The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Anxiety.

 

Are you having a tough week? I know several people I have spoken to this week seem to be suffering in one way or another. Maybe it’s time to switch off the news, chill out a bit and try to focus on getting rid of the old ‘worry monster’.

Everyone worries but does that make it okay? It seems like worry and anxiety have been woven into the fabric of our society and has become a recognised problem to many. It appears in many forms – parents worry about their children – many of us worry about our health and well-being – our work and even just the routine of daily life. We worry about so many things we cannot control.

But control is an illusion, and the amount of things outside of our control is overwhelming. You can’t control the other drivers out there so you worry every time you drive along the road. You can’t control your child’s actions so you worry about them every Friday night. You can’t control the economy so you worry every time the next hint of redundancies comes floating through the office or, if you are self-employed, when your source of reliable work inexplicably dries up.

Anxiety creeps in when we don’t get what we want or something happens to us and we ask: ‘Why me?’ When injustice is done to us (and it’s done far too often), anxiety can settle on us like an oppressive blanket, choking out any joy and happiness.

But because we can’t control a lot of the things we worry about maybe we should turn the way we look at these things around – admit we can’t control this or that so worry is just a waste of time and more importantly, energy. There is nothing more tiring than worry and anxiety – trust me on that one! It’s a vicious circle too – you worry endlessly- you get tired which then makes you more prone to worrying more!

Although worry and anxiety may surround us we can get over these feelings.

So here is my cheat list for fooling the ‘worry monster’ into thinking you are oblivious to his dark ways:

1. Learn to live with it but don’t give in. Allow a certain amount of time a day to think about what is bothering you and know you have a choice to do something about it. Acknowledge that you are a worrier from time to time – you are just being human. If you have a partner tell them you are feeling anxious but are working through it. Try not to shut people out as they may feel they are somehow at fault.

2. As soon as you get out of bed in the morning, do something straight away. Prepare a healthy breakfast, look after your appearance, get on with the chores if you are at home, or try and go out of the door with a spring in your step even when you don’t feel like it. Dwelling on things doesn’t help and just by being active you will feel better. Take action by doing something. Don’t forget how good exercise is too for changing your mood. It doesn’t have to be over strenuous – just walking in the fresh air will be beneficial.

3. Find someone who needs you. It’s amazing how helping someone else can make both them and you feel better. (Be sure not to spend too much time commiserating with each other over all your joint woes though!)

4. Talk to someone. I have mentioned this so many times and I can’t say it enough – unload your worries occasionally to someone you trust – it really does help.

5. At the end of the day, write down the things you have been grateful for. Really think about all the little things that made your day go a bit better. It really is the small things that count – those small acts of kindness that come from unexpected places. And write down all the names of those you love and care about and finish with a smiley. 🙂 You will all benefit.

6. The opposite of fear is faith. Find some faith. Believe in something and devote some time to mindfulness. Believe things will get better – sometimes that is all you need, but never underestimate the power of prayer or visualisation. Think about it – people have cured themselves from severe illness with visualisation so it must work with anxiety too. You don’t have to be devout or religious to gain help from the Bible – so much wisdom has been passed down to us that is really worth keeping close by.

Just think about these words written so long ago…..

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body, more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?……..Therefore do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

Matthew 6:25 – 34

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Proverbs 12:25

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Surviving Treacherous Times…Finding your own compass…

If you were washed up on a desert island and desperate to survive, I wonder what survival technique would serve you best? No matter how fit and strong you were, if you weren’t mentally strong you would find it difficult to keep going. Bulging muscles and gym enhanced fitness might help you bounce around the sand for a while but without mental fitness you would soon start to panic or go into ‘freeze’ mode. You would only be able to run around searching for ships on the horizon, and an immediate solution, for so long. While it is certainly good to keep physically fit, there is much more to survival than that. Often the person with hidden strengths survives against the odds.

Just as we would find it hard to cope alone on a desert island, this time of year especially, with all the extra stresses and strains, we may feel we need to go into survival mode. We may not be lost on that desert island but we may feel just as stranded and panicked. It may not only be the stresses of Christmas that bring us down; there could be more serious worries in our lives; worries about finances, health, relationships or body image may become more pressing during the festive period. There is something about Christmas that heightens our emotions and makes us feel things, both good and bad, more deeply.

The strongest survival skill comes from managing the mind. Everything you do and experience comes from your mind after all. It is hard at times I know, but there are some basic tips to help you settle your mind and feel more in control. Just as when trapped on that island, if you worry too much you may panic in stressful situations. In times like this just STOP.  Stop and find a quiet space and take a breather. Pause and do nothing and think about your situation and what is really bothering you. Think carefully about what to do next. Are you stressed by loud music and crowds in a shopping centre for instance? Can the shopping wait to another day? Is it really that important? Think about finding a quieter area to regain some calm. Remember most things aren’t as crucial to get done as you think.

If you were stranded somewhere you would probably make yourself a base camp – somewhere where you felt safe and could shelter from the storm. In the same way so it is also needed in normal life – make sure your surroundings at home are peaceful and comfortable – create your own safe haven and your own ‘go to’ place. Escape to this place from time to time and especially during frantic days, and feel the calmness there. If you work in an office keep your own space uncluttered and perhaps keep a photo on your desk of loved ones or have a framed positive quote that you like. Have a little corner that is just yours and rest your eyes on a scene that is tranquil. If you can go for a walk at lunchtime and play some peaceful music on your headphones you will feel more able to cope with the day.

Make a plan – in  the desert you would formulate a plan so that you could attract help and the possibility of rescue. Do the same in your mind to help you ease your worries. Think of who may be able to help you in your current situation, whatever it may be. Be open to advice. Put out feelers  – you will be surprised where help may come from.

Work out your everyday survival techniques. Have an imaginary compass in your mind – picture it pointing you in the right direction – the calm and happy direction. If you have a problem that is really worrying you, picture your compass rotating until it points you to a place where you can work out your problems. Picture it pointing you to a friend who is ready to receive you with kind and open arms. Imagine it sending you towards your own personal North Star where peace and contentment abounds. It is amazing how this can help you find a way forward and calm your mind.

Every time you leave your own particular safe place, your ‘base camp’, and venture out in a calm and peaceful way and can cope with what ever is outside you will be building confidence and more able to take control of different and even anxious feelings. Also, knowing you have a place to retreat to and recharge your batteries will help, even if you just go there in your mind when you are in a chaotic place.

So next time you feel you are anxious or jittery, put your mind to survival and find the path you lost.

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More thoughts on Anxiety.

I recently wrote some posts about anxiety. Because anxiety seems to be so commonplace in people’s lives at the moment, or at least I seem to have come across a lot of people suffering from it, I wanted to write down some more thoughts about the subject. I am well aware that different approaches work for different people and I am not qualified to dispense medical advice, I can only write from personal experience and give some insights I have gained from others. I hope there may be something here that may help a little if you are finding yourself going through anxious times.

Anxiety takes many forms and can shape your thought processes and decisions. It is thought to be related to the biological fight or flight response to feeling threatened. It can become a problem if it is accompanied by panic attacks or anxiety about things which are part of everyday life.

Anxiety isn’t rational. It’s not just an amplified version of what is worrying you. It’s more than that. Sometimes you don’t know what sets it off. Some days you can cope with life and others you just don’t want to know. A lot of people think anxiety is nothing more than a similar feeling you get before giving a presentation at work or an actor having first night nerves; it may be a bit like that at times, but often its more long lasting and doesn’t decrease as it would when events like the above are over. Some of the symptoms are palpitations, wanting to escape form your surroundings, fear you may lose control of thoughts or actions, racing heart, nausea, insomnia and nervousness.

Anxiety can strike anyone and people from all walks of life. It doesn’t really matter what your circumstances are, what background you come from, whether you are in a happy relationship or alone, hold down a high powered job or are unemployed, well-off or hard up. It can creep up on anyone and sometimes it is just unexplained.

There are many ways of coping with anxiety and different ones work for different people. One thing I have noticed is that friends and family often want to find a solution for you and a reason for why this is happening to you. That’s fine but there are times you don’t want to listen to solutions and you don’t particularly want to have the reasons described. You just want to get through the day. And all you really want is for someone to say ‘It’s okay’ or ‘you will get through this’ and ‘I am here for you. I love you’. With empathy and support you can cope so much better. Remember – just because a condition is given a label it doesn’t necessarily mean it solves the problem in your head.

Here are some tips about what not to do when you are battling with anxiety:

Do not watch the news.

Do not under any circumstances look up the condition you are worried you have on the internet. I promise you the information you find will scare you and often the stuff you read is not accurate. Trust me on this. I have been there!

Don’t overdose on caffeine and be careful with alcohol consumption – hangovers are debilitating at the best of times but if you are feeling vulnerable they can make anxiety levels worse.

Do not become a couch potato – you will feel much better if you go outside and walk/ take exercise.

Don’t have very late nights. Lack of sleep makes anxiety worse. Even if you suffer from insomnia- get to bed early and get as much sleep as you can. At the same time, rather than lay tossing and turning, get up for a while and make a milky drink (cows milk or an alternative like almond milk if you don’t like dairy) Then try and get back to sleep again.

Don’t eat junk and sugary foods. Avoid any foods that trigger your anxiety and cause headaches like cheese and yeast extract. Acid producing food and drinks can make you jittery ie. processed meats and sodas,  whilst alkaline foods can be more calming, ie. vegetables and most fruits, beans and lentils.

If you are trying to help someone with anxiety , here are a few things to remember:

Often someone in an anxious state comes across as distant or uncaring but this is not how they are inside – they are feeling bad and preoccupied and may not realise how they appear to others. It doesn’t mean they don’t love or care about you.

Don’t say their worries are silly or unfounded. They are very real to them!

They may appreciate your help but not you trying to change them. You cannot know how they are feeling inside.

Never say ‘pull yourself together!’ (I’m sure you wouldn’t !)

For those suffering from anxiety, getting through the day is the important thing.

When you are in a situation that is causing you to feel anxious  – for example, worrying you might be late for an appointment, or losing your keys, ask yourself what would be the worst thing that could happen? Most things can be overcome even if they upset us at the time and cause an inconvenience. You will find most people are helpful if you are stuck in a minor predicament. Try and reach out and have a lighthearted approach- it is amazing how this will help an awkward situation and make you feel more optimistic.

Even in more serious situations that would make most people anxious, you will be surprised how you will often find help and sympathy from unexpected people or places.

Remember, anxiety doesn’t define you.

Have a small item that you find comforting and keep it with you. I have a few words on a scrap of paper in my handbag written by my late mother – it reads : ‘To my lovely girl -be happy. You will never know how much I love you. Love Mum.x ‘  To know you are loved or have been loved is more than uplifting. It is at the core of everything.

YOU are loved. Yes you are – even if you doubt it.

Blessings to you.

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Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength ‘

                                                                                                 Charles Spurgeon