Anxiety is something a lot of people have to deal with and it was a topic that I didn’t want to ignore on my blog. However, as I do not suffer from it, I didn’t feel like I could ever do the subject justice. That’s why I invited Kate from The Tustin Girl (2020 update: sadly Kate’s blog is offline) to share her experiences and tips on dealing with anxiety. She wrote a very powerful post for you that I’m sure will help many.
How many of you have had anxiety at some point in your life?
I am amazed at how many people have experienced anxiety and/or depression at some point in their life. What once was a taboo subject is now becoming a vital topic. Why? because – shock, horror – it is not something we can switch off and on again and we cannot tell our minds to just ‘get over it’.
Why do I want to talk about anxiety?
I want this to be a positive post about the benefits (yes, the benefits!) to having anxiety. Before I do so, I want to share my own personal story. Not for pity but so you get an idea of who I am and why I feel so passionately about this subject.
I was ten years old when I had my first panic attack. I remember running down the stairs screaming for my mum and dad for help because I absolutely, 100% believed I was dying. Now that I am a parent myself, I can only imagine the fear my parents felt as they ran to see what the hell was wrong with their eldest daughter. As for me, I felt dizzy, I couldn’t breathe, my head was tingling, my lips had started to go numb and I had chest pain. After checking that I wasn’t bleeding and that I was in no immediate danger, my parents tried to calm me down the best they could. I cannot tell you the trigger for my panic attack on that particular night but it was the start of a completely different reality for me. It was a very dark, very scary and very lonely time as my family and I realised that this wasn’t a one-time thing and it wasn’t going to go away.
Learning how to cope
My anxiety was and still is, health related. I was absolutely terrified of losing control over my body and having any illness that I couldn’t remedy in some way. So I went to see psychologists and psychiatrists. I refused to eat and if my parents were nice to me, it was because the doctors had told them I was dying and they were being nice to me as I didn’t have long left. As a result of how severely anxiety affected every aspect of my life, I was put on medication.
Over the next few years, I learnt different ways of coping with this new challenge and I learnt how to spot the signs of an oncoming attack so that I could try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to prevent going into full panic attack mode. Very few people understood and a lot of my peers at the time either thought I was attention seeking or just plain weird. Fortunately, over time, the severity of my attacks subsided and I was able to gain a sense of control over my life again. However, even as an adult, they still pop up from time to time. I now know it is a part of me and I want you to see how this can be a good thing.
7 ideas to help
When I am talking about ideas that can help, I am talking of day to day ideas. Panic attacks themselves, I feel, are incredibly personal and we all have different ways of dealing with them. I wouldn’t want to make you feel that there are any right or wrong ways to manage them. Just remember you don’t have to be sorry to anyone for the way you are feeling.
1. Morning routine
Establish a positive morning routine. This might mean meditation, yoga, exercise, journal writing, listening to / reading a motivating book or listening to motivating tunes.
I think music has such an effect on our mood. Make the time to create a playlist which makes you feel powerful and motivated and listen to it whenever you start to feel worried or anxious.
3. Good food and movement
I cannot stress enough that we are what we eat and good, nutritious food will have a positive effect on how you are feeling. For me, making sure I eat complex carbohydrates helps me to feel calmer. This is because it helps the release of serotonin into your body and this in turn helps to make you feel calmer. There is also a lot of research out there which suggests walks in nature helps calm and make you feel more relaxed.
If you research the power of laughter on physical health, you will find a strong connection between the two. Try and have something recorded on your phone/ TV which you know will make you laugh and watch it often or as needed.
5. Use technology
Most of us have access to a phone. Create a new album in your photos and call it POWER. Now save any inspiring screenshots or photos which make you smile, laugh or feel inspired. This way, you can look at them whenever and wherever you are.
For those who are not aware, affirmations are positive statements which make you feel motivated and positive. They are in the present tense. You can find lots of these on the internet or you can create your own and have them stuck on your walls in your personal space so you can see them often. If you don’t like this idea then take photos of them and save them in your POWER album.
7. Reflection and gratitude
Reflect on your day and think of every tiny little thing you were grateful for during the day. Under no circumstances are you to feel guilty for your anxiety or worries. I spent so many years apologising for my panic attacks and it only led to self hate. Instead, celebrate the wins.
For more information on these points, I have created a workbook which you can download here completely FREE of charge.
How can anxiety be a positive?
It has taken me a long time to see the positives in having anxiety, but they exist. I encourage you to see your anxieties in terms of how strong they have made you. To help, consider the following points.
> How much have you had to learn about yourself so you can better understand the reasons behind your anxiety? This is very powerful. Just think of the inside information you may NOT have learnt about yourself if you didn’t have those experiences.
> What risks do you find yourself now taking? Like any trauma in life, once you have endured something so powerful it stops your day to day living, any challenges after that are much easier to tackle. Would I have left my hometown, gone to University, decided to start my own blog etc if I had not had the experience I did with panic attacks? After everything I have done in life so far, learning to find a way to live with anxiety has still been my greatest challenge and I am very grateful, as anything I do now, does not feel as impossible as it would be to someone else who hasn’t had my life experiences.
> What are you grateful for in your life? I find this can be a by-product of having anxiety too. When I am having a good day, I am so very grateful for every little thing as I know how dark the world can be under that panic cloud. I find myself saying thank you when the sun comes out to shine and I get very excited about views (just ask my family!).
What I am trying to highlight here is having any kind of trauma in your life forces you to fight. You have to fight to get out of that dark cloud and find a positive way forward. If you have experienced anxiety and/or depression you will know that no matter how good the intentions are of other people, the journey is a personal one. Yes, you may need outside support (which is nothing to feel guilty about by the way) but it is ultimately you who has to fight to see that sunshine again and nobody can do that for you. Even though you don’t feel like it most of the time, the fact that you fought so hard to get your life back shows what a strong and resilient individual you are.
Go get what you want in life, it’s yours for the taking.