Well, the title is pretty self explanatory right? I’d assume you have a fair idea of what this blog post is going to be but let me first start off by saying I don’t always deal with anxiety well. I still have a lot of issues doing new things independently. Thoughts still get on top of me regularly. I still can’t sleep with silence. The way I want to automatically approach anxiety is to run away and avoid it. These are not cure-alls, they are just my go to first responses to trying to manage things.
There is a lot of controversy and shaming around medication. Let me first say that it isn’t for everybody and that it can be difficult to find the right fit for you with many medications having side effects that aren’t tolerable. For me though, medication is the thing that lowers my base level of anxiety. It’s just a tool that puts me in the headspace to be able to practice the methods I’m about to list below. If it’s not for you that’s okay. If it works for you that’s okay too!
I’ll be honest, I’m rubbish at it. The perfectionist in me wants to get it 100% right and when I can’t do that I can get frustrated with myself at times but I still think that it’s a good skill to practice when faced with anxiety. The most typical method I would use would be the 54321 grounding technique. In case you haven’t read my previous blog post on this, the basic premise is to pick out and focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things that you can feel, 3 things that you can hear, 2 things that you can smell and 1 thing that you can taste. Using the senses to focus your brain can calm you, slow your mind down and give you a minute to breathe. Then you can approach things in a more logical way.
This is another one that I’m not great at! There are a lot of different methods that you can use here. I’ve previously talked about the 4-7-8 method. Another simple method advised by the NHS is it inhale gently and steadily for 5 seconds as deep in to your belly as is comfortable. Some people find it useful to count this out. Then without pause exhale gently for another 5 seconds. It’s recommended that you do this for between 3 and 5 minutes. Controlled breathing can be particularly useful when dealing with anxiety and panic attacks as it’s easy for your breathing to be in unnatural rhythymns during these attacks.
This isn’t one that everybody finds easy to do but it appeals to my logical nature. I find it particularly useful when you’re having those kinds of anxious thoughts that just spiral the longer you let them go on for. An example of this would be if I need to go out and use public transport. The thoughts pile on. What if the trains aren’t working and I have to use a route I haven’t researched? What if they’re running late? What if it’s too busy? What if somebody targets me while I’m alone? What if my anxiety stomach embarrasses me? You get the picture, there can be endless reasons my brain will make me doubt that going out is a good idea.
Now for the rationalising – I’ll take these thoughts and appeal to my logic by asking how likely are each of these things to happen? Sure the trains break sometimes but more often than not they’re running okay. Sure they can be late but you’re already leaving early so it’s not going to ruin your timing. Okay they might be busy but if you just sit with it and stay distracted by reading or playing on your phone you’ll be okay. Why would somebody target you of all people? Also, there are other people around who I’m sure would see and help if necessary. Your stomach probably will be rough but you’ve managed all of the previous times by taking imodum and trying not to eat or drink too much before you leave.
I’m sure you understand where I’m going with this by now. Take the thoughts and don’t just tell yourself that you’re wrong and silly. Sit and talk it through with yourself like you’re reassuring a friend.
Talk to people!
I know it’s not always easy to talk these things out but I’ve found that no matter how scary it is, approaching things head on gets the situation dealt with quicker so that you can feel calmer. One of my biggest anxiety issues is feeling like I’ll offend people, upset people, annoy people. Generally just get on peoples nerves so they can’t possibly want to talk to me or be around me. Also feeling like anything going on at their end must be something that I’ve done. I’ve found that just reaching out and starting a conversation usually eases those feelings somewhat when I realise the conversational and relationship is still okay. If I’m feeling really awful about it sometimes I will just flat out ask if I’m being annoying. It’s the quickest way to get to the answer so that you can relax.
When all else fails distraction can get you through those rough days. I still use this every night when I’m trying to sleep. The silence gets to me and I find it incredibly easy to sink in to those swirling and fast thoughts that can drag you down and make rest impossible. I use cartoons for background noise. It gives my brain something simple and familiar to focus on so that I can close my eyes and sink in to sleep. During the day it can be anything that you enjoy or have at some point enjoyed. If I need to distract my head and my hands I find something like playing games useful to me. A quiet day watching Netflix. It can be drawing, knitting, sports, colouring, design, writing. It really doesn’t matter what you use as long as it’s a healthy distraction method that gets you through.
Some days are just about surviving until the next one, getting some rest in and coming back to fight another day!