There is a Health & Wellbeing Section on Live Lavishly for a reason. The reason is that I suffer with anxiety and I want to share some of my coping tips with my followers but I haven’t really gotten around to writing about it. This is because I find it hard to articulate anxiety when I am fine, which is most of the time, and then when I am suffering with anxiety, I don’t want to talk about it (I’m anxious!). I plan on sharing more though so bare with me.
My cousin, Susan, has recently set up her own blog, of which mental health is a key component. As you will read, she doesn’t find it hard to talk about or articulate anxiety and so I invited her to be the very first guest blogger on Live Lavishly! Susan has written these tips based on her own experiences as well as advice received from her doctor. I really hope this blog post helps someone. If you think it would, please give it an aul’ like and share on Facebook.
Managing Anxiety by Susan Colgan
As a sufferer of Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia, I know how debilitating anxiety can be. I understand how it can eat up your day, make you want to just lay in bed and do nothing. This is a form of avoidance, often a symptom of anxiety. It can sometimes feel like ignoring it and pretending it isn’t there is the best solution. However, this only worsens the situation and as a result, heightens the irrational fears associated with anxiety.Hope is not lost, there are little things you can do during the day that will lessen the burden of anxiety. There are forms of self-care that you can practice that can make drastic improvements in your mental health and wellbeing. These are some tips I have picked up along the way, recommended by doctors and psychiatric nurses, that have helped me and hopefully, can help you too.
I find that I feel most anxious when I am uncertain about the logistics of any given situation. If I don’t know the location of a meeting, if I’m not sure what will be on the menu of a restaurant, if I don’t know what I’m wearing to a party until the night of.
I’ve found that this type of disorganisation is a huge trigger for my anxiety. To combat this, I make sure to do my research so I always know what to expect. For example, I will use Google Maps the night before so I know exactly where I’m going and what route I need to take, I look up what type of food a restaurant serves and practise asking for my order, I’ll lay out my outfit for the next day before I go to sleep.
Some of this may be unnecessary for you as your anxiety may differ from mine, but organisation is key for anyone who suffers with anxiety. Leave yourself enough time in the morning to get ready, get yourself organised the night before so that nothing feels like a monumental task when you wake up.
When my doctors first recommended mindfulness and meditation, I had no intentions of trying it out. It sounded a bit airy-fairy and didn’t seem like something that would work for me. It was only when my aunt pushed me into trying it that I gave it a go. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I did.
Mindfulness is a technique used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is most often used to treat anxiety and depression. It involves taking ten minutes from your day to stop, breathe and relax. You can do it in the morning, on your lunch break or just before you go to bed.
I highly recommend the Headspace app. It’s free and available for Apple and Android users. Headspace includes different forms of mindfulness for any situation you can imagine. They have sections for exercise, eating, public transport and even flights. The instructor talks you through each step and I can guarantee that after one ten-minute session, you will be hooked.
Diet and Exercise
For good mental health, it is essential to maintain a healthy diet. Certain foods and drinks really do contribute to anxiety. Fried or processed food, food high in refined sugar and alcohol can significantly increase the effects of anxiety.
We all love the unhealthy stuff. For me, pizza and wine are my guilty pleasures. It’s completely fine to indulge now and again, as long as it’s eaten as part of a balanced diet. Try adding more fruit and veg into your meals, cut back on anxiety inducing caffeine, drink more water and limit how much fast food you eat.
Another way to relieve anxiety is to exercise. If gyms make you nervous, like me, don’t go. There are so many ways to stay fit that don’t involve a gym membership. Check out Carly’s post on amazing alternatives to the gym.
Anxiety can be caused by built up energy. Avoiding exercise will make you fatigued during the day when you need that extra energy, and restless at night when you need to switch off. Find a way, that suits you, to release that excess energy. Go walking, take a dance class or lift weights while you watch the soaps at night. Any form of exercise at all will do.
I probably have no right to tell anyone not to be on their phone or laptop just before bed. I’m awful for it. I’m often checking emails and planning essays (or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram) in bed right before I go to sleep. This means that when I finally do switch off and lay down, my mind is still racing and I’m wide awake.
It’s been scientifically proven that looking at bright screens (i.e. computers, phones and TVs) before you settle down for the night can wreak havoc on your sleeping pattern. The trick is to pick a time, about an hour before you need to sleep, and turn off all electrical devices. Instead, read a book, do your mindfulness or have a bath. Make yourself a hot cup of herbal tea and relax. This will make falling asleep a hell of a lot easier.
Sleep is so important. It’s probably the most important thing on this list for relieving anxiety. A good night’s sleep always makes for a better morning after. Aim for about 6-8 hours of undisturbed sleep.
Forgiveness and Self Praise
Taking steps to improving your mental health is an amazing thing. It takes courage to ask for help, to push yourself to get better. Putting time and energy into self-improvement deserves praise. Baby steps. Celebrate each small victory. You managed to go walking for 20 minutes? Incredible. You spoke up in class today? Outstanding. Recognize your hard work and give yourself a metaphorical (or real) gold star.
However, some days are better than others. Some days you might need to lay around the house, order a takeaway and do absolutely nothing. Like I said, anxiety can be debilitating. It’s tough. The worst thing you could do is beat yourself up over it. You need to learn to forgive yourself.
Through the support of my doctors, I have learned to treat anxiety like I would any physical illness (a tummy bug, a cold, an injury.) Because that’s all it is. I’m sick. I need to take steps to get better. I wouldn’t be so hard on myself if I couldn’t do something because I was sick with the flu. We need to be kinder to ourselves.
Don’t let a bad day turn into a bad week, a bad month, a bad year, a bad life. Pick yourself up and say, ‘You know what? Tomorrow will be better.’ Stick with it, don’t give up on yourself, you deserve better and remember…
Thank you for taking the time to read my Tips to Help Manage Anxiety. For more coping tips, click here. If you want to read more from me, you can do so on my blog, SusanColgan.Blog, and follow me on Facebook or Instagram. I mainly write about mental health, feminism and LGBTQ issues.