Someone wrote to me recently asking about my anxiety since she, herself, was experiencing some symptoms. She wanted to know what has helped me, which got me thinking about my triggers and also the ways in which I have learnt to manage it over the years. I thought I’d share my response here in case it helps any other sufferers of anxiety.
For me, anxiety comes in different forms. Most common are a sense of overwhelm, the feeling of not being able to cope and a general sense of unease and worry that I can’t attribute to anything specific, i.e. there is nothing I am consciously worrying about.
I didn’t really experience anxiety until after my second child was born. I had a traumatic experience giving birth to her and I think this was probably what triggered my anxiety in the first place. Some six years later, it creeps up on me when I’m not expecting it and sometimes hangs around for months. More often than not I get bouts of it that last days rather than weeks or months, and I count myself lucky for that.
Here are a few practises that help me when the fog starts to set in:
I have a tendency to set myself unrealistic goals for what I should be achieving – in a given day, week or even year. This inevitably leads to overwhelm so setting fewer, more achievable goals for myself and ensuring they are within reach helps me.
We are bombarded by information, communication and physical, material stuff. Taking the time to strip the unnecessary out and simplify life down really helps when I’m feeling anxious. This could be decluttering, purging and organising our home, or taking things out of my diary to simplify my days down. It could also be simplifying meal prep by planning quick and easy, no fuss suppers into the rota. There are countless ways to simplify your life and all can help with overwhelm.
Yoga, a walk, a run, a gym class – whatever exercise you like doing, try to do more of it. Exercise gets the endorphines going and these really help with moods and mental health.
Connect with nature
Make space in your day to connect to the earth. For me this might be gardening, a walk, a cup of tea in the courtyard, even opening a window and taking in a few big lungfuls of air. When I connect with nature, I actively seek sensorial experiences – the sound of birdsong, the feeling of a wet leaf, the smell of a flower, sunshine on my face.
Get more sleep
Sleep is restorative. we need to rest our minds and our bodies. This can be difficult if you have young children who are wakeful in the night. Or, if like me, anxiety is actually stopping you from getting to sleep in the first place. If you can’t get the hours in at night try to plan a 20 minute nap in the day to recharge. And if you struggle to get down to sleep, build in a positive nighttime routine to help prepare your mind for sleep. (I’ll share more on this in another post).
Drink less alcohol
It’s a stimulant and a depressant, needless to say it isn’t great for your mental (or physical) health.
Cut down or cut out coffee
This was a game changer for me. A few people commented on an instagram story of mine where I shared I was struggling with anxiety and suggested I try this. I switched to decaf and it made a huge difference. I drink full caffeine when I’m feeling well but when I have an episode, I’ll only have decaffeinated since the caffeine aggravates my anxiety and makes it ten times worse.
Having adult conversation and company is so important. Humans need to connect, call a friend, make a date to catch up, talk, laugh and just be you.
Take your mind off things by reading a book or a magazine. Light a candle, diffuse calming oils. Take a bath. Do the things that you find relaxing.
This is a big one and it takes work but it is really important for me to practise this when I’m anxious. Let’s face it, life is busy! Between running a business, raising children, running a household, keeping on top of school commitments, birthday parties, swimming classes, seeing friends, making time for your partner, getting your MOT, keeping on top of life admin and all the other ‘stuff’, it’s hard to find time to take care of yourself. And as importantly, to hold empty space in your day. Quiet, empty space is vital for us to have time to process all the comings and goings. For us to just be and to just think. Say ‘no’ to the things you feel you don’t have time for or won’t bring you happiness. If it’s something you want to do but can’t work out how you can fit it in, suggest doing it when there is more time in your calendar or, indeed, life.
Talk to your GP
Make an appointment to go and see your local GP. They may prescribe medication, suggest CBT or counselling or they may run some tests to see if something else is going on that’s leading to you feeling anxious. Either way, if you are struggling with anxiety it’s worth reaching out to your doctor.
If you have any other suggestions on what helps you with your anxiety please do share them in the comments below.