As some of you probably know, I’ve been dealing with anxiety and panic attacks since I was a teenager. Sometimes I go ages with nothing and then BAM! there it is again. I know lots of people will think well you’re alright, what’s your problem? etc… but anxiety and panic are not logical things and while most days I’m fine, other days it creeps up on me, sometimes for seemingly no reason at all and it’s very VERY hard to get past the anxious feeling. Other times the anxiety is related to an isolated incident like a crowd, a person, large crowds, feeling trapped etc… and I have a mini panic attack. Today I wanted to share some of my experiences and tips for dealing with anxiety to hopefully help some of you who may be experiencing the same thing.
Firstly, don’t be scared of talking about it. I was always brought up to believe you do’t talk about depression or anxiety in case people thought you were crazy and you couldn’t get a job or you were stigmatised in some way. As a grown up (ish!) I’m not afraid to admit I’ve had severe depression (about 5 years ago as some of you know) and anxiety and panic attacks which have become worse since then. Talking to people makes you realise you aren’t crazy or alone, others are dealing with exactly what you’re dealing with, however ‘together’ they might seem.
Also, letting people around you know whats happening and what you need them to do really helps. Disclaimer – some people won’t get it, they just won’t. My first reaction when I feel anxious or depressed is to disappear for a bit, I stay off the internet, don’t reply to texts or emails and ignore my phone. I like to stay in my little bubble by myself and I prefer it if noone talks to me and I don’t have to talk to anyone, I need to spend all my energy just calming down and getting through it. I’m very lucky that B understands this, he’ll leave me to go off and wallow on my own for a bit, have a nap or do what I need to do to get past this. But I’ve also had people close to me think I’m shutting them out, pushing them away or doing something to personally hurt them (all of which really doesn’t help as then I feel worse!) Try your best to explain to your nearest and dearest what’s happening and what you need and, most importantly, even if they don’t understand, do what you have to do anyway to take care of yourself.
Secondly, develop a self care strategy. You will get to know what you need to get yourself back on track. You might to sit in silence, escape somewhere, have a nap or a bubble bath or maybe a good cry and scream. Know what it is that helps you and as soon as you recognise the first stages of anxiety setting in, begin your plan – the sooner you do, the sooner it’s over. Don’t be afraid to spoil yourself, even if only for a limited time, curl up in bed with a book, order yourself a pizza, watch a soppy film (Movies24 have some great sentimental happy ones) whatever it takes to make you feel right again. This isn’t selfish, getting yourself back to your best is beneficial not only to you but to everyone around you.
Thirdly, breathe! I know this is pretty obvious but still, it’s good to remember, really focus on your breathing (it can be difficult, especially mid panic attack!) This is especially helpful to me during those one off incidents I mentioned. So, last week I went to Chessington and we queued for ages for this Rollercoaster, about halfway down the queue I realised there was no way out, the path was narrow, there was no route back, no exit gates, nothing I could do except stand there in the enclosed space with strangers and children all around me. Even thinking about this again now makes me short of breath! Firstly, I told my friend who was with me how I felt, just getting it out made me feel better. Secondly, I focused on breathing slowly, calmly and getting it back under control. Then I distracted myself, I chatted with my friend, played Pokemon on my phone, anything except look around me at where I was and the crowds around me. This distraction technique works great for me as it refocuses your mind.
Lastly, find an activity that helps you release your anxiety, my favourite two are long walks (without your phone, its the all important escape again!) and anxiety art journaling. This is a favourite of mine. Grab an art journal or sketchbook and pen. Start writing, literally write every thought that comes into your head. Whats bothering you, all of the what ifs and worst case scenarios going through your head, everything thats buzzing around inside. If you can’t put it into words, scribble and doodle until its all out and your head isn’t buzzing so much anymore. Next, pop down a craft sheet or some newspaper, put the book into the centre open at the page, grab some paint and throw it at the page, keep going, throw it, smear it around, use a brush, your hands, anything you have, until its all covered up. There, it’s all gone – Sounds mad, works like a charm! Being creative is a great way to release anxiety and to this day I credit that to my recovery from severe depression a few years ago.
Remember, you’re not ‘suffering’ with it, thats a choice, you’re dealing with it and you’re stronger than you think! I hope some of my ways of dealing with this help you or maybe just realising someone else is feeling the same way will make you feel less alone.
Take care of yourself
p.s. If you need more help, you can also contact MIND – To support my friend John Bloodworth, in the All Counties Craft Challenge in aid of MIND, the mental health charity, please click here for his Just Giving page.