For A Friend and anyone else out there who knows what it feels like to be crippled by Anxiety, and also for those of you who are lucky enough to have never experienced it. It sucks!
We all worry, we all get nervous, we all get anxious at times. However for some of us anxiety can be severe making us feel out of control, powerless and overwhelmed. For some it can result in full blown panic attacks which can be a terrifying experience. Anxiety affects us all in different ways from physical effects to psychological effects, impacting on work and relationships. As I said, it sucks. Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain.
Somehow I never realised that I suffered from anxiety, let alone a severe case of it. That’s the thing with mental health conditions, they tend to get so tangled up with each other that labels become irrelevant, unless utilised to identify treatment. To be honest there’s only so many labels and fancy names you can take if you wish to keep your remaining sanity. It is what it is, the important thing is to recognise it, fix it and move forward. It was only after my Bipolar diagnosis, when I was put on medication, that I realised it was possible to go to sleep easily and sleep through the night. My heart no longer pounded so much that I thought it would explode out of my chest. Suddenly the tiny things that used to panic me so much didn’t even cross my mind. The twisty, twirly, sickening knots in my head and tummy had disintegrated. It was so peaceful, and now it is the norm. If I can make it through anyone can. But how?
Before I throw my suggestions in the air I should state that I do not have a disclaimer on my blog, and I probably should have. Therefore, for the record, but mainly because it is important to me that you recognise this, I am not a health professional. All my views on my blog are derived from my own personal experience. We are all different and therefore what works for one may not work for another. If in doubt always seek professional advice. Got it? Splendid. Let’s crack on…
Time: None like the present, there’s no magic wand
This is the Tough Love folks, these things take time. Grief, heartbreak and self-improvement; whatever the healing it takes time, be patient. Commitment is a must. Man up and focus!
Stay in the moment, right here, right now. The anxiety will drive your mind all over the place, don’t let it. There is no time like the present and that is all that is important. Don’t worry about tomorrow, throw away the “what ifs”. Just be in this very second, today is your only focus.
Acknowledge your feelings. While you’re lying there at night, wide awake with your heart pounding through your chest, sweating and shaking, take a deep breath and tell yourself “I surrender. This will pass.” You can’t control it but you can prevent it from spiralling, you know what I mean. Avoid the trap of attaching your physical feelings to every thought which enters your mind. A wise and beautiful friend said to me once, accept negative emotions, move through them but remember you have the power not to wallow in them. The same can be said for anxiety. Practice here is key!
As silly as this sounds I genuinely believe that lists saved my life on more than one occasion. You’re focussed on the now so the next step is to layout your day with limited detail, in fact in as little detail as possible. Just the key milestones. Your goal for the day is to get to the end of it and keep everything as simple as possible. Simplicity is key here folks. Example:
- Wake up
- Have shower and brush teeth
- Go to work
- Get through the day
- Come home
- Go to bed
I have lived like this on more than one occasion and it got me through each time.
To anyone; friends, family, doctor, work colleagues, professionals.. Just talk.
Acknowledge that you need support and seek it out. You are the only one who can help yourself but others will guide you through. Don’t shut yourself away from the world. There are times when you need to be by yourself but you can’t do this alone.
Remember I mentioned time? I worked for 5 years on self-help through CBT prior to going on medication. Believe me when I say, there are no shortcuts honey. Sorry. I practised and practised everything I read, admittedly I’d adapt certain exercises and ideas but I still did them. These are three of my favourite sites:
- Overcoming I love these books! They may not work for everyone but don’t turn your nose up before you have tried them. There’s a whole section on Anxiety
- Time to Change – especially the blogs. Hearing about other people’s experience is priceless!
If you need it to get you through then take it. It’s a personal choice and a conversation to be had with your doctor/therapist. I was always anti medication but it has given me my life and if I am on it for rest of my time here then so be it. Sometimes it can be really helpful in the short term, especially when applying other self-help methods or therapies.
At 35 years old I am currently teaching myself to breathe properly. I kid you not. It is so simple and yet, like many of us, I have conditioned myself to breathe through my chest only. Wrong. As you read this put your hands on your tummy and breathe. Does your tummy go out when you breathe in and in when you breathe out? It should do. Ladies, don’t suck your tummy in, let it all hang out! This is such a simple exercise but breathing can really help with anxiety. Breathe in and fill your tummy then let it all out. Focus on your breath and your breath alone, nothing else. Clear your mind completely and if any thoughts sneak in bring your attention back to your breath. Repeat daily and whenever your anxiety kicks in.
Go outside, get some fresh air. Move. It doesn’t matter what you do just move. Exercise and a healthy diet. Do it! Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes. Stimulants are BAD news! It is tough because these are things you are most likely going to reach for but you need to make the decision, what is your priority?
Be kind to yourself, every day. And, don’t forget to have fun! Make sure you take time out to enjoy yourself. Write a list of things that make you happy and commit to do one thing every day just for you – for an hour or five minutes, whatever your schedule allows for. A bubble bath, listening to music, coffee with a friend, yoga, Reiki. Don’t beat yourself up, EVER. So you may not have achieved anything/everything today, it’s okay. Be kind to yourself.
Know that you are not alone.
Never forget this.
I believe in you.