Anxiety has played a big part in my life over the past three years, as much as I wish it would have taken more of a backseat. I always tell myself, it in no way defines me as a person. 2014 was a really difficult year for me, it was the year I was diagnosed with an anxiety and panic disorder. It's something I still find incredibly hard to deal with but as time has gone on, I feel like I've slowly been starting to build up a lot of confidence that I never thought I'd have when I was first diagnosed. It used to be something that I was so ashamed to admit to anyone and I always tried really hard to hide it but that's the thing with anxiety and having frequent panic attacks, you can do a great deal of hiding it but it comes with a lot of physical symptoms that are way too difficult to hide, for instance I am no longer afraid to let the people around me know when a panic attack is about to strike, I find that it helps when people are around while I'm having one because it makes it that little bit easier to be calmed down. I often feel really faint and dizzy and it's a bit comforting to know that If I was to end up passing out I'm near someone that knows about my situation.
A few days ago I was speaking with a friend who had told me she'd experienced her first panic attack and reading her messages truly broke my heart because she wasn't sure how to deal with it and the thought of it being a continuos thing. I teared up so hard because it reminded me so much of what I was like/the constant thoughts that went through my mind when I experienced my first one. It's so difficult going through it because you often feel alone. I know I especially couldn't stop crying and feeling so much hatred towards myself that I could allow this big thing to come into my life and just make me so incredibly unhappy. I've come to the realisation that none of it is my fault, it's just something that sadly I myself and many others around the world have to go through from time to time. My friend knows that I am literally here day and night for her. I wanted to note down a few things that have personally helped me. They may not work for everyone but it's really nice to figure out what works well and doesn't work well for you.
This has played a big part in my life for the past year and a half. I've had quite a lot of counselling sessions and I find that it has personally been really helpful. Every counsellor works in different ways and tries to help you with finding different coping mechanisms to help you get your anxiety under control. I found it really difficult at first trying to open up to somebody about my thoughts and feelings but I found that once I realised I was in a safe environment with someone that really wanted to help me, it made it easier to say whatever I wanted in my sessions. In the more recent months I've found sessions a bit more difficult because my anxiety hasn't been that bad as when I first started sessions, so sometimes I've felt like I've wasted my counsellors time because I haven't been able to report back on my anxiety. The thing I've realised is that my counselling sessions aren't all about my recent negative times with anxiety, it can be a great way to reflect on a good week I've had or talk about a situation where I felt that my anxiety was starting to creep up on me but I managed to control it. I'm not currently having any counselling at the moment but I know that if I feel like I need to go back anytime soon, I have that support. If you feel like you want to start counselling for your anxiety or other issues, go to your doctors who can recommend and refer you to places or even look online and refer yourself.
2/ Carrying Water & A Brown Paper Bag
I can honestly say that for the past three years I haven't gone anywhere without carrying a bottle of water and a brown paper bag with me. It gives me so much comfort to know I have these two things with me. The water is because obviously getting a good water intake each day is important, ha. I always find that If I've just had a panic attack my mouth gets incredibly dry and I overall feel really weak, so the water is just good to help incase that happens. The brown paper bag is something I haven't used in basically two years. My mum herself sometimes has breathing difficulties and she was the one that recommended I order some brown paper bags as she finds it really helpful to breathe into when she needs to calm herself down. I don't really rely on these as I find it too difficult when I'm panicking to calm down, so it's near impossible to use any form of breathing techniques because I spend too much time freaking out. It's something I really want to try to work on as if I figured out good breathing techniques for myself it would help a tremendous amount when I'm in panic mode. I got 100 brown bags for less than £2 on eBay.
Now, I don't actually take medication for my anxiety and that being because firstly I'd always said to myself that it's something that I want to control by myself without taking medication - some people find that medication really works for them and I think it is always something to consider but not everyone wants to be on them. The second reason being that earlier on in the year I spoke with my doctor about medication and she talked about prescribing me beta blockers that would help to slow down my heart when I felt a panic attack or high anxiety coming on, the problem with this is that I suffer with asthma and I never want to take something that could make my asthma even worse. I know there are other forms of medication that probably don't do that but I haven't really looked into them because I just don't think it's for me. I also think that if I did start to take medication I could become quite dependent on it and I would find it difficult to try to come off it.
I think this is probably the most important thing for me. I've always been a pretty organised person but I find it especially helpful with my anxiety because I find it can relieve so much added stress. I live in quite a small town at university which is actually pretty helpful because nothing is too far away from each other and I basically walk everywhere, so I don't tend to get much anxiety when it comes to going to places. My family home is back in London and I'm constantly there for the summer or when I'm visiting and as London is so big I'm either taking public transport or in my mums car (broom broom) a lot of the time, so my anxiety tends to always be quite high when I think about travelling. I've had panic attacks a number of times on the tubes especially, so it can be really difficult when I have to take one. If I do take the tube I find it really helpful going onto journey planner and counting how many stops away my destination is and I always take into consideration that I might have to stop half way through my journey if I'm finding it too difficult, so I take a mental note of which tube stations have somewhere for me to go to the bathroom, grab something to eat and drink and to just relax until I feel I'm ok to continue the rest of my journey.
I'd say this is the key to success. It isn't only important for anxiety but just in general for everyone. Recently uni has been really stressful as all my deadlines are this month so there's just so much to do and very little time to sit and chill (she says as she's been sat watching YouTube all day...) but the smallest of things are so nice like cooking something nice for dinner and chilling out with a movie or seeing my friends for coffee and all the food (Hi Mira & Ally). It's so easy to forget that you just need some chill time for yourself sometimes, I like to have a good balance of keeping busy and also having some time out for myself.
Is there anything you find helpful when dealing with anxiety and panic attacks?
Is there anything you find helpful when dealing with anxiety and panic attacks?