‘Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days’ – Kris Carr
I don’t think it takes a genius to work out that there are strong links between happiness and sunshine. I mean, I don’t know what the scientific statistics are but it can’t be a coincidence that places like Russia and Scandinavia who experience almost 24 hours darkness in the winter have a higher suicide rate than California, where even in December it can be 18 degrees Celsius. You see it yourself at work or even in the supermarket, people are just in better moods when the sun’s out.
I’ve mentioned many times before that i’m a big old worrier, which is pain in the bum at the best of times. There are occasions though, when I become more than a worrier, and I find myself slipping into periods of really high anxiety. Whilst I’ve seen various professionals about it, and thankfully never been diagnosed with full blown depression, it seems to be something that’s pretty deeply ingrained. No matter how much I try and Taylor Shift my feelings by just shaking them off, I’m a believer that it’s part of my genetic make up, and something I’ll have to live with forever. So instead of spending countless hours trawling the internet trying to ‘cure’ me of my high anxiety, I’ve started looking at ways to ‘manage’ it instead.
Here are some things I’ve found that help me tame the negative thoughts, the constant’ what ifs’ and automatically going straight to the worse case scenario in my mind:
As mentioned above, there’s something about getting a vitamin D top up that instantly relaxes me. It’s difficult living in miserable, wet, windy north east England where chances to get out in the sun are few and far between, but you can guarantee when that yellow fire ball does appear in the sky I’m straight out in the garden with my leopard print beach towel. One of the few times I feel I’m ever able to truly relax are on summer holidays (usually in Greece) where I can spend the day by the pool with my ipod and kindle so being able to mimic that feeling in the back garden always pushes any negative feelings to the back of my mind for a few hours at least.
My friend Cheryl at work always laughs at me because if we’re getting into an in depth discussion about something other than what happen in Made in Chelsea last night, I will inevitably start a sentence with ‘I was thinking at the gym last night…’ Aside from the obvious physical health benefits I have always been an advocator of exercise being good for your mental well being as well. It’s no secret that exercise releases endorphins and endorphins are the Superman to negative adrenaline’s Lex Luthor (negative adrenaline being that feeling you get when you’re having an anxiety attack that makes your heart beat faster and start down the nasty worry cycle – it’s also what attributes to panic attacks). I do a lot of my dwelling and mulling when i’m at the gym or out for a run, and more often than not, by the time I’m finished I’ve either resolved whatever issues I was having myself, or I’m so knackered (now physically as well as negatively) that I don’t have the energy to think about it any more. Having something to train for is an excellent way to prevent anxiety attacks, a training plan gives me something positive to focus my energy on rather than being bored and having time to worry over silly little things.
My husband said something that struck a chord with me the other day, he said ‘it’s about time you had some time off work because it’s starting to become all you talk about’. It’s been 4 months since I’ve had any time off work other than the odd bank holiday here and there, and it’s started to become so all encompassing that it’s the only thing I’ve been talking about recently. What’s worse is, I’ve started to stress about stupid little things that would never normally bother me because i’d have something else happening in my social life to occupy my mind. I have 4 more days left at work and then a week and half off, and even though i’m not going abroad, one of my best friends is coming to visit from America and we’re going to have loads of fun things planned together. I think the change of scenery; something different from the treadmill of work-gym-home-eat-sleep-repeat will do me the world of good, and give me something else other than work to focus on and talk about.
4. Talk to the people who know you the best
I have a few people in my life, Dave, my parents, Ang, Steph and Cheryl who know exactly how to handle me when I’m going through one of my ‘moments’ and it’s not always them just telling me what I want to hear, quite the opposite in fact, they each have their own ways of using tough love on me and talking me sensibly through my worries; essentially telling me to count my blessings and pull myself together, but in a nice way! I often find as well, just getting my worries down in a text message or email, and seeing them in black and white, makes me realise how out of proportion I’ve blown things, then to get the text or email back with some comforting words of reassurance calms me down no end. Be careful though, the people you choose to be your go to people when you’re feeling blue have to be right. Talking to someone who doesn’t know you very well, someone who hasn’t seen this pattern a million times before can be dangerous. They don’t know the right words to say that are unique to calming you down and can be counter productive and fan the flames.
5. Listen to your favourite music
I have a few songs that I always look to when I’m feeling nervous or anxious about something. I’m not sure if it’s something about the bmp or chords that are used (perhaps someone less tone deaf than me could advise?) but there’s something about the composition of these particular sounds that soothes my soul, which is weird because they’re not really songs I would automatically class as my favourites in the typical sense. There’s just something about them that makes me feel better when I have those awful butterflies of anxiety fluttering around in my tummy:
6. Own Your Feelings
God that sounds so pretentious doesn’t it? I don’t mean it to honest, What I mean is recognise when you’re going down a negative path and try and do something to change it (any of the above will probably help but I understand it’s not always feasible to go for a run, or go on holiday every time you feel your anxiety levels rise!). I know a lot of people who suffer from high anxiety and use it as an excuse to act like a dickhead. It irritates me because they’re not taking ownership of how they’re feeling, they’re trying to push it on to someone else and make it their problem too. In my experience the worse thing I can do is pretend nothing’s wrong when there is. I end up bottling it all up then snapping at someone about something totally irrelevent instead of just saying what the matter really is, regardless of how silly it may sound. I did that for a really long time until I just accepted and admitted to myself that I have an anxiety problem at times.
Since coming to terms with it and looking for ways to manage it and not blaming it on other people I’ve been way happier, as has everyone else around me because i’m not biting their heads off all the time any more!
The analogy of thinking of emotions as spirals is one that always works for me. If you’re feeling an extreme emotion, whether it be good or bad, it invariably spirals one way or another. If you’re in a good mood about something, it spirals and has a knock on effect to everything around you, and spirals getting better and better. Alternatively if you’re thinking negatively, then everything else that happens takes a negative turn as well, and you spiral deeper and deeper into negativity which makes it harder to dig yourself out of. I don’t think I’ll ever shake it off (shake it off) completely but I’m hoping to try and get it under more manageable control. Life’s hard enough as it is without having to worry about what the lass on reception at the gym thinks about your appearance after an hour on the crosstrainer!