Anxiety. Gosh, is another blogger really blabbing about anxiety?
I know. And I’m sorry if I sound like yet another broken record in the depth of the internet-sphere but this s***t is important. For some it’s the difference between having a life and really being able to live your life. At least I know that was the case for me.
Anxiety completely took over my life for what must have been at least 24 months out of my teenage years. It still pops up every now and then, because anxiety and stress in life is unavoidable, but I find I’ve certainly found better ways of understanding it and controlling it in my everyday life now.
I want to stress early on in this post that stress and full-blown eat-you-up-inside anxiety are two very different things. While stress over time can have serious physical and mental health benefits, it is more than losing your car keys, being 30 minutes late for your breakfast meeting and bickering with your spouse about how they never ask your day was.
Stress, alas, unless you have a team of life protectors around you constantly maintaining all aspects of your day, is inevitable. And anxiety is deeper.
The biggest roadblock to overcoming the severity of my anxiety was trying to understand just where it was coming from. You can learn more about all of the juicy details of that in my youtube video here.
If you think you’ve got to the root of your anxiety, then hopefully this post is something that can help you control it. Because I don’t believe in cures, nor do I believe it possible for anyone to be able to rid you of your own very specific and personal anxiety.
Be Kinder To Yourself
I can’t speak for anyone else, but from my personal experience, all of my anxiety was inward looking. Whether is stemmed from fears about how others perceived me, stress over whether I would meet expectations or be capable enough to thrive in certain situations, after a while it became clear that my anxiety was overbearingly self-critiquing. For me, it came to my attention when a counsellor I was seeing started asking me why I blamed myself so strongly for situations beyond my control. And it clicked. It’s something that has stayed with me since and I try to bring myself up on it whenever I feel tensions rising. Try to deconstruct the anxiety. For example, if my anxiety stemmed from how I’m perceived in social situations I ask myself: Is this situation preventable? Can I control other people’s personal perception of me? Does this situation reflect on whether I am a good or bad person? Do I have a duty to be liked by everyone?
Regain an Element of Control in Your Life
Control. The one this anxiety tries to deprive you of. This was such a pivotal point in me understanding that my anxiety was actually coming from somewhere. At the beginning it felt out of the blue and it took my years to actually realise that there was real anxiety under there. Until then I was baffled by my panic attacks and reassured everything that I felt fine and had no idea where this was all coming from. My fear of being out of control was hidden so well that even I couldn’t recognise it until the symptoms eased and I had enough space to distance myself and allow myself to look back in self-discovery. Whether it is controlling your breathing, scheduling random appointments (booking yourself in to go for coffee with yourself at 10am on a Sunday?) that simply make your life more structured or even starting a project of your own that you can be in charge of (I started my YouTube). It can be anything. But regain some strength and faith in yourself by re-asserting your control. Feel powerful! Whether it’s holding yourself accountable for your scheduled 10am coffee date with yourself or dedicating yourself to mindful breathing for 30 minutes straight. You can do it!
Cliched? yes. But, effective? HELL YES! This is not a ‘grab a coffee and unwind’-style instruction. No, anxiety is not so simply resolved. But rather, me stressing the importance of empty time. Empty time sounds like an over-complicated theoretical term but I think I just made it up, so I should probably elaborate. Empty time is not relaxation time or me time, it’s just nothing time. Time where my brain is numbed while watch trashy tv, or chit-chatting with girlfriends over coffee or wine, it’s the exact opposite. It trying to give my brain a break from everything. Now, meditation isn’t for everyone (I honestly think that it is, but some people cannot be converted for love nor money), but it sure makes empty time a lot easier. I can’t think of another way to silence my mind properly.
Life is hectic even in the most relaxed of times. But it’s vital to give yourself a break. A proper break. Rushing in from work, eating dinner and relaxing in my bed until bed, although it seems comforting, doesn’t quite give me the respite I need. Forcing myself to sit and meditate or practice mindfulness makes my day much more rigidly compartmentalised. My brain is silent (after a lot of practice) and my day is separated from my mind for just a few (20) minutes before powering back on with the background of my mind chatter. If you want to learn more about meditation then I’m thinking of doing a post on it soon. Let me know if you would like that!
Get Vocal About it
Do you ever chat with a friend about something that’s been bubbling under the surface for a while and realise that you only truly understood how you were feeling when you said it to them out loud? I had that recently and had another ‘ah-ha!’ moment. At the end of dinner with a friend a few months ago, we both sat back and realised how both of our problems had felt so insurmountable, but how just saying them aloud to each other help us both understand exactly what we were both going through (and how to go about changing it) so much better. Being open and vocal is so important for understanding how you feel in yourself, regardless of whether you are conscious of your feelings or not. Once you start opening up out loud, you too will start to pin point your emotions better.
If you aren’t ready to chat to someone close to you (or a professional), then start with yourself and work your way up. When I’m feeling insignificant or particularly low, I try and say positive things about myself out loud. I start with my eyes closed, and when it feels more comfortable, I open my eyes and progress to saying it in the mirror. How sad is it, that we can feel so uncomfortable giving ourself loving and positive messages to the point where we find it hard to look at ourselves?
Ride the Wave
Some things can’t be cured and while that’s one of the hardest parts of crippling anxiety it’s also the least likely to change. I had to ride the wave of my anxiety and stop trying to cure it, because it was a long journey that had to happen in order for me to progress positively. While it was one of the most difficult moments in the my teenage years, I couldn’t say now, that it wasn’t worth it in what it taught me (and still continue to learn) about myself. Trying to fix myself and find cures simply made my panic more hysterical and my fear even greater. I waited each day in anticipation of my next episode when it would have done me some good to simply ride the wave and understand that while I can’t change everything. I can hear your eyes rolling and I’m sorry, I know that it is easier said than done. Surrendering to my mind and my body didn’t mean letting it overpower me, but simply understanding that it was a part of my life. Being anxious about anxiety? Recipe for disaster. So ride the wave, and accept that some things for the time being are beyond your control and try as best as you can to value life outside of anxiety. Hence, this post centring around ways to cope and control rather than cure.
I hope you guys found this helpful. I love using my blog to really be able to write at length and carefully edit exactly what I want to say. Let me know if there’s any other advice posts you’d like to see. I love writing these and sitting down and really thinking through what I find helpful to implement into my daily life.
Let me know if you guys have any top tips on how you cope with anxiety. I’d love to know.