Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Understanding and Managing Anxiety

Over the recent week I have found myself struggling with my anxiety, so I thought for this weeks blogpost I should talk about understanding and managing anxiety, finding ways to help overcome it.

Just to pre warn you I am in no way in any shape or form an expert on this topic - this is from personal experience and what I know helps in my situation.

If you have never suffered from anxiety, or you're just unfamiliar with the concept, I would describe it as the butterfly feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when waiting for something, but not in a good way... I often struggle with anxiety at large social events and situations that are entirely new to me. The experience of anxiety will vary from person to person and no two people will react entirely the same or to the same thing. However possible symptoms can include confusion, sweating trembling, rapid heart beat, avoidance behaviour, dizziness/faintness, difficulty breathing, irritability, nausea and restlessness.

Personally, I constantly feel on edge expecting the worst. I have a tendency to "attempt" to distract myself and avoid interacting with people including my friends and family as I don't like people I care about seeing me that way. I go numb and lose the ability to do most normal things. Despite all this, the worst part (most definitely for me) is the fear of a panic attack. The daily frustration of 'anxiety and stress' was at one point ruining my life. It was taking away so much of my capability and I honestly felt that it would never go away.

Nowadays I feel as though I am coping much better. I still suffer from panic attacks if things get on top of me or in certain situations, but the most important thing is that they're as not as regular as I am finding plausible and effective ways of preventing them. This topic is one the main reason why I started my blog. I wanted to help prevent anyone else from going through the pure intensity of suffering from anxiety. So all in all, if this blogpost helps just one person alone, I'm happy!

A Healthier Lifestyle

I know this can sound strange as it is supposedly the answer to everything, but all aspects of having a healthier lifestyle can really make a world of difference!

We all know what this means; reduce your daily intake of fat and sugar and eat more fruits and vegetables. This doesn't necessarily mean cut them out all together, just balance your meals and consider what you are putting into your body. This also doesn't mean your meals need to be bland and boring either, simply have a gander on the internet and in no time at all you will find a variety of new, fun recipes to give a try (I do it all the time). Water is also a great factor in having a healthier diet. I have been drinking water as a substitute to drinks such as orange juice recently, and I can already see the difference in my skin because of this. Honestly, this simple method has made me feel significantly better in all aspects.

Additionally to a healthier diet, achieving an all over healthier lifestyle also consists of getting out and about. This doesn't have to be extensive amounts of exercise, as the aim of this is NOT to lose weight! You just simply have to get your heart pumping! Many studies have shown that daily exercise is an excellent form of anxiety treatment, as it reduces the stress hormones and replaces them with the 'feel good' hormones. The exercise you do doesn't necessarily have to be conventional either. Join clubs, take your neighbours dog for a walk, go for a run with friends, or if you just want to be on your own, plug in some headphones and move in any way you want! Anything fun that interests you will help your anxiety levels.

Personally, I take my dog out at least twice a day up to the woods near where I live. It's a great way I often deal with stress as the fresh air and easy exercise is deeply relaxing. I also try to do a workout three to four times a week but if like me you struggle with forms of social anxiety and can't get to a gym, there are plenty of options to do this at home. I use Anna Saccone's workout videos that you can find on youtube. They can easily be adjusted to how much exercise you are capable of doing and are well explained so it would be hard to fall behind... plus the Sacconejoly's are my favourite youtubers!

Overall, feeling comfortable with your body can have such a positive impact on your anxiety, and improving the lifestyle you live is one of the constructive ways I have found of effectively managing it.


Relaxation Therapies

There are multiple relaxation therapies such as massages, yoga and meditation that can really help with anxiety by releasing more of those 'good hormones'. As well as being incredibly relaxing and soothing, they have other amazing benefits to your overall health which help your body deal with stressful situations, therefore preventing panic attacks. Personally, I also think this is another positive and fun form of distraction.

Also, breathing exercises (as shown here are a fantastic relaxation therapy. Whenever I am stressed or things are just a little too much, I always stop what I am doing and breathe. When a person is under stress, shallow, rapid breathing is typically part of the response and this overall makes the physical symptoms of stress worse. By simply breathing in a slow, gentle and even manner it helps to control your nervous system and encourage your body to relax.

What's more, whenever feeling at all stressed or anxious, always put some time aside in your day to have some well earned you-time! Spend some time relaxing the way you relax the most, whether it be hanging out with friends, running a bath, reading a good book or watching reruns of your favourite TV series insert sherlock theme tune here...



Another way I often manage my anxiety is through the use of technology. Over recent years I have downloaded plenty of apps to my iPhone, however the two that I have the found most helpful are Calm and rain rain

Calm is an interactive app where you can learn the basics of mindfulness and meditation through guided meditation sessions. You simply plug in your headphones and press play. Also, this app has multiple built in immersive nature scenes so you can chose a background and sound that will help relax you the most. 

Similarly, rain rain is a simple and easy to use app that allows you to play natural sounds such as a rain storm, rain on a tent, city rain, forrest rain... you get the gist! Personally, a good rain storm relaxes me the most so sounds like these come in very useful. One of my favourites has to be rain on a tent as it reminds me of being a child on a not-so-sunny British holiday, in a warm sleeping bag listening to the heavy rain on the side of the tent. Another thing I love about this app is that you can set a sleep timer, so if you have trouble sleeping you can easily play rain rain for an hour or so without the worry of it running down your battery once you have fallen asleep. I would definitely recommend downloading this app!

Lastly, using the internet in general can massively improve your anxiety. There and so many websites that I have come across in the past that have helped me understand what anxiety is and how I view it. Alongside this, there are plenty of group chats or social networking sites that have users that have been through similar symptoms or situations. If this doesn't suit you as much, my inbox on all my social media is always open! 

From personal experience, I know that making the first move and talking to someone is a big step. The first person I talked to was anonymous via wattpad and all I knew was that she had been suffering from anxiety and depression for the last six years. Madeline helped me gradually build up my confidence to tell someone I knew how I felt (even though my parents had already sussed it out). In the beginning we spoke only about our anxiety, but after a while we often talked about both our diverse lives including college, friends & family, boyfriends, what we loved, what we aspired to be - she even taught me Australian slang! The Aussie was absolutely bonzo! Oh I'm such a drongo... Either way, not only did Madeline play a big part on my road to managing anxiety, but has also become one of my closest friends.



Finally, keep away from the people who belittle your ambitions, small people always do that. Once you learn how to be happy, don't tolerate people who make you feel anything less.

Surround yourself with people who have dreams and desires and ambitions and who can push you into achieving just as much. 

Surround yourself with people who make you the better version of you without trying to be anyone except yourself!


End Note

As you can tell, I have been avoiding one thing that might get recommended to you by your GP/doctor and that is some form of medication. If you have tried many suggestions such as the ones above I would encourage you to start counselling. If you are still a student (whether you attend secondary school or university) there is always an option to have counselling through the school as that is what I did last year. However, I know this can be an issue if you no longer attend a school, as applying through the NHS (unless you go private) can end up being an extremely long waiting list.

If this does end up happening, there are some medication options that can help you cope in the mean time, but I strongly recommend talking to both your GP/doctor and parents/guardians as this is a big choice. Sometimes when my anxiety is extremely bad I take a prescription called Propranolol as it helps to relax me and tends to prevent panic attacks. However if you do go down this route it is so important not to become to reliant on any medication such as this prescribed.    

As I said earlier, I am no way in any shape or form an expert on anxiety, but all my suggestions above have truly helped me. I feel like a more confident, lively person and I suffer from far less panic attacks. 

I guess all I really want to say is please don't isolate yourself. There are so many options out there, from people to talk to and websites discussing ways of effectively dealing with your anxiety. Nothing is black and white; you can make the world into anything you want it to be. You only have one life, so don't let your anxiety rule it.

• the purpose of life is a life of purpose •

I hope you enjoyed this extremely long oh my days blog post. If you have any questions or suggestions or would just like someone to talk to don't hesitate on leaving a comment.

Lots of love,

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