This post is by far the most personal one I have ever written on this page - but for some reason, I am adamant to publish it. Mainly because I feel like more people should be open about this topic and also in hope that it could help someone out there in my shoes.
I suffer from anxiety.
and so do one in four people in the UK.
It's not exactly fatal although the panic attacks are not exactly pretty ...
but, its definitely manageable even though it doesn't feel like it most of the time ...
you just need the right tools and state of mind to get you through it ...
Read on to find out how I deal with it and for all of my tips that have put me (and now hopefully you) on the fast track anxiety free road to recovery.
As the eldest of four, I am (like many elder siblings out there) a natural over-achiever. I don't sit down and an average day for me begins at 6am and ends around 1 in the morning with non-stop grind through out. Academically I thrive, but its extracurricular activities that are really my forte.
While having such a hardworking and ambitious out look on life is rewarding and it has for the most part been a blessing and has led me to have so many amazing opportunities, it has also had some drastic consequences in my life ... anxiety being the worst.
Growing up, I was always an anxious child - I worried about everything and always made sure that everything I did was done perfectly, carefully, to the point, paying extra attention to detail and ensuring that everything was hazard free. Whether it was at school, at home or in the play ground I carried this attitude everywhere (I'm surprised no one noticed the budding lawyer within me then) and it largely shapes who I am until this day. In fact, many of my personality traits of which I can easily trace to having anxiety; are actually some of the most prized traits by my family, friends and co-workers. Ironic, but yes this is something that any anxious person can relate to. It's one of the reasons why anxiety as a mental issue, is not treated as seriously as schizophrenia or manic-depression for example.
While I do not want to go into detail into the depths of my experience with anxiety - I will admit that it fluctuates. Like many people, I tend to be most anxious at times of high stress e.g. during exam time, before results day, sometimes when I have to perform - however, it varies and sometimes it will be triggered by something that will seem so trivial to others. I would also like to note that unlike other mental health issues anxiety tends to be heavily overlooked due to the fact that its symptoms happen to everyone the only difference between a non-anxious person and someone who suffers from it is probably the frequency of 'being anxious' and the intensity of its symptoms.
3 years later I can proudly say that I am a lot less of anxious person than I have ever been before.
My 7 Fool - Proof Tips
Dealing with anxiety is a lot like taming a wild lion. You can either stand up to it, face your fears and use it to your advantage to make you even more successful by making it your best friend or... you could give in to the pressure, to that horrible overwhelming fear in the pit of your stomach and just take a rain check and spend the rest of your day (week) (months) in your bedroom staring at the wall. I've done both and trust me the first option is waaaay more rewarding.
Like taming a lion, it's hard work and you have to be consistent with your methods. But in the long term it's super rewarding and worth your effort. I always like to remind myself that 5 extra minutes planning, meditating etc is much better used than spent on the bathroom floor of a social event having a panic attack.
So without further ado let's begin!
Tip #1 - Avoid Caffeine : Caffeine is not your friend. It increases the adrenaline pumping through your body, as a result this intensifies your fight-flight reaction of which anxiety thrives on and boom *enter panic attack*. To get that extra caffeine related boost replace your cup of coffee with peppermint tea. This is a trick that I actually discovered during my first year at university to help me stay awake (and mellow) during lectures. Peppermint tea is super refreshing, has so many benefits and does the same job that coffee does in making you alert but without the horrible shaky feelings afterwards.
Tip #2 - Exercise : Get rid of that extra adrenaline by hitting the gym, going for a run or dancing! This is by far my favourite tip because not only does it do wonders for your body and long term health but moving your body releases endorphins (happy hormones) that fight that horrible pit feeling in your stomach by putting a smile on your face.
Tip #3 - Invest in a Planner: Feelings of anxiety tends to be triggered by events of which outcome is uncertain and usually stress. This is where planners armed with to-do lists, post it notes, special pens and calendars come in. Having a time management system of which you use religiously use, can do a lot to your life and mental wellbeing. For starters, it reduces that feeling of being overwhelmed and helpless. This is because when you have a planner (which you use!) you are in control as everything that you are worried about getting done or accomplishing in your life is written in front of you - this sends a subconscious signal to the part of your brain thats freaking out that everything is going to be okay and that you are wholly in control. Another thing that planners are especially useful for is hazard risk. With a planner at bay, you have the freedom and the time to pre-plan your exit strategy and how you are going to deal with any issues that you are anxious about. By preparing beforehand you are well on your way to living an anxious free life.
Tip #4 - Limit Social Media Use: Social Media has this horrible habit of making you feel like you ain't all that, by constantly allowing you to compare your failures with everyone else's success. It's programmed like that to make you addicted. Replace the time you spend on social media by watching a useful video on Youtube, spending time with your loved ones or reading a good book (or hey even better looking through your planner ;) ) - such activities are more useful and satisfying as they contribute in allowing you to improve yourself as a person and build stronger more healthier relationships and bonds.
Tip #5 Meditation & Yoga: Take a few minutes (30 minutes at least) per day to simply breathe and take time out from the galaxy. The world will not crash and burn while you're away - I promise. Switch off your phone, change into something more comfortable and put yourself in an environment thats more zen be it by playing Chopin or lighting candles and just spend time with yourself. Forget everything and focus on your breathing by meditating or practising yoga. It's bliss.
Tip #6 Start a journal or a scrapbook: Sometimes you will find yourself feeling anxious out of frustration that you have no one to talk to. Or if you do, you may feel like your feelings aren't serious or worthy enough to disturb someone else and worry them about your day. I have been there. Having a journal gives you the freedom to pour your heart out without anyone judging you back and it allows you to reflect as well by looking back at what you have written. How you choose to structure your writing in your journal is totally up to you in fact its one of the blessings of having your own private journal - its like you get to be the writer of your own world and you're free to take control of it and address it the way you want. I honestly cannot think of anything more beautiful or intimate than that. Although I have to warn you if you are not used to writing to yourself it will be a bit weird in the beginning but keep at it!
Tip #7 - SAM app: Download your own pocket sized counsellor using the SAM app. This is app is hands down one of the best out there - its completely free and it helps you fight your anxiety by doing the various tasks and exercises on it (watch out for the colouring one its my favourite !). It also gives you access into an online portal where you can mingle with other users who also suffer from anxiety - thus making you feel less lonely and misunderstood in the process!
Finally I would just like to say that the road to recovery from anxiety is a journey - but you can do it! Some days are better than others but that's life. The most important thing is consistency and making sure that you take care of yourself. It's okay to feel down sometimes. It's totally normal but don't let it get the best of you - take a day or two off if you need to but once you do make sure you wake up the next day ready to fight! Also please feel free to share any of your own tips with dealing with anxiety. I would love to hear from you.