Anxiety. I had it for years before I really even knew that I did. For as long as I can remember, there has been that knot in my stomach, the feeling of doom always lingering around me, the urge to keep control of everything. Anxiety overtook me as a teen, when suddenly, years of holding it together trhough school stopped and I just couldn’t do it anymore. Looking back, I can see the signs, wish I’d known or it had been noticed. So much may have been differnet.
Even before it had a name, anxiety was in control of my life. It stopped me from doing things I wanted to do, made me give up the place at drama school, made me quit jobs, college, lose touch with friends. My years of eating disorders and disordered eating were in part, a way to find control. Forever, I struggled with spontaneity, with going with the flow, with stepping out of my routine. Simply because the unknown made me so anxious.
It wasn’t until I broke apart when my marriage did four and a half years ago, that I finally acknowledged the anxiety for what it was. The first six months I was on edge, my normal had been shattered, and trying to adjust to something new nearly broke me. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I could barely function.
Slowly, I began to fight back. I realised I could give in, and let the anxiety win, or I could stand up and challenge it. IT wasn’t easy, baby steps were all I could manage – often two forward and one backward. Little by little I got there and clawed back control.
I decided that I was done with letting fear control my life. That I wanted to step into the drivers seat again, follow my dreams and just be happy.
What helped me beat anxiety
There were a few things that I did when I started to fight back, I think it’s a case of trying thigns and seeing what works for you.
Cut out Caffeine
When my anxiety was at its worst, and I was riddled with panic attacks, I came across an article about the relationship between caffeine and anxiety. I decided to cut it right out, and see what happened. The effects were honestly amazing, within days I felt calmer, less jittery, and on edge. My body felt less like it was waiting to take flight, and I started to sleep better. Four years on and I am still caffeine-free and don’t miss it a bit.
Exercise is my number one tool for looking after my mental health. However I am feeling, I know that a workout will lift my mood. I’m tuned in enough to myself now to know what kind of exercise will help the most. If I’m really anxious then yoga is often my best bet, though if I’m jittery and on edge then a run will burn off that anxious energy. Find whatever works for you.
Read, read, read
I’m a big lover of those ‘self help’ books. I love reading other people’s stories, and being inspired by what they’ve been through and overcome, reading tips and ideas that might help me. You can see a few of my favourite inspirational books here
Practised Self Love
When my anxiety and depression were at their worst, then I usually neglected myself too. I started making myself a priority, factoring in little things that made me feel good, that reminded me that I was worthy, that I deserved some TLC. A yoga class, a massage, a soak in the bath, a movie and a tub of ice-cream, a coffee date with a friend.
Mantras – I still have them all over my bedroom and bathroom. They’re a great way to start challenging the negative voice inside your head. Picking a key phrase such as ‘I am strong’ when you’re feeling anxious can help empower you. Here are 13 mantras to boost your self-worth
Sounds simple. But it was life-changing. When I’d feel that bubble of anxiety building up inside of me, I’d slow down and focus on my breath. Breathing in, long and deep, holding it and breathing out slowly, then holding before repeating. It instantly calms you down and gives your mind something to focus on other than whatever is making it anxious.
Mind over anxiety
The biggest change I made was my mindset. Deciding to step up and fight back, instead of being a victim was more than half the battle for me. Challenging myself, pushing myself, refusing to let my anxiety stop me from doing things. I felt the fear and did it anyway. Sometimes I failed, but more often than not I’d get through whatever it was and each little win boosted my self-belief and started to quash the anxiety.
I think I’m hardwired for depression/anxiety to be a part of me… it’s always there, in the background. The key for me is learning what to do that helps, when to listen to those feelings, when to tell them to get lost, when to reach out… I refuse to let them control anymore of my life any longer. They are not in charge of me