Not just for Mental Health Awareness week, I have seen a real increase in how many people are talking about mental health problems, but also how they are being spoken about. (Apart from this blunder from Piers Morgan… You’ll always have one arsehole who doesn’t get it) In recognition of Mental Health Awareness week and it being about 9 months since I started battling anxiety, I thought I would write a post on how I have managed it all.
I wrote a post about my anxiety back in January and since I hit publish, I have been told time and time again by friends and people I’ve never met how insightful it was. There was also a mini victory moment, when a friend told me she had sent the post to one of the friends who had suffered with anxiety for year. She read the post and booked a doctor’s appointment. That was such a huge boost for me, so if this post helps just one person, I will be happy.
I think the biggest step for me was acceptance. I admitted to myself that I had a problem (a totally normal problem) and that I needed to address it. I think accepting that you have anxiety plays such a massive part in managing it, because it means you can embrace it, not fight it. Ultimately, I found that fighting the feelings make it all the more worse. If you are having a bad day, that’s fine, that’s the way it’s going to be today.
People’s experiences of mental illness are about as varied as they come. Which is why no one solution will work for everyone. I knew that for whatever reason, medication was not the one for me. And the fact I was offered meds straight up after having just one panic attack terrified me a little bit. When you’re so low that nothing feels like it will work, it is very difficult to find something you respond to. My solution was a combination of several things: self-help, NLP, lifestyle changes and a good support network.
Neuro-linguistic Programming helped me for two reasons. Firstly, my therapist explained why I was feeling the way I was, and made me feel totally normal. Secondly, she gave me some coping mechanisms for when my panic strikes or when I start to feel anxious. NLP essentially focusses on reprogramming your thought processes in a way that kind of turns those negative thoughts into more positive ones. I had two sessions of NLP, one in December 2016, and one in January 2017.
I had two sessions with an NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) therapist who made me feel like everything I was experiencing was totally normal. Which it was. These sessions were instrumental in giving me coping mechanisms which I still use now when I start to feel anxious. In combination with this, I also downloaded the Calm app on my phone which has a series of guided meditations for any state of mind. I try and use this daily, which really helps to get my mind focused. The one thing to bear in mind with self-help is that it takes time and practice to work. I persevered with it and I’ve definitely noticed a difference in my state of mind, even after just ten minutes of meditation, I’m calmer, more focussed and any feelings of anxiety are definitely reduced.
Lifestyle plays an equally big role in managing anxiety, and for me has been as important as the treatment. A combination of good sleep, diet and exercise was very important to me. Although anxiety tends to be one of those annoying states that robs you of sleep, or, you wake up after 12 hours still feeling exhausted, sleep is so key. The more tired I am, the more likely I was to have a panic attack. Armed with a good nights sleep, I had the energy and strength to face the day. Good sleep came a few weeks after I’d started meditation and NLP, so it all kind of fell into place after that. Then I had the energy to exercise more, which I now try and maintain a few times a week.
I always have a plan B, which I like to refer to as an ’emergency comfort zone.’ In other words, if I’m feeling tired, anxious or generally low on energy I take a step back from whatever I have planned and only do the things that matter. Sometimes, you just have to give yourself a break. I don’t use my plan B very often anymore, but it’s always there just in case I need it.
Finally. my support networks of friends and family has been incredible. I have been so grateful for the understanding, heart to hearts and acceptance of what I went through. Mental illness can feel like such an isolating experience, and I have felt so alone at times, but it is important to remember that you are never alone, there is always someone to talk to. My long term relationship ended with a big bump in March, and without that support I feel like my experience could have been quite different.
Anxiety is a weird weird thing. And I don’t think I still fully understand it. But I try not to over analyse it anymore. I just accept that it’s just the way things are. I haven’t had a panic attack since the beginning of December, I’ve had a few wobbles here and there but I’ve built the strength and energy to stop a panic attack taking over. When I look back at how I felt three months ago, six months ago and nine months ago, I have come so far. And coming out the other side is something that is so difficult to do, but by giving yourself time and taking each day as it comes, you make progress.
I hope you found this useful. I was very conscious of coming across preachy and stating the obvious, but I think it’s important to share experiences of mental health because it could help just one person. I don’t think there’s a ‘cure’ as such, but I have definitely learnt to manage it in a way that works for me. If you missed my original post about my anxiety, you can read it here.