So you may have read the title of this and thought “woahhhhh Carly! Why so serious?” but I felt like this post was well overdue. If you follow my blog you’ll be used to my usual lighthearted posts (and don’t worry they will be back soon!) but this is something that is close to my heart and I have noticed recently that a lot more people suffer with anxiety than we may realise. Before I get started though I just want to make it clear that the intention of this post is not to increase my stats nor is it for sympathy. Because to be honest with you I really don’t need it as I have managed to get my anxiety under control and I am the happiest I’ve ever been. And that is the reason for this post. To share with all of you who are secretly suffering (or perhaps you know someone who is) how I’ve overcome my anxiety and as a result turned my whole life around…
So what is anxiety? I’m not going to insert a technical term here from the NHS website, I’m going to give it to you in my own words. Firstly, it is not the same as depression. The terms often get used together in the same sentence which can blur the lines between the two and make things confusing. Yes people can suffer from both, but that’s not what this post is covering. Anxiety is when you feel nervous, anxious and on edge excessively, sometimes for absolutely no reason at all which is usually the most frustrating and upsetting thing. It’s the feeling that something is wrong, really wrong, but you can’t put your finger on it. You feel like you can’t sit still, so you try and take yourself somewhere where you might feel better, only it doesn’t help. No matter where you go or what you do, the anxiety follows you. Now we’ve all experienced anxiety at some point in our lives so we can all relate… To an extent. We’ve all felt anxious about a job interview or an operation, or perhaps the commonly known “Beer Fear” 😉 You all know what I’m talking about… Where you’ve been on a heavy night out with some severe memory loss and you wake up in the morning in an anxious state, worrying what you might have said or done or if you massively embarrassed yourself. But then a few hours later the Beer Fear passes when you realise that the worst thing you did was indulge in a dirty doner kebab on the way home. No biggie. If only this could be the same for anxiety sufferers. When you suffer with anxiety you experience this feeling over and over and it can sometimes takes days to feel calm again. Sometimes the anxiety even excels into a full blown panic attack which can be terrifying. I consider myself lucky in the fact that I only experienced 2 of these during my bout of anxiety, but I really wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. When a panic attack strikes you, you feel like you can’t breathe, you feel hot, dizzy, nauseous, confused and scared that you’re not going to be able to calm yourself down. So what do you do? You panic some more and make the whole situation worse. If you feel a panic attack coming on the best advice I can give you is to concentrate on regulating your breathing. Try and push whatever has brought the panic attack on to the back of your mind, whatever it may be. If there is a friend, family member or even a stranger near you, tell them you’re having a panic attack and get them to either talk to you to try and calm you down or breathe with you.
You may be wondering what brought my anxiety on, but to this day I can’t really tell you which is often the case with anxiety sufferers. All I can tell you is that I remember it happening around the time when I was auditioning for drama school and receiving rejection after rejection, which unfortunately comes with the gig. It really knocked my confidence and I feel it definitely played a factor in it. Everyday became an uphill struggle after that and I felt like I was constantly failing at life and worrying about my future. I fell into some very dark places but eventually got fed up of myself and the way I was feeling. So I decided to try and do something about it. Ok so it wasn’t quite as easy as that. It took a lot of time and hard work but eventually I taught myself some techniques of how to control my anxiety. They may work for you too. Give them a whirl.
1. Admit to yourself you have anxiety
The first task is to admit to yourself that you are suffering. This is often the hardest task to overcome as no one wants to be branded with this, but if you can’t be honest with yourself then you can’t help yourself. You are not a failure. And you are not alone.
2. Tell someone about it
You know that old saying “a problem shared is a problem halved”? Well it’s true. The moment you tell someone the way you are feeling, it’s like half of the load has been taken off your shoulders. It doesn’t have to be a doctor if you’re not ready for that. It can be a friend or a family member. Choose one or two people who you are close to, you can trust and have your best interests at heart. They love you and they want to help you. Let them.
3. Try and pinpoint any worries
Now I know this is a lot easier said than done because when you suffer from anxiety, even the smallest thing can set it off. You might feel like you worry about absolutely everything. But there will be some bigger problems in your life that you’ll realise your smaller problems keep leading back to. Are you unhappy in your job? Is it money worries? Are you in an unhealthy relationship? Whatever it is, they can normally always be resolved. But pinpointing them and discussing them with your close loved ones will help.
4. Try and see the bigger picture
Once you’ve discussed your worries with your chosen loved ones, did they make you feel differently about them? Maybe they didn’t have the same reaction to them as you do. And you know why that probably is? Because they’re really not worth worrying about too much. Most of the things you are worrying about now will never happen. Ask yourself this… Is there anything you can do about your problems right this second? No? Then why are you worrying about them? Now I knooowwww that is a lot easier said than done, believe me. But it’s something you need to keep telling yourself over and over. The majority of the things you are worrying about are out of your hands and you are probably blowing them out of proportion and torturing yourself. There is nothing you can do about them, so no amount of worrying is going to help. It’s only going to make it worse. Have a cup of tea, a slice of cake and take some deep breaths.
5. Stay sociable
This one may make you want to run a mile and dive under your duvet for the next week. Well you’ve been doing that for a while now and it hasn’t really got you anywhere has it? This may not be the same for everyone, but my anxiety was so much worse when I was left alone with my own thoughts. When I felt the anxiety creeping up on me, I would go and see one of my friends or a family member to keep my mind off things. And more often than not I would go and talk to them about how I was feeling. They were always happy to listen and then we would stick a film on and I would feel much better. Don’t bottle it up on your own. I learnt that the hard way.
6. Tell yourself you are not a burden
You. Are. Not. A. Burden. Say it. Repeat it. Repeat it again. It’s normal to feel like you might be annoying or hassling your loved ones with your mumbo jumbo, but guess what? You’re not. They would feel hurt if you felt like you couldn’t rely on them, and this is not your fault. You didn’t ask to feel this way. They don’t feel like you are a burden and there will come a time when they need you too. And I’m guessing you wouldn’t turn your back on them in their hour of need? Thought not.
7. If needed, seek professional help
Hopefully I’ve given you some helpful advice which you can practice and get yourself on your way to a happier place, but if you feel like you need some professional help there is absolutely no shame in that. Most people turn to professionals for help at some point in the lives. You would be amazed to know how many people they see in a day who suffer with exactly the same problem as you! If you need it, go to the doctor and tell them how you are feeling. That’s what they’re there for and it may be the extra push that you need.
Smile. Come on… Smile. There is always someone out there who is far worse off than you. This does not, and will not, define you as a person. And you will beat it. You will probably (hopefully) find other ways to help yourself as well, which is great. Everyone is different. I am living proof that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If I knew 2 years ago that I would be writing a blog and sharing my anxiety experience with the general public, I would have laughed. Hard. But here I am, the happiest I’ve ever been. Yes there are still days where I have a “wobble” and I will probably always a worrier, but I have it under control. And soon you will too.
Just keep swimming. Everything is, and will be, OK. Promise.
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