Mental Health Awareness Week - How I cope with Anxiety

I wanted to write this blog post to honour this very important week. Although this campaign started in 2001, it hasn't been until the past couple of years that I've seen a real shift in people's reaction to it. Mental health is now a topic of daily public discussion - on the news, in podcasts, on social media, the list goes on. I'm glad we're starting to see progress in the destigmatisation of these issues and it makes me feel hopeful for our future generations' minds.

It seems there is still some way to go though (which is evident, as part of me is slightly nervous to share my experience in case I'm seen as weaker in some way). However, I do know that's not the case and the more we speak up about it the better, as sharing our own experiences helps others feel they aren't alone and shows that it is normal to have fluctuations in our mental state. If someone hasn't suffered themselves, it's highly likely they know someone who has.

Throughout the last decade, I have struggled on-and-off with bouts of bad anxiety, and throughout the pandemic I experienced it more intensely than ever. Anxiety can manifest itself in so many way for different people. For me, my symptoms are mainly excessive worrying / ruminating thoughts and hyper-vigilance. It can be so lonely and scary in the midst of these feelings but I am incredibly lucky to have a great support network around me, who have been there for me on those darker days to get me back on track.

I'm happy to say I am truly starting to find real ways to cope with these bouts and that I'm now in a really positive headspace. To get to this point I have sought out many resources including my GP, CBT courses etc. but the following coping mechanisms have stuck with me and truly help me in my day-to-day life.

 

 

My coping mechanisms 

  • Using F.E.A.R as an acronym - false evidence appearing real
This has been so effective for me - whenever I get overly worried or my mind starts to negatively ruminate over something, I say the four words 'False Evidence Appearing Real' to myself. It tends to immediately bring some clarity to the situation and I can reason with myself that it's very likely not true.

  • 95% of the things I worry about, never happen
That's an extremely high percentage and a whole lot of precious energy literally being wasted. If I start to worry, I'll try and catch myself early on and remind myself of this sentence. It gives me a much needed sense of perspective and I can then shift my focus onto something productive.

  • Journalling
I have written a diary since I was 13 years old - that's 15 whole years of writing down my thoughts and experiences. I treasure those journals so very much and hope to show them to future generations in my family one day, to show that ups and downs have and always will be a part of life. You just have to embrace the ride and see them as an important part of growing as a human. There really are no rules when it comes to journalling, which is why I love it. 

  • Don't take things too personally
It's taken me 28 years to really learn not to take things so personally. The world is not out to get you, in fact I believe the Universe truly is on our side and each experience we have opens another door. Not getting the job, not getting a reply etc. happens sometimes, it doesn't mean you are a failure. I now look at every action I take with this attitude - 'Did I do my absolute best to get my points across?' If the answer I say to myself is 'yes', then there's no need for external validation from the response, because it's already a mini success in my mind. It's such a freeing way to live.

  • Don't try and fight it, allow it to come and go
I heard the author Rhonda Byrne once say that 'what you resist, persists' and it really resonated with me. The more we try to push a thought or feeling away, the more it's going to come back to us. Humans weren't built to be positive 100% of the time so when a negative feeling arises (as they often will), sit with it and explore the root of it. I've found by doing this, the next time the feeling occurs it doesn't come back as strongly.

    • What you focus on, you create more of
    Most of us tell ourselves the same old things each day (most likely self-berating) and by doing this, we keep our minds in this cycle. However, if you can cultivate positive feelings, boosting yourself up, feeling grateful for your life etc. then it creates momentum and more good thoughts will start to replace the old ones. My two favourite way of doing this are listing everything I'm grateful for for 1 minute as I'm walking to the shops, or repeating mantras to myself such as 'I am successful, I approve of myself etc.'


    My parting messages are these - you are not alone and you are not defined by your mental health issue. It is just a small part of you among many, many other wonderful things that make you, you. It's brave and empowering to be vulnerable so keep wearing your heart on your sleeve, and spreading the word that talking things out is always best.

    Love,
    Amy


    NOTE: I am not a mental health professional / do not have any health care experience, I am purely sharing what's worked for me. If you feel you need professional help, please reach out to your GP or use a charity service such as Mind.