This is a guest blog by Lucy Chamberlain: Many people dismiss anxiety or just don’t understand it, so it gets shrugged off as unimportant. But it’s something many people live with and we should not feel compelled to hide it or pretend it doesn’t happen. No one should suffer in silence. Which is exactly why I wanted to share my own coping strategies for anxiety. Because anxiety is a vast illness, and it doesn’t manifest the same for any of us experiencing it.
My coping strategies may not work for you and vice versa, but talking about it, working through ways to handle this illness, I believe there is so much impact that can be gained from these conversations. Whether its raising more understanding, awareness, or feeling more easily able to talk about anxiety with those that don’t suffer. To discovering a method of coping we maybe weren’t aware of for those of us that do experience anxiety.
Living with Anxiety
Anxiety is far from a singular issue, it is in fact extremely complex and affects thousands of people in lots of different ways, so there is no one fix for everyone. But we could all use a little extra input right? I’ve written about living with anxiety and ‘how’ it can manifest; suddenly feeling the need to run for the exit, feeling faint or the sheer panic of feeling totally self-conscious and being frozen in that spot unable to breathe. Using every last ounce of energy to remain composed. How it can also be feelings of overwhelming sadness, disappointment, feelings of giving up, self-sabotage (blaming yourself for things that are not your fault). But this is how I cope with anxiety and its myriad of offshoots.
Coping With Anxiety – The Distraction Method
Sometimes when I’m too hot, in a busy places with lots of people, this can set my anxiety off. I will feel suddenly trapped and feel the need to run, and it will take all my energy to stay calm, breathe, focus on conversation or things around me to ground my flight mechanism and stay put, at the table, and appear calm to others, but really I’m planning my escape in my head.
A well-known tactic used by many to cope with anxiety is the distraction method. Focus on four things around you i.e. Smell, See, Taste, Touch and so on. This is used to trick the mind into diverting to something else. I like to have a little perfume to spray to alert my senses.
Coping With Anxiety – Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations are used as a mindful strategy to copy with panic attacks. I have an extremely vivid mind and I tend to have to use mantras of positive affirmations, repeated positivity signals, affirming trust in myself and deleting negative and uneasy vibes. Quashing all negative thoughts. For me, the only way I can try and take control of a situation is all about mind over matter. Literally telling myself; I am OK, you are safe and you can breathe. Over and over again. Repeating these positive affirmations until the panic passes.
Coping With Anxiety – A Safe Place
To cope with my anxiety, I practice taking myself out of stressful situations and remove myself from toxic environments which may cause me to start feeling odd. I search for somewhere to retreat to, as otherwise I can lose the ability to think rationally and my thoughts overrun and the panic sets in. If I need a ‘safe place’ to retreat to, I will either go lay down until the moment passes, or I will walk on the lawn barefoot and literally feel nature, stare at the sky and stars, do some weeding, do some gardening and lose my thoughts in that.
Because sometimes anxiety can deplete you of energy and leave you feeling exhausted. These ways of retreating mean I always come back calmer and clearer and less heavy in the mind. It helps me to put things into perspective. I feel more in control and know when to remedy it if I feel I’m losing that.
Coping With Anxiety – Good Company
Many a time, my poor husband has had to suddenly wonder why I need to leave so quickly, but he can now tell the signs – more often than not – that my anxiety has been triggered. And when he notices that intense worry fill my face, that I’ve gone a little pale or green, or I start verbalising that I need to go NOW in a panicked tremble.
I tend not to go too many places completely alone, because having someone there that can spot the signs of my anxiety and help support me, is important for me. Having good company has been a key method for how I cope with anxiety.
Coping With Anxiety – PMT
For me PMT plays a part, at certain times of my cycle. I can become extremely emotional and lose the power of perspective quickly. To deal with this I use a calendar to plot symptoms and cycle timings. There are many useful apps out there and it’s helpful for me to keep things in order, so at least I will know when I’m prone to becoming emotional and I can try to steel myself, remind myself to be ‘realistic and calm’ to be ready or prepared for it.
Coping With Anxiety – Staying Hydrated
It might sound simple, but water really is medicine. I take water with me to most places. For me hydration is key to wellness and healthy blood pressure. I have low blood pressure so again, I have to be mindful of this, because that itself brings its own issues with anxiety believe it or not. But stayed hydrated is a way to offset feeling too hot, which is a trigger for my anxiety.
Coping With Anxiety – Talking Anxiety
By talking about my anxiety, and making those around me aware of some of the possibilities I may go through one day, it also meant they were more prepared to rescue me in a time of panic. And I can tell you, you are so grateful for that friendly face when it happens.
If you can, try to tell a friend or a work colleague you have anxiety. I think this helps enormously, for yourself and them. You no longer have to feel ashamed or scared of something happening, and they will know in advance if anything should happen and can deal with it accordingly.
Coping With Anxiety – Planning Ahead
I have to plan a lot in advance, mainly in my head. I do prefer to go to places I know – familiarity helps keep triggers at bay. But if I’m heading somewhere new, pre-planning and getting myself comfortable with where I’m going, really helps to alleviate my anxious thoughts and feelings. And if that’s not possible, I will always scan the venue to know where the exits or toilets are straight away.
Coping With Anxiety – Writing Therapy
Writing is therapeutic in lots of ways. It gets it out of your head and stops it rolling around and manifesting into a big worry or problem. When I write something down and revisit those words, I’m then in a different frame of mind and I can see it entirely differently. So I find it helpful to write it down to view it later.
I have half written jotter pads full of worries, woes, thoughts, dreams, moments. I often think when I die and people find all this stuff written down, they will think I was a complete loony. But my personal ramblings have helped me feel a lot happier by offloading onto paper than burdening other people with my musings about all things anxiety.
Another writing method is to write an email, get out everything you want to say and can’t, but don’t send it. Save, not Send. When the moment has passed and you feel calmer, or you are emotionally ready to deal with the subject, re read it and most times you end up deleting it, and thank yourself for not sending it, because most of it was irrational and irrelevant. But the exercise teaches you to unleash it all on to paper or a document, then unravel it later with a clear head.
Coping With Anxiety – Medication
I was prescribed Citalopram on a small dose and this seems to keep me on an even keel, at first it made me a little nauseous and headaches but within two weeks these side effects wore off. And I have Propranolol to use in addition if I feel I need an extra helping hand or things become unmanageable. Lucky for me I didn’t need to try others as these suited me from the off but it can be common that some don’t necessarily work, or some make you feel zoned out but it just takes time to find something that ‘clicks’ for each person.
Coping With Anxiety – Finding the Right Remedies
I am pleased to say that with the help of medication together with practising mindfulness, and using my own preferred coping strategies to help, anxiety does not rule over me like a weapon. It is there in the background but it can be dealt with.
Whether its wearing comfortable loose fitting clothes, items that won’t make me too hot. Deep breathing to calm any tension held in my neck or jaw. Retreating to a safe place. Reminding myself not to hold my breath. Repeating positive affirmations or just the company of a good friend. Finding the right remedies that work for me has been important for me to get to that place of feeling that anxiety is something I can handle.
No-One Should Feel Compelled To Hide Anxiety
Having experienced many anxious thoughts and panic attacks over the years, I have developed ways that personally help me cope and handle these in day to day life. I wanted to share as a way to perhaps help others and further enhance peoples knowledge on the subject, because anxiety is too often pushed aside and not spoken about due to the ever present embarrassment and social barrier to keep things hidden.
Anxiety is the body’s way of responding to stress. According to EverydayHealth.com the World Health Organization has revealed that anxiety disorders affect an estimated 3.6 percent of the world’s population. If you are suffering with anxiety too and have your own methods for coping that you’d like to share, to help us raise more understanding and awareness on living with anxiety, please share your comments below.