You can’t sleep, you can’t concentrate, you feel irritated by anything and everything. You might be aching, you might feel sick, you might feel like you’re going mad and you’re stuck in a loop within your own mind. You think people are staring at you, you’re scared to leave the house, you feel paralysed by thought and worry and paranoia.
This is extreme anxiety. We don’t always feel anxiety this strongly, but very often those who suffer from anxiety can have worse periods than others. They might relate to situations going on, they could be in tune with your hormones, they could feel completely random.
One year alone, there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK and here, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed.
Anxiety is one taboo subject that isn’t really that taboo anymore – at least I think so… and I think that’s great. I love that more people are talking about it and sharing their experiences – which is what I’m going to do today.
First of all, what is anxiety?
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is made up of feelings of worry, nervousness and discomfort in and surrounding certain situations and certain thoughts.
Diagnosed anxiety can come under many categories, the most common probably being GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder).
Low levels of anxiety cause unnecessary stress on body and mind, as well as difficulty in scary or new situations.
Chronic anxiety is long periods of anxiety, which have a high number of mind and body symptoms. Chronic anxiety can cause panic attacks, persistent fear or worry and an interference in performing everyday tasks.
I won’t spurt out any more facts about anxiety – although if you’d like to read more about it I’d suggest checking out Mind and Anxiety UK – both charities that can explain anxiety and help those affected.
Now you’re familiarised with medical definitions and explanations of anxiety, I’m going to share my personal journey with it. It’s pretty long… but there are some kick-ass coping tips at the end to look forward to!
My Relationship with Anxiety
Maybe it’s because Anxiety is quite vocalised amongst the blogging community, and throughout my social circles, that I’ve kicked off this Taboo Talk series with it. Whereas a year ago the physical and mental symptoms were strange Taboo Talk series with it. Whereas a year ago the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety were strangers to me, 2016 has familiarised me with them rather well.
I remember experiencing something of a panic attack around a month before I walked out of my stable (albeit a tad boring) entry-level position, where I was learning print design and marketing skills. At the time – which was this time last year – I genuinely thought I was just being a drama queen; little did I know how the next six months (or so) would play out.
October 2015 was a rollercoaster month, after several trips to the doctors discussing my anxiety (and a smidgen of depression – more on that later), I still decided that I needed to quit my job, leading to more worry and a strong lack of stability in my life. At this same time, I had just started to see my current beau – wonderful, right? Unfortunately, there’s not much worse for a case of (denied) anxiety than a heap of new feelings, insecurity and a tiny lack of trust in a new love interest.
My anxiety quickly found a friend in its relationship counterpart.
The first four months of this relationship was like a rollercoaster and that was partly caused by my misunderstood and discomfort with anxiety. In a few weeks, I’m dedicating a whole week’s worth of posts to relationship talk. No doubt, I’ll chat more about this side of anxiety then.
Thankfully my relationship stabilised and after a bad seasonal job experience, where every shift felt like dread my financial situation wasn’t so gloomy – I could think about life again.
However, I didn’t seem to enjoy the new sense of freedom. I got a little agoraphobic (which is when you are afraid to leave the house – in my case I was scared to go out alone) and increasingly nervous in social situations. It was a struggle but I managed to keep my head above water and not fall back into any anxious funks.
As spring broke, my 20th birthday came and went and things started to get a little better. I had come to the conclusion that returning to the workplace wasn’t going to help me (at least not yet). What I needed was some entrepreneurial confidence, so I could support myself without the fear of feeling out of control, trapped or consumed in meaningless employment.
Whilst thinking up business ideas, I started to take care of myself a little more, starting to nurture my motivation and drive to do something more with my life.
A month ago I had a bit of a breakthrough with the heavy bouts of anxiety I’d experienced over the last year. I picked up the phone to an unknown number.
Six months ago, an unknown phone call would go unanswered, leaving me in fits of worry and panic that I’d forgotten about a bill, I was in some sort of trouble or it would just bring the reality that I felt so detached from the real-life world. But not anymore.
From that phone call, I attended and completed The Prince’s Trust Exploring Enterprise course, another massive step for me toward the life I want to lead.
Over this last year, the thing that has slowly but surely calmed and controlled my anxiety are the methods I’m about to detail below. My anxiety was once at a point where I didn’t want to leave the house, have any kind of online presence or even see my friends – oh how things can change.
Methods of Coping With & Combating Anxiety
My journey with anxiety has been best battled with the coping methods below. If you’re struggling with anxiety, feel you could be suffering from it or know someone who is, give these methods a ponder and take the first step to changing your relationship with anxiety.
Find Balance | Stop overworking yourself. Start investing in you-time, spend a balanced amount of time alone and in social settings. Move your body more (I love yoga), throw a few extra fruits and veggies into your diet, but make sure you pop to Krispy Kreme every now and then… balance.
Confide in Someone | Talk to someone when you need to. It’s understandable if this take time, but try to confide little by little in someone – it will help you talk through your feelings and help that person close to you understand.
Write Down Your Thoughts | Whether it’s in the form of a diary, a to-do list or just a few captioned doodles – writing things down helps you get your thoughts out and can help you make sense of them. When you’re head is spinning with all your self-imposed expectations, write a to-do list for the day. When you just feel disconnected from life, write a diary entry. Just write.
Push Yourself When You’re Strong | We all have good days and we all have bad days. On the good days, pushing yourself to do something a tiny bit scary or uncomfortable (it could be walking a different way home, or even smiling at yourself in the mirror) will strengthen you for the days where nothing seems possible.
Try to Switch Off | I wrote a whole post about this, which you can read here. The essence is to be stricter with work and play (all in the name of balance). Resting your brain will help it work better when it really needs the energy.
Take a Caffeine & Alcohol Break | Many sufferers of anxiety will notice the increase of anxious feelings when they’ve had a lot of caffeine (coffee, tea, energy drinks) or have drunk alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, so it’s actually scientific that it will bring you down rather than up – become mindful of when you drink. For example, I only drink when I’m in good, safe company and do not have a stressful next few days – whatever works for you!
Know You’re Doing Your Best | It’s human nature that what might have been easy one day, is painfully difficult another. On the days when anxiety feels all-encompassing and you feel like a prisoner, know that you can only do your best in that moment, on that day. Don’t put pressure on yourself when you know you might not succeed – do what you can, realistically, and feel proud of yourself – you did enough.
Coping with Anxiety is a journey. It is something that I believe everyone experiences at one point, at varying levels of intensity.
The worst thing anyone reading this could do, would be to accept your level of anxiety for the rest of your life. It can get better, it can be controlled and we can still live brilliant and beautiful lives (whilst being a little bit scared on the inside).
If you’ve badly struggled with anxiety recently, I strongly support you to implement some of the above coping methods. If you don’t know how, or just want to chat – reach out. I’m open to chatting if anyone would like to – sometimes it is easier to speak to a stranger, especially in times of extreme worry and panic.
I’d love to hear some of your personal journeys with anxiety – how you coped, how you’re doing and why you think it’s so important to keep talking about it. Comment bellow or connect with me on one of many social platforms.