At the beginning of this year, I promised myself that I would tackle my anxiety head on and just deal with it. Now, this may sound a bit redundant as anxiety isn’t something that just goes away. There are peaks and troughs and it probably never truly dissipates. That being said, attitude is everything so here are some thoughts and tips on dealing with anxiety in 2017.
One of the best quotes I have read about anxiety recently is this…
“Interrupt anxiety with gratitude.”
I saw it on Pinterest and loved it so much that it went straight into my bullet journal. All swirly handwriting and fancy colours. I really wish I knew who said it originally, please let me know if you do. The idea that anxiety is some bastard thought process that you can interrupt by appreciating what you have is something truly brilliant. Almost like some negative acquaintance that won’t shut up until you ‘kill it with kindness’. That’s another good quote right there.
Tools to work through anxiety.
Five years, a lot of trial and error and varying degrees of effort have led me to discover a few things that have really helped to change my attitude towards my ‘anxiety diagnosis’. Now I put this in quotes, not because I don’t take it seriously, I have unfortunately been in some pretty sticky situations due to physical reactions caused by anxiety. I put it in quotes, mainly because as I get older and understand myself more, I try not to take it too seriously. Ironic I know. Here are the things I find help:
1. Write down something you are grateful for.
Every. Damn. Day. – I use my bullet journal gratitude log for this. This helps with the whole attitude thing I just mentioned. It is much harder to let yourself worry about the bad if you can recognise so much good.
2. Write down your feelings.
On paper, online, offline, wherever helps. Write that sh*t down. It will get your thoughts in order and help to put them into perspective.
3. Feel the panic attack.
Feel the heat rising, the adrenaline pumping all the horrible tingly feelings. Acknowledge it, move past it, then do the thing anyway. It will only get worse the next time you try to do it if you don’t do it now – and make sure you replenish your sugars.
4. Say yes more, but also learn to say no sometimes too.
Get comfy in your decisions and embrace them. Push yourself to do things and you will get used to them, but don’t feel beholden to what other people think you should be able to do.
5. Laugh and be kind to yourself.
Have a ‘me day’ if you can, though I know not everyone has that luxury. If you don’t, then try to find humour in the little things. Do a silly dance, watch a funny youtube video, tell your colleague a really really bad Dad joke and then laugh at your own joke. Even if the laughter doesn’t lift your heart or distract you for a little while, at least you’ll have had an ab workout. Speaking of which…
6. Exercise exercise exercise
The more physical activity you do, the less weird it will be when your heart starts pumping at 100mph.
“Oh well, I’m used to feeling like this when I run/dance/swim. A party/work/car isn’t the most convenient time for my heart to decide to do some random cardio but it isn’t going to kill me… therefore I am okay and it will pass.”
These tips are not always the easiest to do, especially if you are feeling particularly vulnerable. If that is the case, then this article 12 Ways to Ease an Anxious Mind by Amie Hayward is very helpful! Then move onto the tips above.
Anxiety and the media.
Anxiety and its many forms have garnered a lot of media attention in recent years, which I have found to be both a good thing and a bad thing.
Good in that for those who have struggled to get others to understand what they are going through, there is now a better platform to stand on and a lot more people to listen. Whether that is an individual online that they look up to or a friend or family member who saw an article on the news. Open discussion, communication and less taboo is never really a bad thing – as far as I’m concerned at least.
However, it has also been a negative shift for me. I feel as though since the whole idea and existence of ‘anxiety’ has become so widely spoken about, it has also had even more of a negative association attached to the validity of it. Every second person now seems to have some form of anxiety or other. Maybe they do, though I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. We live in a world of constant engagement, that it is difficult to switch off from. It does make logical sense that anxiety and other mental illness is affecting more and more young people.
Where do you draw the line?
The problem, though, is where do you draw the line (if at all). Now I am playing devil’s advocate here, putting my thoughts in writing as a way to collect them, wondering if anyone else feels the same. I worry that the lines between very rational thoughts and feelings such as being nervous to speak in public, feeling a bit queasy before an exam or occasionally feeling overwhelmed. These have suddenly been catapulted into the limelight and this definition of anxiety. That there is no longer a separation between a medically diagnosed health issue and a self-diagnosed information overload.
In my experience, anxiety breeds anxiety. The more you think about it and analyse it, the worse it can be. You stop seeing a perfectly ‘normal’ reaction that is part of our human nature, as being well, normal and instead begin attaching labels to it. What is with all the labels anyway? I guess that is a whole other topic of conversation!
So if this is the case, how do we deal with it?
The more we attach these labels, the more we believe that they must be true. It is not our fault, we cannot control it and every little thing will cause this physical or mental reaction. This then makes us feel scared and fatigued, less inclined to be comfortable in our thought process and lacking confidence that our (very biologically capable) body can handle stressful situations. Hence, anxiety (or the idea of anxiety) has defeated us once again. Yes, it can be debilitating, and yes it can creep up out of nowhere, but it doesn’t always have to. It is great to have people to relate to, again it’s something that is in our nature to seek out, the issue arises when we don’t even try to push ourselves.
If we are feeling ok, but we don’t use that opportunity to push past the labels and look inwards at how we feel as individuals, then we will never be able to break past the small things that knock us down at our worst.
One last thought…
I guess what I’m saying is don’t allow society and information overload to let anxiety be your excuse if it doesn’t have to be. Take in information and opinions, but at the end of the day, the only opinion that truly matters when it comes to your health is your own.
Thank you for making it to the end of what was probably a bit of a rambly post.
Now obviously my opinions and thought processes are just that, my own. I am always open to hearing other views and thoughts on the matter. These are just some of mine, based on personal experience. Everyone is different and that is what makes this such a complex issue.
If you do relate to this in anyway, then I hope it has helped you feel less alone in your thoughts. If you want to let me know your opinions then you can reach me on Twitter or any of the ways on my Contact page.