bottom of a hole, looking up and seeing the top, but having no rope to climb out. I knew I had a few options, a life without joy or go on a journey to find a way to help myself out of that hole.
It began with physical exercise. When my anxiety came up, I would go to the gym and workout. Eventually I got into running, swimming, biking, and yoga. Going through long exercise sessions helped me, but it wasn’t practical to continue dropping whatever I was doing to take off for an hour-long exercise session anytime my anxiety flared up.
It was then that I was introduced to the world of meditation and mindfulness; thus my studies shifted from the body to the mind.
Eventually through this study, I found myself traveling the world, attending meditation and mindfulness retreats. Before returning to my senior year of college, I attended a meditation retreat in the mountains of Switzerland, this led to the first week of my life that I was completely in command of my anxiety. I excitedly returned to school confident that I had mastered my anxiety, it took about two days for me to realize that, yet again, I had the same problem as before. When my anxiety came up, it wasn’t practical for me to go sit in meditation for an hour or even ten minutes.
The more I looked into it, the more I began to notice commonalities between different fields. Monks spoke of gratitude the same way the top ultra-runners on the planet do. The highest caliber of yoga instructors I studied under spoke about breath in the same fashion my triathlon coaches did. Each discipline, though they contain various teachings and lessons, have distinct similarities. I realized I could take what I felt were the two most powerful practices from all fields (gratitude and conscious breathing) I’d studied and boil them down into an easy-to-do practice to help myself with my anxiety.
To this day my journey continues, now paired with a mission to bring my process to the world through a mobile app called Mood. I am also dedicated to bringing awareness to anxiety, a problem that grips so many of us, yet so few speak about.
Be grateful and breathe. We’re in this together.