If you to experience waves of anxiety you will probably be aware of just how unpredictable it is. How you can go from being completely calm to sheer panic within the space of ten minutes. How anxiety can both creep up on you unexpectedly or can drag your mind down for weeks and weeks.
I have very young memories of being anxious, as a child I was always called ‘shy’ and ‘quiet’. Looking back now, able to see that this wasn’t shyness at all but anxiety it saddens me that I didn’t know. I used to think I was shy and that everybody who was shy had the serve waves of worry and panic that I did. Now that I am aware of anxiety and through looking back at my childhood with it I am able to see that actually, I am not shy, nor quiet, I have anxiety. In no way do I mean this post to ‘sugar coat’ the illness, it is just my personal experience on dealing with it and doesn’t begin to describe how much it can effect a persons life.
Anxiety is something that I still have and although recovering from another mental health illness, it is something I still continue to live with. It may be a personality trait or something that overtime has dug it’s heals into my brain, either way it needs controlling.
Learning to control it is difficult and is something I am continuing to do but overtime I have developed some coping methods I thought could help others to. Remember everybody will experience anxiety differently and what may work for me may not work for you. I would also suggest seeing your doctor or local mental health team for support if you think you have anxiety.
1. Educate yourself: before I learnt more about anxiety I did not have a clue about the symptoms, this in it’s self was a huge problem. There is a long list of symptoms you may experience when you feel anxious, it isn’t just in your mind. When I have anxiety I have a tight feeling around my neck, almost like having a scarf on way too tight to the point my whole chest feels completely tight. I also have problems with sleeping, nausea and hot flushes. Of course these symptoms can mean a range of things and anxiety can affect each person differently. My point being recognise how it affects you, maybe keep a diary, this way you will be more aware when it is about to happen.
2. Keep a diary: Not only for the symptoms you experience but also whatever it is your doing when you feel anxious or have an anxiety/panic attack. Sometimes I find myself feeling anxious for no apparent reason until I sit down and think about everything I have done, doing or planning to do and I am able to see the reason behind it. This will enable you to become aware of your triggers and again help you tackle them once you feel strong enough to do so.
3. Tackle your triggers: This is one of the most difficult but once you are aware of what it is that makes you anxious you have two options 1: avoid whatever it is and let anxiety stop you from doing it. 2: learn coping methods, tackle it straight on and overtime lessen the anxiety. Personally I struggle with anxiety when I am going somewhere new to attend something for example meeting up with someone, an event or even a new train station. This is something I continue to learn to cope with and overtime I have become less anxious when going somewhere. My coping methods for this are firstly researching the place, this gives me an image of what it looks like and what I will be able to expect when going there. I then imagine going there over and over again until I have a sense of familiarity with the place. On some occasions I will even visit before I need to be there so I can become familiar with the place before I have to do so, even just driving past can help.
4. Plan but don’t overthink: Overthinking can lead to more worry, more panic and more anxiety however planning can help. I like to plan my days or weeks based on the things I like to do, even just the little things here and there. This helps me tackle some of the day-to-day anxieties and gives me something positive to think about.
5. Know your surroundings: When doing something anxiety provoking it is always good to know where you are, who you are with and where if needed you can go and feel safe. I often have a place in my mind where if I feel anxious I can get to quickly. This gives me somewhere I feel where I can breath more freely and is often quiet, around less if any people. For example when traveling by train I always tend to sit by the doorway of the carriage, by the suitcase rack and no it isn’t for the extra leg room. Sitting by here allows me to feel more at ease as I know if needed I can easily get off the train. I am also in a more open space and feel less people will look at me if I start to panic -another symptom, feeling like people are looking at you.
6. Do not be embarrassed: Having anxiety is nothing to feel ashamed of and it is surprising how understanding people can be. Know that it is okay not to do something if you are not ready and allow yourself to say no. You are not letting anybody down. Be open and honest with others about it, at first I didn’t want anybody to know but now I feel confident in speaking to people about it and raising awareness because it can effect anybody.
7. Ask for help: No matter how old you are, what you do for a living or how many people have told you ‘stop worrying’. Anxiety can affect everybody and anybody. There is help out there you just need to make the first step in finding it, whether it be speaking to a family member, a friend, teacher, doctor or mental health organization. Help and support is out there.
8. Be open-minded: Colouring books, yoga, square breathing, cognitive behavioural therapy, keeping a diary or group therapy. Not all of them will work but all of them are worth trying. Don’t dismiss something without trying it and don’t give up if it doesn’t work. Keep exploring options and keep trying until you find what it is that helps you control anxiety.
I hope this can help someone experiencing anxiety, someone supporting a friend or family member with anxiety or just someone who wanted to know a little more about it. Thank you for reading, Nicole.
Useful Links: Mind on Anxiety. NHS on Anxiety. Time to change on Anxiety. Anxiety UK.