Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Life: 25 Things To Do When You Feel Anxious

25 things to do when you feel anxious

I'm going to be honest - I had a very rough day on Friday. I'd just wrapped up a recipe post, ready to go out in April (yes, I'm that ahead) and the whole time, I was struggling with my anxiety. I had been all day. It's the worst feeling, both mentally and physically. I ended up going through the motions - my brain was in overdrive, reminding me of all the ridiculously embarrassing things I'd done recently (and, um, back in the day...), my body was tense and tingling, I felt like crying. Anxiety can be, quite frankly, a very tough beast to tame. And, battling with your own mind, whether that's 24/7, occasionally, or during stressful times, is one of the hardest things you can ever do. And you are doing the best job you possibly can, so please don't be too hard on yourself.

I wish I didn't have to say this, but I have a lot of experience of coping with anxiety. I had my first anxiety attack when I was thirteen, which was far too young and extremely frightening. Muddling through your teenage years is hard enough, but trying to muddle through it with an anxious brain was even harder. It's taken years of experience, trying different things, and patience to get to a point where my anxiety isn't as awful as it was back then. And I want to share a big old list of things that you can try, when you're feeling anxious, that might help.

1. List it - work out the physical symptoms (where you're holding any tension, shortness of breath, wanting to move through tasks a lot quicker than usual), what's going on in life that could be causing your anxiety, and what you're currently thinking about. Write it down and try to imagine the anxious feelings disappearing as you add each thing to the list.

2. Do something boring - I forced myself to do the ironing this morning due to all the excess energy I had... the flight or fight response being used in a completely different way, but there you go. The housework is ridiculously boring, my brain was still being annoying, but the monotony gave me something to focus on.

3. Write something - Writing, for me, is always a good idea. When first going through the throes of anxiety, I started a diary, where I wrote absolutely everything down - all my feelings and teenage stuff too. It will feel weird at first, but promise yourself that no one else will see your words - this helps to build the trust between you and the page. Treat it as a kind of catharsis, where you get to spill your heart and soul everywhere and allow the anxious feelings to sit in a notebook instead of in your head.

4. Talk kindly to yourself - In the beginning, I was really hard on myself and said some truly awful, mean things to myself in a bid to make the anxiety stop. It was definitely the wrong move, because it left me with some pretty low self esteem. However, I can see that my anxiety and my self are two different things completely. Be kind to yourself, because you are coping so ridiculously well. Tell yourself these things, that the anxiety will be over soon.

5. Call a stop to it - Like I said above, my anxiety and my actual self are separate from each other - as long as you know this, you are absolutely welcome to internally scream at your anxiety and tell it to stop. Just a short, simple "STOP!" has been really effective for me. Answering it back is also effective if you feel brave enough. "So? I'm not scared of you." Try it.

6. Eat and drink something - Especially if you've not eaten or have drunk any water in a while. Often, the act of preparing that cup of tea or finding a Twix bar in the cupboard, and consuming it, can take the edge off the anxiety. It's distraction, and it works.

7. Walk around the house - even if it's to another room. I like to imagine my anxiety is shaking itself away just by me moving around.

8. Go for a walk - it doesn't have to be far. Just wrap up warm if it's cold. If you can, try and take in what you can see, hear and feel. Extra bonus points if you bring your camera with you.

9. Try a mindfulness app - I know, I know, this is the sort of advice people could find patronising. If you do, I apologise in advance. I know that stuff like this doesn't always help. However... I've found using an app really useful, especially if you've practiced it a few times before any anxiety strikes. My favourite app is Stop, Breathe, Think - each meditation has the same beginning so I find myself relaxing within the first thirty seconds. It's not all twenty minutes of Om, either - many of the meditations start at a minute so it's easy to work your way up.

10. Know your triggers - It's taken a lot of hindsight for me to realise what triggers my bouts of anxiety. For me, these things include going to unfamiliar places or new experiences, and fatigue from travelling. (Amazingly enough, I love travelling, but the extreme fatigue at the end of the day has been known to start it) Have a think about what might be setting your anxiety off and have a further think about ways you can prevent it from happening again. For example, unfamiliar places - search for it on Google and find as many pictures and reviews as you can so that you feel prepared. Tiredness - take regular breaks and bring something comforting from home with you.

11. Do something ready for later - get tomorrow's outfit and breakfast sorted or do something you'll know you won't be rushing in a hurry to get sorted later on.

12. Swaddle in a blanket - get the softest, fleeciest blanket known to man, lie down on your bed, and swaddle in it. Don't swaddle it too tight, but wrap yourself up so that it feels like a hug. Take some deep breaths and try to shut your eyes for a bit if you can.

13. Complete a colouring book page - Colouring books have been said to reduce stress and anxious feelings, and although I was sceptical at first, they do have an effect on your mood. I don't know what it is - I think it's the scratching of the the colouring pencils on the page and trying to keep within the lines - but there's something in it. Colouring books are everywhere on the high street and they don't cost too much either - usually under a fiver. Have a look on Google for printable colouring book pages, too.

14. Create something - originally, I wanted to say knit something, but I know from experience how hard it is if you've never done it before. I've not done it in ages, but I do remember that the same repetitive action can be hypnotic and distracting enough. But having said that, creating anything from start to finish (from knitting to painting, writing to baking, and everything between) can be extremely satisfying and can give you something to focus upon.

15. Do some research - pick a subject you're interested in, something that's possibly a bit out there (hello, finding out which Now! album was around when you were born) or you just don't know enough about. Be nosy! Wikipedia usually has all you need to get lost down a rabbit hole for an hour or two.

16. Look ahead - If you can, get thinking about the stuff you have planned in the next few months. If you've not got anything in mind - get planning. Go online, look at places to visit. Find yourself something to look forward to.

17. Snuggle an animal - I adore dogs but don't own one, so spotting one walking down the road, or meeting a dog on a walk (and getting to stroke them) usually makes me happy. If you do own a dog (or a cat, or any kind of creature that likes company) give them a cuddle! Failing that, get on Instagram and seek out adorable animals just doing their thing.

18. Try a remedy - I don't do this often but when the anxiety is really bad or I need to calm down quickly, I put a few drops of Rescue Remedy on my tongue. Although it doesn't take away all of the anxiousness, it does quieten it a bit, and once I am calm, I feel like my insides are glowing a bit. That sounds weird, but true.

Bubble fun

19. Read - in times of feeling rubbish, go for an old favourite book. The one you've read possibly a million times or more, but still absolutely love. This goes perfectly with number twelve on the list (except you'll need to leave your arms free to hold the book)

20. Look through old photographs - whether they're the physical sort or held on your phone (or computer) - speaking of the latter, download Google Photos onto your computer, phone and tablet and it'll back all your pics up, so all you have to do is open the app up and boom! You're reliving your old memories.

21. Play calming music - This one comes from my brother, who told me he does this when he has a bout of insomnia. Find a playlist on a music streaming app of your choice (they have quite a few calming ones, many without lyrics) or pop on Youtube, where they have videos containing hours of ambient noises.

22. Set a (tiny) goal - if your anxiety is linked to something that's bothering you, what can you do to slightly break that down a little? You don't have to tackle the whole thing at once. Once you tackle the first goal, set another. Small and steady wins the race.

23. Talk it through - I've put my three most important things towards the end because, even though the advice above may seem trivial (and you might think, "This is never going to help me,") anxiety is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. And sharing how you feel with someone you trust can be a relief, if a bit scary at first. On the other hand, if someone comes to you to chat about their anxiety - be there for them. Listen. Support them.

24. Get some support - if, however, you do feel that your anxiety is completely overwhelming you and taking over your everyday life, it's worth visiting a GP to discuss how you're feeling. You can also find useful mental health resources online too, such as the Blurt Foundation and Mind. If you, or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, or is in immediate danger or at risk of harm, ring 999 straight away.

25. Don't feel embarrassed - No. Please, please don't feel embarrassed or that you can't talk about it. Anxiety is more common than you realise - in fact, statistics show that one in four adults experience a mental health problem at one point in their lives. And that talking about it will break down barriers and reduce the stigma. The most important thing is getting through it and knowing that this too will pass.

It's taken me well over three days, on and off, to write this post - although the anxiety has been really hard going, I'm hoping that it's starting to ease a little now. I'm thinking that writing this post has also been quite therapeutic - if you've found this, or know someone who would find it useful, please, by all means, share it. (Just as a disclaimer to say, this isn't a sponsored post either)

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