Coping with Anxiety

by - Thursday, November 19, 2015

A lot of people suffer from anxiety, and it’s quite a common subject in the blogger world. It always has and it probably always will. In no way, shape or form am I doubting that anyone who has the confidence to share their story of mental illness. But it’s quite sad that we live in a world where bloggers - who open up their lives to the world and tell their story with the hope of helping at least one person – gets judged for sharing that post. I think it’s disgusting how people assume bloggers (or anyone else for that matter) is lying or “making up stories” about having a mental illness. Any form of mental illness should not be judged, ignored or laughed at. Regardless of whether you can physically see it, it’s happening inside. It's happening inside my mind and it's happening in many other people's minds. Many of you will not know what it’s like to suffer from anxiety, how it affects an individual and what it feels like. And being honest, I am jealous of you. I would love to be able to just feel okay. I'd love to be able to not over think things or get worked up over the littlest things. I'd love to stop scaring myself and letting my inner feelings overpower me to the point that I am breaking down in tears. I'd love just to be okay and feel normal. It’s true when they say that you can never judge a book by its cover as you never know what people are experiencing on the inside, and I consider myself to be a prime example of that. 

For those who know me, you’d think I am confident. You think I am someone who doesn’t mind standing in front of everyone, all eyes on me being the centre of attention and generally being quite involved with groups. But if you know me, and I mean really know me, you’d know that I am petrified of everything. I get scared about the many things, I get worked up over something that may not even happen and sometimes end up having panic attacks. I have always been really embarrassed about how I feel and I don’t tell anyone that I am feeling anxious, stressed or even having panic attacks but instead I just try and pretend that everything is okay, because it’s easier for me to keep it to myself than to tell someone – even my fiancé or parents – how I feel in case they judge me, call me stupid and make me feel like I am over reacting, so instead I act over-confident because that’s my way of dealing with it, whilst inside I am screaming or getting worked up, I try to calm myself down on the outside as I definitely think it helps keep my cool on the inside.
For many months now, I have been having stronger feelings of anxiety and been having panic attacks inside, with so many thoughts and scenarios going through my head I have been getting myself so worked up, to the stage that I am having to take a time out on my own just so I can breathe and tell myself everything is okay. My friends and fiancé wonder why I have been “excluding” myself from socialising with friends or doing little things with groups of people that I know, but the truth is, I’ve been screaming and worrying inside and I can’t stop it. More recently I have been keeping myself to myself, I’ve been trying to take time outs by just spending time on my own doing things to take me out of situations where I feel anxious. I’ve also been spending time with less than a handful of friends because I feel comfortable in doing so. It’s not that I don’t like my other friends but I know that I have been excluding myself from them also, and I think that's down to me feeling insecure or worried about how I am going to re-fit into the group because I've excluded myself for so long.
I’ve noticed the feelings of anxiety more recently (probably because it was coming up to when I got married - you can read more about that here) - and I have not been sleeping well either as I have a zillion thoughts running through my mind of potential what if’s and then getting worked up about scenarios of things that haven’t happened and probably won’t happen. It’s got to the stage where it’s actually affecting me, I am constantly exhausted at work because I am not sleeping properly, I’ve not been in the mood to do anything, even simple things like me and my fiancé walking our dog together or going out for dinner with friends. I feel bad that I am excluding myself but I have been doing a lot of things that are currently out my comfort zone (like my surprise hen party – screaming inside) so I have been trying to let myself get out of doing other things because I feel I am balancing situations to try control my inner feelings.
It’s got to the stage that I grew balls to go and speak to a doctor - although I was absolutely petrified, my hands were clamy and shaking, I was so nervous with butterflies and I started to feel queezy, but I knew I had to at least try - considering I was at the doctors for a separate issue, I was surprised when the question actually came up about “how have you been feeling”. The doctors had asked me questions about my life in general and then mentioned to me about stress and anxiety being a contributing factor to my other issues (heart burn, acid reflux and shooting pains in my arms), because I have been experiencing these issues a lot more recently which they think is related to my wedding and have told me a few things how to cope and control my anxiety. They also think it may have been due to my childhood, as I was bullied a lot when I was younger which they think contributes to me feeling nervous in some situations.
I was bullied from the age of around 11 until I was about 18 and the little digs didn’t stop then. I have the most amazing parents (no, really I do!) who have always supported me, but because of the type of job family members had, it means that my parents were a little stricter because they knew the “dangers” of the world and knew what might have put me in a bad situation. Which they think could be a contributor to why I feel so anxious in certain situations, as always think something bad is going to happen and (literally) always look over my shoulder. Being honest, despite it being a scary experience at the doctors, I do feel a lot better about getting things off my chest and speaking to someone who doesn’t judge and is there just to help. Let’s hope when I go for my review in a months time, that things have started to improve.

Although most of my panic attacks happened before my 20's,  I do still have them occasionally. The problem with any form of mental illness is that I don't think it ever goes away. But since meeting my fiancé, my anxiety has not been as bad and I haven’t had many panic attacks. But that isn’t to say that I don’t have them, just not a lot of people know. At first I didn't know how to explain it as I thought it was me being nervous or scared, but after a few you slowly recognise the signs of a panic attack, and you can start to learn to control them. When I am feeling anxious or like I may experience a panic attack, I change my breathing. I take slow deep breathes, sometimes sip water to cool me down and I have found that going outside, or even looking up above me helps me feel less secluded. Just taking a moment for yourself, reminding yourself that you are okay and giving yourself some space is just what you need.
Anxiety is actually hard to define, but in layman’s terms, it is having a feeling of dread, worry and concern or feeling nervous and uneasy. For me, anxiety means that I have a strong fear that something bad is going to happen and sometimes gets me worked up. Anxiety means that your body goes into “flight or fight” mode (read more about this on Mind) which is our bodies way of helping us protect ourselves from dangerous or life-threatening situations. Your body releases a kick of adrenaline which can help you physically prepare fight the danger by acting faster and making your heartbeat faster. But, when you are not in a situation where you need to physically fight or flee from the danger, our bodies natural response to feel threatened is still the same. The term, “has a mind of its own” in this situation is true, as we have no control over this. Panic Attacks usually come following feeling anxious, the usual symptoms include heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and feelings of unreality. I have started to recognise the symptoms that come when I have a panic attack. If you imagine the feeling of having butterflies in your tummy, but in your legs and your arms, it almost feels like pins and needles but not quite. I feel my heart racing and like I can feel the adrenaline rushing through my body. My breathing changes, my chest feels tight making me take bigger breathes, my heart is beating extremely fast like when you've finished a run and I start to feel extremely hot, light headed and sometimes off balance.

Those who suffer from anxiety and/or panic attacks may tell you different things. I am going to share with you how I deal with anxiety and panic attacks. But the truth is, there isn’t a set routine to control your anxiety and panic attacks. You have to try new things to see what works for you and what you find comfortable. Mind charity has so many different tips, many of which I have found extremely helpful, and you can just try a few and see what helps you.
When I binge eat, I start to dislike myself. Eating healthy I find release endorphins which make you happy. Having a balanced diet or a healthy lifestyle can go a long way to having a health mind. I try to eat a lot of brain foods like fish, whole bran foods and green vegetables. I can’t really say why this works as I don’t know, but for me eating healthy goes a long way in making me feel healthy and makes me feel a lot more positive, and can reduce the feeling of anxiety.
Figure out what makes you relax, whether it be treating yourself to a massage to having a hot bubble bath with your favourite songs, streaming a million and one episodes of your favourite series on netflix or even sitting and reading your favourite book. Whatever makes you relax and escape from the world, do it. I have always been a little crafty and those Adult Colouring Books are extremely therapeutic and help me relax and calm down. If you haven’t already, I definitely recommend picking a couple up and see how you get along.
Okay, I don’t always follow this as much as I’d like to. But exercise helps relax the mind, I don’t know why but it does. Relaxing classes like swimming or yoga are really good just for escaping. Also going for a good run helps get things off my chest as I feel that going for a run, even for 10 minutes helps get rid of any negative energy and generally just makes me feel a lot better.
Talking to someone always helps, whether that be a family member, friend, doctor, partner or even someone online (e.g. forum) whoever you decide to speak to, I have definitely found talking to someone helps. I haven’t quite felt comfortable speaking to my family or fiancé about how I feel inside as I get worried about what they may think, but my best friend who also sometimes suffers from anxiety is a great support and is fantastic at just listening and also I have finally plucked up the courage to speak to the doctor who surprisingly was a great help and made me feel at ease.  
It might sound a little cliché, but you are the best person to control your mind and to help get yourself better. There are a million and one different techniques, but there is no guarantee that all will work for you.  But what you can do is remain positive, and try. Try as many different techniques as you can and find what works for you. There are also so many apps now that are designed for you to help yourself cope and manage anxiety and other mental illnesses, 
I am still trying to find my cure of anxiety but I know that by doing these steps, slowly and surely it puts my anxiety at ease. I am determined to try as many 'natural' steps as it takes to control my anxiety as I am reluctant to try the "medicine" that doctors recommend for anxiety as they are basically anti-depressants (and I don't feel depressed!)
 If you know someone that suffers from anxiety or you suffer directly, please feel free to leave a comment below or email me to discuss further.

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