MANAGING ANXIETY – SOME ADVICE

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As some of you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting much in recent weeks, but there’s more to this brief hiatus than a simple explanation of idle laziness. It all started with the news that I would be starting a new job in the second week of January, the details of which I will spare you, but the significance of this opportunity is great; it’s something that I have wanted to achieve for a long, long time, and felt sure that I wasn’t going to let anxiety creep up and ruin anything before I’d even had time to enjoy it. I have, therefore, busied myself with strengthening my mental steel, and have discovered a few tips that may be of use to you. Without further ado, here they are:

FORM A ROUTINE, AND STICK BY IT!

Routines are something that I usually dread, but I’ve grown especially fond of them. The premise of laying out a particular set of activities may seem boring and useless at a superficial glance, but I think this has impacted my mental health in a rather extreme way, and I would seriously urge you to try it before mocking its worth.

A good routine is one that is personal to you, and this is where I messed up at first; trust me, it’s no use finding a template from the internet and deciding that you’ll do that, because you will have different preferences to the person that created it, and all that you’re doing is making it harder for you to stick to. I, for example, don’t feel like whole day routines benefit me in any way, as I do an eclectic mixture of things and to try and schedule them all would be absolute chaos, so I have a ‘Split Routine’, which includes the early morning and the late evening. For the sake of a demonstration, here is mine:

  • 5.30 AM – WAKE UP, SHOWER, GET DRESSED, GLASS OF WATER
  • 5.50 AM – MEDITATE
  • 6.20 AM – BREAKFAST AND PR READING
  • 7.20 AM – WRITE
  • 8.30 AM – HAVE A PRODUCTIVE DAY

Which then leads to my evening routine:

  • 8.00 PM – GLASS OF WATER, MEDITATE
  • 8.30 PM – BATH OR SHOWER
  • 9.00 PM – DIARY ENTRY AND LEISURE READING
  • 10.00 PM – SLEEP

Now, obviously, this is extremely tailored to me: I like early rises, you may not; I read books about PR & Marketing with breakfast, as that’s relevant to my work; I go to bed relatively early as I find that’s what suits me… The whole point is that you make something that ensures you do something that’s valuable, enjoyable, and calming, and hopefully, you will reap the same reward that I have. With my routine there to ground my day, I find myself not worrying about what I have to do or when I have to do it, and it also ensures that I’ve done something productive with my time. It isn’t a particularly strict schedule, as I feel that would make me more anxious rather than alleviate anything, but it anchors my mornings and evenings perfectly. 

GET A LITTLE HEADSPACE!

If I say meditation to you, you’ll probably think of sitting crossed legged on the floor, choking on the thick clouds of incense, and singing some strange chants that are meant to awaken some long forgotten part of you that may or may not even exist. I don’t blame you; having a father that is rather spiritually inclined, and having watched him do the above ritual since I was a small child, I had the same thoughts, but I’m glad I’ve been proven wrong.

Here is where I introduce you all to Headspace, an app that provides guided meditation (based on secular teachings and scientifically proven results), and I now wouldn’t dream of starting my day with anything else. Taking as little as ten minutes out of your day to stop and process your thoughts can dramatically change your relationship to anxiety, and enable you to retain some clarity of thought when you need it most. It has worked wonders, and teaches you an awful lot about how your mind works. If there’s anything from this list that I think you should try, it would have to be this.

DAILY DIARY!

The daily diary is really quite a fun thing to do, and allows you to express your emotions and thoughts about the past 24 hours, thus freeing up a little of your mind to relax. I write every evening in a little notebook, in pencil for some reason, and simply write a chronological entry of my day, including any further thoughts I may have, or an emotion I’ve felt. 

This makes me feel that I have gone some way to processing my thoughts and emotions, and allows a little reflection, thus becoming a preventative measure that stops these things building up and clouding your thoughts/actions. 

READ/WATCH/LEARN!

I know some people don’t enjoy reading, but I suppose this works with anything that you can lose yourself in (film, music, art, etc). Just set a little time out of your day to read or watch something that you can immerse yourself in; this process can be so relieving, and often you’ll find yourself relating to a character, or an experience, and realising that there are other people out there that think in similar ways. That is always comforting.

On another note, watching a TedTalk (or similar thing) or reading an essay on something you find interesting is another thing that I’d recommend. Learning new things/expanding what you know makes you feel like you’ve achieved something with your day, and I don’t know why, or if it will work for anyone else, but it seems to make me less anxious if I have these things as reliable and interesting conversation pieces. If you’re always learning, you’re always going to be in the possession of some interesting anecdotes or facts. 

TRY AND EXPLORE A HOBBY AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK!

This one is simple, but can be easily ignored if you’re stuck in a busy schedule. If you love photography, go out and take some photos. If you like writing, sit down and write. If you like knitting jumpers, cooking excited food, or flying around a racecourse at 200mph, then make sure you bloody well do it. It’s so easy to be caught up in worry or anxious thoughts and forget to please yourself, so try get some time to yourself!

REGULAR EXERCISE, CLEAN DIET

I will hold my hands up right now and say that of late, this hasn’t been me, but that doesn’t change the fact that both of these things are absolutely vital to a stable mental health. Regular exercise not only makes you feel better and more confident in yourself, but it releases endorphins to chemically buzz you up. Eating well is much the same – if you know you’re looking and feeling your best, it perks you up on an every day basis. Writing this, I’ve just woken up on the morning after a poker night with my friends, and really wish I’d taken this point more seriously.

COUNT TO FIVE AND DO IT

This may not be relevant, as it probably depends on how severe your anxiety is and how you approach different situations, but this is becoming a useful thought to have in moments where you feel anxiety coming on. Approaching something that I know I want to do, but feel anxious about, I’ve gotten quite good at powering on through it and having a good time: three deep breaths, count to five, and fucking do it. Whatever it is. Because you know you can.

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I really hope that there’s something here that you might find useful, and if you feel you’ve got something worth sharing please comment it below! I have started to write some poetry again, so that will be uploaded soon. 

Merry Christmas!

Fred xo

TRAVELLING WITH ANXIETY – a short reflection

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I’ve experienced anxiety, in varying degrees, for much of the latter half of my teens. When I first started to have attacks, I dealt with them in a pretty horrendous manner, and for a long while was unaware of what was happening to me; this lack of knowledge induced a great sense of panic and, at some points, I was becoming convinced that I was going mad. I’ve never written about this subject, as I didn’t think I was particularly qualified to do so, and compared to some individuals I am aware of, my anxiety is laughably small, but this is a personal blog and who knows, it may help some of you that are going through similar things. 

After a while, I began to realise what was occurring, and what I could do to keep it at bay. I was adamant I didn’t want to involve medical assistance, and to this day would never accept any help in the form of prescribed drugs, as I had my own ways of processing it all (although I am of course aware that more severe issues would require such treatment); these are very important realisations that I believe will be unique to each person, but with patience and determination, you will find things that help. These are the things that helped me:

  • Exercise and healthy eating. Now, I know I’m still rather large now, but I used to be hugely overweight, and that grotesque body image that I held in my mind was a massive contributing factor to my anxiety. Exercise boosts endorphins and shows you how strong you really can be, as well as being somewhat cathartic as you burn away the stress alongside the calories. Drinking water frequently was also beneficial, as you can’t be at your strongest without keeping hydrated. 
  • Poetry. I don’t really know what I’d do without writing, but I suppose most people have their ways to vent. Poetry was a way in which I found I could express my innermost troubles, facing them in the process, and put them onto paper in a manner that was ambiguous enough for it not to embarrass me. I release most of my work, but I do keep journals and notebooks that are entirely personal, and these are the most therapeutic. Once you learn how to write for yourself and not for a reader, which is very different from the usual process, I think you can start to understand what makes you tick. Feeding that mechanism is extremely healing, and I’d urge you to write something, even if it’s a diary entry, every day, as the routine will give you some release.
  • Friends. I was/am lucky enough to have a fantastic set of friends and a wonderful girlfriend. The former stuck by me even though I went through large periods of being reclusive and hardly ever went out on club nights/social events with them, and the latter has supported me unconditionally whilst pushing me to become the best I can be. They have all understood what I was feeling, and managed to keep me positive and hopeful, and I can’t thank them enough for dragging me through it all to be where I am today.
  • Hobbies. These are more important than most would like to recognise, but a good set of hobbies gets you out and about and gives you something to do other than sit around and vegetate. I found mine in the form of photography, but anything would do; painting, music, reading, writing, sports, etc. If it gets you moving and motivated, then it’s good for you.

The truth is, anxiety fucking sucks. It’s an odd state of mind that prevents you, quite frequently, from doing what you love, and overcoming it is an incredible feeling. With careful management and the help of some beautiful people, I hadn’t had a full attack in around a year, so six months ago I thought I was strong enough to start doing things that I’d always wanted to do, and made the decision to go travelling. Now, that’s probably something that seems so small to most of you, but for me it was huge. I couldn’t shake the visions of packed trains, blaring sunlight and the inability to get home easily, and pretty much predicted that I wouldn’t last long, but would give it a fair try. One of my best friends, Jacob, said that he would accompany me, and we booked it soon after. I was, in all honesty, petrified of letting everyone, and myself, down. 

Prior to this, however, I had booked a week long trip to Italy with my girlfriend, which was equally as scary. She understands me more than anyone I know, and with her care I managed to go through the entire thing without any major incident, and without her pushing me to get out of my comfort zone, I know I would never have gained the confidence required to be where I am today. This, for me, is the annoyance of anxiety; even though I hadn’t experienced a proper attack in so long, it still remained in the back of my head with every decision, and thoroughly influenced the choices I would make – being thrusted out of my comfort zone was terrifying, but the feeling of succeeding and managing it all is unfathomably good, and now I’m in the best state of mind I’ve been in for years.

I didn’t sleep for two nights before leaving on this month long trip, and spent six hours unpacking and repacking my bag out of paranoia I’d forgotten something majorly important, but somehow as soon as my foot stepped on the first train back in the UK, I was fine. I couldn’t believe it. There have been situations where I’ve had to laugh at myself for being so surprised I haven’t freaked out; a four hour train journey so busy that there was no room to move; a restaurant so full we were crammed in with six German speaking locals at the back of the room; in fact, pretty much everything we’ve done so far would have sent me into oblivion a matter of months ago, but it’s all going under my stride.

What I suppose I’m trying to say is that things will get better. They won’t seem like they will, and occasionally you’ll slip, but you’ve just got to keep going; find things that make you happy, find people that push you forward, and learn to get out there again. Don’t try and do it alone, but don’t refrain from getting to truly know yourself; in my head, I either enjoy things or let it win, and I know I’m too stubborn to go down without a fight. 

I will happily talk to anyone that wants to have a chat about any of this, and my email is on the “About Me” page – here.  

All the best;

Fred x

TRAVEL BLOG – HERE

WRITING – HERE