After posting my recent post about how living with anxiety makes me strong, I received lots of positive feedback about my openness, but also lots of questions asking me for the strategies that I use. I was initially hesitant to write this post because I am not an expert by any means. I just write about my own personal experiences. In my day job, I am a teacher, I am most definitely not a medical expert. However, I know what works for me, and if it could help just one person, I thought it was worth a go. So, with that in mind, I decided to write the seven things that I find help me to manage my anxiety, enabling me to get on with my daily life.
Routine and planning
Personally, I find my anxiety worsens when there is a huge change to my usual routine so I try to keep to a pretty similar routine on a day-to-day basis that way, there isn’t too much change. This just means that I don’t have to worry about the small things as they are already organised and I have control over as much of my life as possible.
I try to plan as much as possible in advance so that I am prepared but also so that I have time to deal with anything else that may occur. I always worry about oversleeping so I tend to prepare everything the night before. This way, if I do wake up late, I have time to play with.
Making time for yourself
This links to my previous point, but it’s really important to make time for yourself. For me, that’s reading a good book, blogging, seeing friends and watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. I have to plan this time in, because if I don’t I will find extra housework to do just for the sake of it. This extra time to be myself, gives me enough time to recharge my batteries, reflect and rest.
Writing a Worry Tree
When I was expecting my youngest, I had an incredible difficult pregnancy and spent lots of time poorly. Because I couldn’t relax, I had a couple of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions to help me to mange my worries. This is where I learnt the Worry Tree technique. It involves creating a branching diagram to rationalise any worries by asking questions so that you can see in black and white that the likelihood of a disaster is pretty slim whilst also coming up with a solution to a problem. It’s a good exercise for anyone whose anxiety causes them to turn any everyday situation into impending doom. This website is very useful when explaining how to create a worry tree for anyone who would like to try creating one.
Another similar technique, which I also use is asking myself – ‘Will this matter in 1 minute, 1 hour etc..?’ to help me decipher how important the issue is. Quite often, just realising that I won’t even remember it a year, let alone be bothered by it, helps to reduce anxiety.
Monitor my sugar intake
It seems to be well-known that sugar has a negative impact on the body, the links between sugar and anxiety are becoming better understood. Sugar doesn’t cause my anxiety but it does make me extremely tired, and then I can’t prepare as I’m exhausted As a result, I feel stressed and panicky. I’m trying hard to monitor my sugar intake and eat as cleanly as possible. In addition, I have found that getting out of the car and going for a long walk also helps to keep anxiety at bay.
I don’t really think it matters too much who you speak to, as long as they have a sympathetic ear. Those closest to me are aware of my anxiety and I always tell them what my triggers are so that there is someone keeping a watchful eye over me. Bizarrely, I am quite good in extreme situations as the organiser in me takes over. But sometimes I can find relatively straightforward situations overwhelming so I then talk it through with someone who can help me to rationalise it in my head.
I see nothing wrong with taking medication. Nobody would look down on me for taking a painkiller if I had toothache, so I’m not sure why medication for mental health issues is stigmatised. Personally, I am unable to take any sort of medication due to a conflict with the medication I take for my heart. However, the tablets that I take daily to control my SVT also help to reduce the physical side of anxiety ( rapid heart rate) which means that I know a full-blown panic attack is unlikely to happen and that is a huge relief.
Acceptance is probably the biggest and most important part of my battle with anxiety. I no longer feel ashamed of it, and I don’t feel the need to hide it. Accepting that it is simply a part of who I am actually means that it becomes less of a problem. It bothers me a lot less as I’ve got older. Knowing that it’s never going to fully go away means that I don’t berate myself when I’m feeling anxious. I take a deep breath, work through a Worry Tree and get through it as best I can.
How do you manage to keep anxiety at bay?