My life was becoming increasingly restricted due to having Generalised Anxiety Disorder, with a side helping of panic attacks and depression. I was saying no to social events, dreading travelling anywhere new, struggling with agoraphobia and even putting off going on holidays abroad. I was exhausted and barely sleeping, overeating yet completely depleted of energy. My brain was a mess.
Does this sound familiar?
As someone who has suffered with debilitating anxiety, I’ve compiled my ultimate list of techniques I use to tame and control my demons. I hope they are useful for you too!
Meditation — Introducing… the Headspace app This was my first step into the education of Mindfulness. The podcast type format allows audio classes full of techniques to quieten and distance a busy, fretful mind from painful thoughts that exacerbate anxiety or depression. These in turn break down into guided meditations of tailored, specific packs that you can download to target areas such as low self esteem or depression, that are well worth the small subscription fee! Get practicing regularly and feel reassured of the convenience of having this powerful, comforting app on your phone, wherever you go, for whenever you feel overwhelmed.
Knowledge – A thorough understanding of the various mental health conditions I have is very empowering. This knowledge made me feel less freaky, disconnected from my body and broken. I realised that the symptoms were common things that could be conclusively diagnosed and that there were actual explanations as to why these symptoms were manifesting in the bodily way I was experiencing.Take some time to really research and read around the symptoms and causes of anxiety. Ask your Doctor questions, discuss your symptoms, talk through in detail your issues with your therapist and buy a good few books. This particular book really really changed my life, it was recommended to me by my therapist and is incredibly resourceful
Say No – in a world full of super positive happy vlogger, bloggers entreating us to say a big yes to more opportunities and purported happiness, I would say fuck that. Learn to say no! Don’t let stupid FOMO win, I found if I kept forcing myself into situations that made me feel uncomfortable, it was setting me back, before I was ready and aggravating my anxiety. There will be other social events in the future and your good friends will understand. Be selfish and do what’s best for your brain. You won’t enjoy the night, you probably won’t be the most awesome guest and sometimes self love has to come first!
Hone Your Routines — The night before work, I make sure I’ve packed a lunch, laid out my outfit choice, have my train pass/purse/security access etc so that when I wake up I’m not rushing around sorting all of the above! It sounds really obvious but it is one less set of tasks to worry about, it starts my day off right, it stops the morning being flustered and ultimately ceases any anxious thoughts that are exacerbated by being disorganised.
Learn your triggers – Once your anxiety attack or particularly bad depression spell has hit, try to remember to take the time to write down what you think contributed to triggering it. When you’re in bed or fraught with a million thoughts whirling psychotically through your dizzy brain, this isn’t the easiest thing to commit to paper, but the more we learn about our triggers, the quicker we can identify them in the future and help prevent the percentage of anxious feeling or attacks
Pick a positive mantra – something that imbues trust, love, calmness, and/or positivity. It can be a line of poetry, a paraphrase piece from a political figure, lyrics, or a quote from your favourite fictitious character. There are times you need to close your eyes, to try and quiet the racing thoughts and quickening pulse in your chest, you can slowly focus on your breathing and gently/slowly recite your mantra to help centre yourself. I find that by focusing on my personal mantra, the repetition and breathing combined helps draw away/distracts me from my spiraling panicked thoughts and realigns the impending panic attack
Find someone to chat with online! – The charity Mind has an awesome forum called Elefriends and you can chat to individuals, reach out when you’re struggling and share mutual experiences. It’s basically like a large Facebook feed, but confidential! An excellent place to discuss mental health which I would really encourage you to try, its changed my life
Make a YOU board – I have a private board on Pinterest of what I want for a positive future. It is combination of my favourite quotes from literature, favourite actors and actresses, positive images, grey interiors and design, mouth watering food, country English homes, good book shelf porn, cute puppies… but also a culmination of what I want to ask the universe for in my life. It helps to look at the images to remind myself of what I want career wise and helps balance me. It also, most importantly, reminds me of what makes me happy in life. I also really enjoy adding to it and creating a virtual scrapbook of joy!
Work on one trigger at a time – My anxiety is compounded by a plethora of triggers, when I first started trying to work on them, I found it very overwhelming. I held myself to the standard of “FIX ALL THE THINGS!” and it wasn’t plausible. It was stressful and upsetting. I would encourage you to single out one small thing you want to work on and focus on that. Even if it takes a year, concentrate your efforts on one thing at a time, it sounds stupidly simple but stop trying to attack anxiety as one big monster. Pick off the scratchy little side mobs to break down that big boss, it will make the fight so much easier.
See a good therapist — It might take a while to find one that you click with or feel is helping you. I had a couple of sessions with different medical professionals, but when I started seeing my current therapist and it really changed my experience; my therapist speaks to me at a more mature academic professional level and I felt more respected and able to discuss mental health intellectually in a way that gives me so much hope for the future.
I’d be really interested to hear how you cope with your own mental health conundrums, what do you find is currently helping you?
Stay strong. Love and hugs,