I have had anxiety all my life.
Before anxiety was called anxiety or it was something we commonly discussed. Before it was ok to make the statement ‘I have anxiety’. Before there were available options or ways of dealing with it. I’ve had it. It was with me throughout my time at school and has followed me in to my adult years. I don’t know where my anxiety came from or why it is something that I have known in my life, I don’t clearly remember a time in which it was not prevalent. It has presented itself in so many different ways, be it debilitating physical symptoms, palpitations, dizziness, headaches, fatigue or much more emotional symptoms, consistent overthinking, dramatising, expecting the worse case scenario in everything, preparing for failure.
I am the person who googles a headache, sees brain tumour and starts writing a will. This is often something I can laugh about with family or the friends who know me best but at the time its the least amusing thing imaginable.
Something that has surprised me since learning the cause of these symptoms and being more comfortable talking freely about it, is that SO many people can relate and are dealing with similar issues themselves. Sure their anxiety might manifest itself in a different way but its there and I can empathise.
I am lucky in that I am able to live a ‘normal’ life. It doesn’t stop me doing much. Not anymore. I have learnt to understand my body, to realise when my anxiety strikes and what that means for me. It has taken me a long time to get to this point and I am by no means a professional but below are MY top five tips for anyone who who is feeling a little on edge this week and needs to get back in to the swing of spring.
For me this is yoga. I need yoga. I’m not being a drama queen here. I need it. It is something relatively new in my life, I have been practicing for about four years, as soon as I started yoga, it changed my life, this really isn’t an exaggeration. Yoga makes me feel stronger both physically and mentally, it keeps me calm, relaxed and much more at ease day to day. Now on days or weeks that I miss my practice I feel it in all aspects of my life, I find it difficult to concentrate, feel much more tired much more easily and my anxiety is so much more likely to rear its ugly head. Yoga is my therapy but whatever your preferred form of exercise may be, it will have the same or similar effect for you. Sometimes it it difficult to motivate yourself to get up, out of the house, to the gym, to run, to swim, to go to a class but I can absolutely guarantee that you won’t finish your workout and feel worse than you did before. JOG ON – by Bella Mackie is a book I’ve read recently which is such a beautifully well written book and expresses so wonderfully the power that exercise can have on your mental health.
Have a phone Detox
I am not criticising you here. I am guilty of sitting on my phone for hours on end, predominantly before bed time. I scroll mindlessly through Instagram, looking at other peoples holiday snaps, and highlight reels of their lives. We all do it, however if you are feeling anxious, this is, without a doubt, not helping you.
Please. Put your phone down. Now.
There is nothing about scrolling through Instagram that is going to make you feel better. Its not particularly healthy, it’ll interrupt your sleep, its addictive, and the worst kind of self -inflicted aid to jealousy.
Give yourself 24 hours off social media? If thats too much to ask, try an evening, just turn your phone off and see what happens. You could read a book, watch a movie, go out for a drink, try something creative, call an old friend? The list of alternatives really is endless and the world will probably not end as a result of your social media strike.
You know how people always say the ‘correct’ amount of sleep is eight hours? Thats the amount you need in order to function as a regular human being? Scientists declare this fact? Really? I feel like a solid ten hours in bed is more than necessary for me some days and I’m not ashamed to admit that. Some days I might even be tired after that, who’s judging? Get as much sleep as you need, you know your body, you know what your body is crying out for. There is no better feeling than waking up after the perfect sleep and feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. If that means getting in to bed at 7pm and accepting your inner grandma, so be it. Your anxiety will always be worse when you’re feeling tired and drained.
Leave the house
Leave the house? This might sound like a weird one and something quite basic. For me when I’m feeling particularly bad I snuggle up like a hermit on the sofa and thats about all I tell myself I am capable of that day. While I am certainly not condoning sofa days, far from it, what I am saying is that you shouldn’t tell yourself that you can’t do anything else while you’re feeling a little off centre. Distraction is good, sitting at home wrapped up in your duvet on your own, you have way too much time to overthink, to catastrophize. Go for a walk, to a cafe, go see some friends, get up and out.
Talk it out
This for me is both the most basic and the most important. Talk to people. Tell them how you’re feeling. Tell them your symptoms, your worst fears, your worries. Saying these things out loud has a way of softening the fear, you’ll no longer be alone in your fretting. They might even have some good advice? Or wine? Both as helpful as each other.
Hope some of these help a little.