So, as you probably know, because I've blogged about it before, I've suffer from anxiety. I've been dealing with it for a good few years now, and it's much much better than I was before, to the point where I thought I was cured (ha!) but every so often it pops back up and drags me back down.
I kind of predicted that it'd come back because there are so many big changes happening in my life right now (graduating, moving, starting a new job), I knew that if I wasn't careful, I'd find myself being bothered by my anxiety again. But, the cocky idiot that I am, I ignored that feeling, assumed I'd be fine, and didn't take care of myself like I should have. Oh well.
One of the thoughts that goes through your head when it hits you again after a period of calm is like "I thought I was over this" or "I'm back to square one". Neither of these things are true. I've found that I can usually manage it throughout day to day life and not have it bother me too much. Anxious thoughts pop up and I take a deep breath, and let them go. Sometimes however, I don't manage that, and the thought grows and chips away at you, and then BAM, anxiety and panic are back at full force. However, that doesn't mean it's back to square one, it just means that you need to get on top of it again.
For me, this time round it was triggered by a couple of bad dreams. I woke up feeling panicked and shaken, and the worries started flooding in, and before I knew it, I was in an anxiety whirlwind. It was scary. I hate anxiety so much because it terrifies me. Worst of all, I always get annoyed at myself for letting it happen, as if it's my own fault, which I know it's not. But I was thinking "Why now? why is this happening?" and then I looked back at the past few days and weeks, and realized that I hadn't been taking care of myself.
So here are the things that I've realised I need to be doing to stop this from happening again, and the things that I do to help myself through a period of high anxiety.
- Get enough sleep. I cannot emphasize this enough, when I look back at the last few time I've had anxiety relapses, it's always been after a late nights. Without enough sleep, our brains can't function properly - reasoning is impaired, emotions are unregulated and things bother you more easily. Recently I was up till 4 in the morning because of Scott's work's night out, and then the next night I was out until 3 for my friend Iona's leaving do. I love going out, I love clubs, I love dancing and meeting new people, and I always have fun. But I pay for it the next day and a few days after, because (even though I don't drink) my body can't cope the next day if I stay out too late. So, I limit myself to one or two nights out a month. This month will be different because there's so many leaving dos and graduation parties, but I know I need to watch myself or my mental health will suffer.
- Eat enough and drink plenty of water. Same principle, if you're not fueling your body properly, you become exhausted and drained, your brain wont function to it's best ability, and you end up feeling down. Then, personally, I know I'm way more susceptible to feel down or anxious. Even like your blood sugar levels can affect your mood. The problem is, when I feel anxious, I feel nauseous, and I don't feel like eating. It's a vicious cycle, and one I've been stuck in before. I know it can be a slippery slope so I force myself to eat one small thing, like a biscuit or slice of toast with a cup of tea, and build my way up until I'm feeling back to normal and able to eat properly again. It usually only takes a day.
- Do breathing exercises. When I'm in the middle of an anxiety or panic attack, or if I feel one coming on, I've learned that instead of fighting or resisting it, it's better to just let it come and go, while just concentrating on breathing deeply, in and out. I think to myself "as long as I keep breathing, I will get through this" if you just keep at it, and try to keep your focus on your breathing, and away from anxious thoughts or feelings, eventually the attack will pass, and it will usually pass much faster than if you get more caught up in the worry. It seems simple, but it's my life raft.
- Get yourself into a more positive mindset. Again, this sounds really simple, and I know when people say this to me I'm like "If I could be more positive, I would". But what I mean is actively stimulate positive or calming thoughts. For me, this is done by either watching something funny or cute on Netflix or Youtube, or, something I've found super effective is going onto Anxiety United, No Panic, or Tiny Buddha, and reading about other peoples experiences with anxiety. It's weird, but it always manages to calm me down. Maybe it's the distraction, or maybe it's seeing that I'm not mad, or alone, and that other people go through the same thing that I do. It's helped me so much over the years, just putting things into perspective, and getting back to a level-headed place.
- Embrace the change. I for one find change really hard, because I'm a bit of a control freak, I like to be in charge and I like to be able to guarantee that everything will go smoothly. However, as I've gone through changes, I've realized that it's not possible to guarantee anything, because something will go wrong, and there's no point in worrying, because whatever it is, you just have to deal with it when the time comes. I've learned to embrace the unknown, and allow things to just happen as they do, without trying to control them. It's a hard thing to do when your mind is full of anxiety and worry, but as soon as you let go, you're filled with a sense of freedom, and all of a sudden, the changes and the unknown, become a lot easier to deal with.
So, now, hopefully if I follow my own advice I'll be able to keep on top of my anxiety and enjoy this time of transition in my life. Even though it's scary to change, or move, or start something new, it's exciting too. It's all part of life, and it's the only way you'll be able to grow is if you challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. So, whenever anxiety pops up, I need to remember that I've beat it before and I can beat it again.
Take good care of yourself, and I hope you have a great week.