Monday was an usually good day. Monday was good because I received an unexpected hug from someone that I had only recently met, but had found my blog through a mutual friend. Not only had she found my blog, she read almost every post in my mental health section and was touched by my struggle with anxiety as like so many other people, she battles it too. Despite working closely together for the last few weeks, neither of us had realised. We’d kept our own struggles to ourselves. She told me that my posts had helped her to realise that she isn’t alone and for that I’m glad because anxiety affects so many of us and comes in so many different forms.
If she reads this post too, she’ll realise just how much her comment meant to me. It literally made my day, for two significant reasons. The first being that when I started my blog as a way to occupy the lonely evenings of being a single mum to two toddlers, I wanted to help someone like me. I wanted to help women, more specifically mothers, who at time feel paralysed by anxiety but find ways to soldier on. I remember telling The Boy that if I only helped one person feel less alone, that I would be happy. The second reason being that when she mentioned she’d read my mental health section, I realised that I hadn’t actually written a post for this category for a good while. They’re easier to write when I’m feeling at my lowest. The words flow more easily when I’m in pain. The fact that I hadn’t written a post about my anxiety for over six months, demonstrated to me just how much better I felt.
How I Improved My Anxiety
Realising that I felt better, prompted me to think about the reasons why. Soon, I started to figure out that I had made a few changes in recent months. Some of them were small, others huge, but they were all difficult. My anxiety comes with an inherent fear of change. However, regardless of size, the changes have all had an impact of me. I feel noticeably different for the first time in a very long while and I feel that be celebrated. But not only that, I remember the reasons why I started blogging, so I want to share what I’ve done with you guys, with just in case it helps one person find respite from anxiety.
1. Getting Up Later
You’d think that with having anxiety, getting up late would send me into a total panic but I’ve found it has the opposite effect. I used to wake up anywhere between 4:45 and 5 am and set myself 101 tasks to do before leaving for work at 7:30.
Predictably, I was too tired to do anything useful and ended up spending hours playing on my phone whilst lying in bed and worrying about my lack of productivity. The exhaustion then lasted all day and I’d have days of not being able to get anything done because of fatigue. Now I wake up at 6:15 and still manage to get myself and the kids ready and out the house on time because I’m not only well-rested, I’m focussed.
2. Being More Sociable
This is a weird one. My anxiety often manifests itself in social situations. I become very shy and very awkward because I never know quite what to say. Recently, I have started to push my boundaries and become a lot more sociable. It’s small steps, but I’ve started talking to the other parents whilst my daughters have their swimming lessons and even interact with others on the after-school club run. For me this is huge. When my anxiety was its worst, I used to need to spend my lunch hour in silence by myself to recover after a morning of human interaction, but now I quite enjoy spending the time with my colleagues. By forcing myself to become more sociable, I’m less anxious about being in social situations as I’ve had more practice.
3. Organise My Money
Money is the bane of my life. Life as a single mum often means that quite frankly there isn’t enough money to go around. It’s hard. feel like I’m forever juggling my bills and the tiny amount of disposable money that I have as well as being forever indebted to my dad. I must literally owe him thousands which he never asks for.
Money was causing me major anxiety so I needed to take steps to reduce the worry. I’ve now set up a spreadsheet to budget for all of my income and outgoings, a small savings account and crucially, I opened a second current account to keep my bills money separate from my spending money and this has helped me feel like my finances are finally under control. I put all of the money for a month’s worth of bills into my Bills account and the the direct debits do the rest. Knowing exactly what I’ve got left without having to work it out is so relaxing.
4. Reducing Time On Social Media
I love social media as much as anyone else. When I’ve felt at my lowest, it’s helped me to stay connected with the outside world easily making sure that I wasn’t completely isolated from the world around me. Yet, social media should also come with a huge warning. Before reducing my time on social media, I would often find myself comparing my life with those of others and wondering why I didn’t have the picture perfect life that they did. My anxiety forget to remember that we all only show a snapshot. Reducing my time on social media not only reminded me of that, it also gave me the time to do something productive.
5. Listening To My ‘Entrance Music’
When I say I am obsessed with song lyrics, I do mean obsessed. Actually obsessed. It’s a huge part of the reason that my taste in music ranges from as far as Rod Stewart to Ariana Grande. It’s nearly always the lyrics that I listen out for, in a song as it’s the words that have a real impact on my mood.
A good few years ago, I was working in a place that had a horrible atmosphere. The boss had created a situation where workplace bullying was rife and everyone was miserable. It was such a tough environment to work in and had such a damaging impact on my self-esteem. So much so, that I used to cry for my entire thirty minute commute because I absolutely dreaded walking through the door and being treated in this way.
Before I found the courage to leave, the one thing that used to help me through the day was the music that I would play on my journey. I called it my ‘entrance music’ because I use it in the say way that a fighter would before entering a ring. It helps to prepare me for the battle ahead and yes, I saw my time there as a battle. Each day, I was doing all I could to stop the tears, to stop myself from biting back at the bullies and trying to protect less experienced staff from becoming disillusioned with teaching.
Years later, I still have my entrance music. My entrance music ranges from NWA to Elton John to Beyoncé. Some of the songs are predictable with their messages of strength and overcoming adversity. Others have a more subtle message. Recent choices reflect my mother and remind me that no matter how tough things might seem, I’m alive. I’m my mother’s daughter and I’m not battling anything near as severe as her battle. I can do this. Other songs remind me that I’m a mother, and I have to push forward because of the example that I need set for my own daughters. They are always watching. Regardless of their lyrics, all of the songs on my entrance music playlist remind me that I’m strong and that anxiety won’t beat me.
6. Doing Nothing
Again, this sounds really strange but my anxiety is the reason that I never rest. I am always finding something to do. My mind is always busy. It got to the point where even relaxing in the bath or watching a film, I’d also be checking my phone, editing blog posts or sharing posts on social media. And then one day, I’d had enough. I needed a break so I decided to occasionally do nothing but focus on myself and my needs. And it’s worked. Sometimes that looks like reading a book. Sometimes it’s dozing on the sofa. Other times it is a long, hot bubble bath in the middle of the day (obviously on my child-free days, any mum knows you’ll reappear to find carnage if you do this when the kids are home). By taking the time to stop and allow myself the time to step out of my head and not overthink, I found that it helped me to prioritise, so that when I did start to pick up my tasks again I was calm, which inevitably reduced my anxiety.
Could These Tips Help You To Live An Anxiety-Free Life?
I’m going to be brutally honest, no. I personally never feel that I will ever live an anxiety-free life. My fight or flight mechanism is highly-sensitive and I have to continue to train myself to not have a knee-jerk reaction to panic. It’s takes a lot of effort and a lot of practise. What I have managed to do is to find small ways of altering my lifestyle in order to help me process things a lot more easily. Anxiety is a real minefield and it takes a lot of trial and error to work out what works for you. I’m still developing my strategies and as a result, they are ever evolving but I guess the important thing is that I’m trying and getting slightly better every day. If I can, you can too.