Ellie Goulding Reveals How She Manages Anxiety, Panic Attacks

By Britni de la Cretaz 03/17/17

"I used to cover my face with a pillow whenever I had to walk outside from the car to the studio."

Ellie Goulding

Songstress Ellie Goulding may be best known for hits like “Love Me Like You Do” and “Burn,” but now she’s making a name for herself with partnerships with health and fitness inspired brands like Nike and Core Hydration. For Goulding, exercise is key to her health and well-being, and she recently opened up to Well + Good about why.

In a piece she penned for the magazine, Goulding shares that she was secretly struggling with debilitating anxiety, even while her star was rising. “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,” she writes. “My new life as a pop star certainly wasn’t as glamorous as all my friends from home thought.”

She says that exercise has been the key to managing her anxiety.

Goulding cites a lack of self-confidence as the source of her anxiety. “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,” she says.

While positive self-talk was helpful for her, it wasn’t until she found boxing and kickboxing that she found her real confidence. “I love that extra kick of adrenaline,” Goulding writes.

The singer says she explores these activities in classes and with her trainer, where she feels more comfortable because she finds “gyms [are] mostly male-dominated.” Goulding stresses that her need for change wasn’t about how she looked on the outside or about seeking a certain body type. “It was about seeing and feeling myself get better and stronger,” she says. “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.”

Physical exercise is known to have cognitive benefits for one's mental health, including the ability to alleviate depression and anxiety. Research suggests that it does so by increasing inhibitory mechanisms in the hippocampus of the brain, which then dampen the excitatory neurons that respond to stress. That makes exercise a great coping skill to have for anxiety.

Goulding says her struggles haven’t completely gone away, but they’re more manageable. “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,” she says. “It took time, but I’ve accepted that everyone feels nervous before they perform—it’s not just me.”

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.