What do you think of when you hear the word anxiety? For me, it is all about the apprehension and worry of something that is about to happen.
I’m sure you’ll have experienced it at least at one point in your life it’s a totally natural reaction to situations (think night before going back to school after the summer holidays or even going back to work after a break). There is that slight dread and feeling in the pit of your stomach or you just cannot stop thinking but it subsides, and you can rationalise what is going on.
Now what would you think when you hear about someone who suffers with anxiety disorder? Where every day can be filled with dread, fear, and tiredness to name but a few symptoms. Instant rationalisation is not a thing the tiniest decision takes forever and is played out until the anxiety finally subsides and yes you realise, well OK, I can do this.
I think I have always been a bit highly anxious throughout my life, but proper anxiety disorder kicked in last summer for various reasons. It was affecting me before I knew what it was eg I was feeling unwell and not sleeping properly. I went to see my awesome GP who listened, and we got to the bottom of it and so started my treatment. To start with I tried natural methods changing my sleep habits by not drinking caffeine after 6pm, walking more at lunchtimes and a bit of meditation using some apps on the phone. Will not lie to you all I am not the most self-disciplined – I will try things but, in the past, have given up easy on things. However I did keep up at least the no caffeine after 6pm and walking every day at lunch (that is such a much even during the rubbish weather I would find ways to go for a good walk about the buildings at work as they are mostly interlinked so you can do a good walk around the floors without leaving a building) Fresh air walks much better though for sure its good to just clear your head and get away from your desk. Nothing personal against folk at lunch I just needed my own space to clear my head ready for the afternoon ahead. I did keep this up for the whole year (until lockdown!) and would totally recommend it to everyone. Even just a short walk (I aimed for around 20 minutes at least).
I went through spells of trying the whole mindfulness/meditating but found it hard to properly get into especially with no guide bar an app. I am better if I am shown something in person then can go away and work on it and meditating takes a lot of effort for sure (well for me anyway) Why? Well I have a very anxious mind, and this means that it is constantly on. You have probably seen the meme “my mind is like a web browser loads of tabs open, a few frozen and no clue as to where the music is coming from” yup that sums it up well. A lot of it is totally irrational as well in fact 99% if not all is irrational, but it can take a while for an anxious brain to finally work that out after going through every scenario. By that I mean for example say I have a meeting – I’d worry about it for the day before and the lead up to it thinking of things that might not be right or if I’ve done anything wrong, then the meeting happens its all good and no worries at all during it (in the moment) but then after analysing every part of it and if I’ve said something wrong or daft. That is how anxiety works, and it cannot be helped. It is not just something you can snap out of and takes time for your mind to get to grips with the situation and rationalise what is going on. I was able to talk through a lot at work thankfully and did have a super supportive person who understood(well if they didn’t they at least showed they were bothered) the anxiety and was very good at listening and then helping me see the actual rational point without getting frustrated at me, as to why I couldn’t just understand it right away like most folk could. Anxiety really does cloud your thoughts and you can get lost in spending too much time thinking/overthinking about something that to most would be super trivial. It led me to a lot of second-guessing things that should just come naturally especially at work. Thankfully, I had that critical person who was able to calmly say yeah fair enough but look on the other hand really what is the worst? It eased things for me (maybe not for them having me to deal with) but overall kept me that little bit more grounded.
I undertook some CBT outside of work which helped me get to think about situations and break them down myself to understand myself more unfortunately that stopped due to the lockdown. It gave me enough though to make a start at looking at things a bit differently. Naturally, lockdown heightened the anxiety for a bit especially for going shopping. I was lucky enough to then get some help from Sandra Docherty who is a colleague from one of our other campuses and is trained in mindfulness. She was able to offer a couple of sessions on a one to one basis to try and help me find other ways to manage my anxiety. As I said before I had tried mindfulness before on my own but just did not get into it. However, I was open to trying and willing to give it another go. I want to try things and find something that works for me to help deal with my anxiety better in a way that is easy for me. So yes, I was a bit sceptical going into the first mindfulness session and was honest with Sandra however did say I am 100% in and willing to give it a good try. Really wasn’t sure but do you know within 10 minutes of talking I felt so at ease with her and talked a lot but have to say by the end of that hour I had really felt the benefit of it. We discussed a few things with some different exercises but the one that really got me was the mediation which was me just listening to her going through this lovely exercise of visualisation of different colours & different parts of the body and I felt quite emotional after that first one. It was a real game changer for me, and I realised that I should be doing this more. I had 2 further sessions a lot more talking and more meditations, but it gave me the boost I needed to do something for myself now that I properly felt the benefit of it. So much so that I created a little space in my bedroom to be my spot for meditating.
Another thing that was mentioned was scents and use of them to help calm in anxious situations – we had discussed my shopping anxiety and how difficult I had been finding that. So, it was useful to find a scent that I could put on a tissue or cotton pad and wear while shopping to help me focus on that rather than the worry. I had found some lavender oil I had already had so used that on a tissue the first time I went and just sat in the car for a few minutes extra before heading to the shop it helped me think a bit more calmly and I felt like I was a bit more able to cope with the task in hand. After that I purchased a bracelet that you can put the essential oils on to and I wear that each time I go out now to the shops just to remind me everything will be OK. I really am grateful for being introduced to this as it has been a great kickstart to me helping myself a lot.