I’ve never considered myself as being someone with anxiety. Although I would sometimes get nervous about irrational things, it wasn’t to a point where it affected my everyday life. But things don’t always stay the same, life happens. And sometimes, shit happens. So since being diagnosed with IBS and having had a few bad experiences in class due to it (having to leave in the middle of a class conversation is my personal fav’), I have developed bad anxiety about going to class and not being in a “safe” place – aka with easy access to a bathroom and noisy enough to cover my gut sounds.
Unless you’ve experienced anxiety, it’s hard to understand just how awful and out of control you can feel. Imagine being put in front of your biggest fear, but not being able to leave. When you get anxious, you can’t control your thoughts and you can’t outrun them because they’re in your head at all times. There are however things that you can do to help either prevent anxiety attacks or at least learn how to not let it control your life as much. I’ve really just started my journey with anxiety but I’ve learned a few things from people around me that I hope will help you too.
Take your time
I learned this the hard way last week. I believed that I had given myself enough time and had worked on dealing with my anxiety. I was looking forward to going to class all weekend. When the day came, I got a little nervous but didn’t think to much of it. I started getting some classic IBS symptoms due to that but nevertheless, I got on the train and was on my way. I had had a minuscule cry before leaving the house but I didn’t think anything of it. But while I was on the train, halfway to uni, I started crying again. I was scared of going to class and I felt very alone. But I tried to calm myself down and got off at my stop.
However as soon as I did and I realised there was no going back, an overwhelming feeling of fear and panic took over me and I found myself crying, hard. Needless to say, I didn’t make it to class and was sobbing for half an hour as soon as I got home. I’m sure you have your own story. What I’m trying to say is, dealing with anxiety takes work and a lot of time.
Your thoughts and feelings are valid
If you have read my post about starting my journey with IBS, you might remember a passage where I shared a bad night I was having. Although it was quite dramatic and I don’t feel like that constantly, I decided to include it because these thoughts were valid. In the moment, they were how I felt and there’s nothing wrong with that. So whatever thoughts or feelings you’re experiencing, you are not being dramatic or stupid. No matter what anyone says, or what you tell yourself, it’s alright to feel out of control, helpless, lazy, sad, lonely… Whatever feelings and thoughts are brought on by your anxiety are valid and you shouldn’t feel bad or ashamed because you have them.
Don’t be so hard on yourself
This one is easier said than done, but I’m going to put it simply: if you had broken your leg, you would give yourself a break and take it easy. Well anxiety is just as bad, if not worse than a broken bone. So cut yourself some slack and take each day as it comes. Even if all you did was get out of bed, give yourself a pat on the back because I’m proud of you, and you should be too.
Speak about it
It’s not easy to speak about health and mental health especially. The moment you start speaking about it is the moment you accept that it’s real. I know that I’ve never been good at talking about my mental health. I’ve never wanted to admit that anything was affecting me or that I was having trouble with something. I was always more or less able to deal with things. But I got to a point where that wasn’t a viable option anymore.
Although it’s difficult and scary to do, speaking about it to someone you trust is a big step towards getting better. It will lift a weight off your shoulders, make you feel less alone, have someone else help you and enable you to understand it better. I often find that things can get overwhelming and muddled in my head. But it’s when trying to explain it to someone else and by putting it into words that makes it clearer. There are many people you can turn to: friends, family, teachers, councillors, helplines, etc. Keeping a journal also enables you to lift some of that weight off you.
I never really thought meditation was for me. I get very easily distracted and can’t imagine myself sitting on the floor cross-legged and humming. All jokes aside though, meditation is actually very good for you and your mind. And if you’re not at a stage where you can meditate by yourself, get an app. I’m sure you’ve heard of Headspace or seen an ad for it. It’s a really lovely, easy-to-use app that has meditation exercises for all situations. Anxiety is one of them. You do have to pay a subscription for Headspace which is quite expensive (£50/year if memory serves). But I will say this, your mental health is worth investing in, whether it be time, effort or money.
There are many different apps though and you can also find videos on YouTube. What I have learned with meditation – and what I’m still trying to implement – is that meditation is something you practise and exercise. You wouldn’t expect yourself to be able to figure skate at an Olympic level the first time your stepped on the ice. So you can’t expect yourself to be an expert at meditation from the start. It takes times, but everyone who has come out on the other side of this told me it was worth it – including my younger brother who’s years ahead of me and one of the people I look up to the most. Love you, bro!
One piece of advice I was given to deal with anxiety was to work out a few times a week. It enables your mind to shut off and focus on something else. It’s also good for you. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “healthy body, healthy mind” and vice versa (or something like that). It doesn’t have to be a gym session or a run outside. I think it’s important to choose something you somewhat enjoy and that is a little challenging. If it’s too easy, chances are your mind might go back to thinking too much. So build some exercise into your week and enjoy the benefits that’ll come from it.
We are lucky enough to live in a world where there are many ways to get help with anxiety, at the tip of our fingers. The internet allows for easy access to many websites, blogs, phone numbers for helplines and much more. If you are a student or employed, chances are that your university or employer offer help. I’ve actually just walked out of a meeting with the disability service at my university and they’ve set up an Individual Learning Plan to accommodate and help with my anxiety and IBS. Honestly, this meeting has lifted a weight off me and I feel so much better already.
So however you choose to get help, reach out to someone, go to therapy, make your environment fit for you, use the resources that are available. As comforting and less scary as it sounds, don’t keep things in, crawl into bed and avoid everything. You can learn to deal with your anxieties, please don’t let anxiety control your life. You deserve to be able to live life to the fullest so get all the help you need and kick anxiety in the ass!
You’re not alone
This is the most important point of this whole post. You are not alone. So many people suffer from anxiety – or other conditions you might have never heard of. As my personal tutor in uni told me: “we all have something, this is just your something”. So you can either let it control you or you can grab it by the horns and own it. This doesn’t make you any less of a person, on the contrary. You’re so strong for living with this and for moving forward. Every day is a new day. So if you’re having a bad day, give yourself a break and try again tomorrow. And trust me when I say that everyone in your surroundings is dealing with something too. You’re never alone.
So this is it, my post about dealing with anxiety. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve not been dealing with this for that long and I’ve still got a lot to learn. I just want this to make you feel less alone and give you a few tips that have helped me and that can guide you towards something that works for you. If you have been dealing with anxiety, I’m sorry. I hope you’re doing okay. If you’ve got any things that have helped you, feel free to share them here or on my Instagram (@relatablesunday). I hope you have a lovely week anyway and I will see you on Sunday (sorry about the delay for this post by the way, I just didn’t want to rush such an important subject).