Although depression and anxiety are the most common problems faced, 1 in 4 people will at some point in their life experience any of a number of issues with their own personal mental health. Within this ratio it is estimated that 16% of the population in the UK will experience anxiety at any one time.
This is a statistic which troubles me, this could be higher as say 1 in 3 (For example) as 48% of the population when asked are more likely to turn to Google rather than their GP - I want to change this.
So what is anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural response and is experienced mostly about things which are certainly about to happen and what we think could happen. This response we get is called “Fight or Flight”. This is where the body releases hormones which include cortisol and adrenaline; both of which make us feel more alert, act faster and cause our hearts to beat faster. This is where our panic attacks come from.
The condition can be a gateway to other problems such as alcohol and substance abuse with 34% of the UK population say that they turn to alcohol to help with the low mood, depression and anxiety – It is estimated that 37% of all men and 30% of women turn to drink as a coping mechanism.
How do I suffer from it?
As I am very open about it, I’m sure we all know I suffer from severe anxiety disorder. Every day it’s a battle to get out of bed and face the day. I need to have a plan of action for that day so I can prepare and get ready in myself mentally in case anything should happen.
Everything I do, like literally everything, I feel like someone is waiting for me to trip up. Someone is always watching and poised ready to unleash havoc. Although this isn’t always the case, it has happened in the past which has reinforced the behaviours. In my case, the behaviours of others have such a dramatic impact with my anxiety and my peers therefore unfortunately suffer immensely.
It also has had a dramatic impact in my social life. Going back to the situation I’ve discussed in a previous post; Facebook profiles and cyber bullying have taken a serious impact on my life. I struggle with trust now and well to be blunt, I have a VERY small amount of people I consider friends and who I can trust. With this trust being torn apart like a tapestry vs some angry kittens, every time I have interactions with anyone I’m ALWAYS asking myself:
“I know this will go to someone else.” - “he/she is going to think I’m nuts” - “Are you going to do the same?”
When going places I’m not familiar with: (let’s use London 10km as an example) as soon as me and Amber arrived and got into the hotel room, I needed to know where the nearest tube station was, how long it would take to get there and which streets to go down.
When I enter a panic attack I just want to curl up and hope the world just passes me by. That stereotypical rocking backwards and forwards in desperation for comfort and my fast, shallow breathing doesn’t help either.
What do I do to help?
Firstly, I'll mention about when anxiety is affecting me in a situation where I know as a certainty is going to happen.
What is going to certainly happen:
Remember when I mentioned “Reinforcing the behaviours”? I use this to my advantage. When coping with the fight or flight response, it’s very easy to just say “Nope” and get out of that situation by any means; but by doing this I know for myself (It could be different for other people) that the next time it will be so much easier to just do the same flight method. In that instance yes it’s okay for the short term, but in the long run it’s just going to keep the same defence mechanism should the situation occur again – before any therapy, I was a pro at this.
Using an example – Entering a shop:
Something which genuinely I went through a few years ago; so I had a period where I couldn’t enter a shop never mind a public place because of after an incident, I thought everyone was judging me. I found rather than just dodging the store, take a baby step every so often. I would enter the shop, and walk out strait away. Then after a few times I would go into the store, stay a few minutes and then come out keeping it going and building it up, brick by brick until I felt safe and in a good place.
Soon I started to have the behaviour of realising I was getting anxious and that by doing this I was reinforcing the positive which then helped me go “Okay, I can do this!” You can apply this to anything not just walking aimlessly into a store, people I have spoken to in the past said they do this for going into the gym for the first time.
What could possibly happen:
This one is a bit tricky than the previous one, mainly because we can’t all tell the future there is an ominous uncertainty about everything we do and don’t do. My method for coping with this is to take each hour by the hour.
What I mean is, for one hour I just think okay so what can happen between this hour and think of ways you could prevent it if the problem was to happen. Once that hour has elapsed I do the exact same thing again, and after a while you start to realise that the likelihood of the negative situation happening is less and less likely. This way you can build up trust in anything you’re doing, for me it keeps me in a job and helps no end. Sometimes I even need coaching and call up the wife for some support.
What to do if your struggling with Anxiety.
I can’t stress this enough, speak to someone you trust, and make sure one of them is your GP. Anxiety is a cruel illness which for me sometimes is paralysing and the beginning to something much worse. I found in the workplace when anxiety affects me the best thing is to speak to my line manager and just explain the situation and have 5 minutes to calm down, focus on myself and ask for help where I need it.
Remember to breathe - There is a method called "Square Breathing." If you imagine a square with equal sides and the measurements being in breaths you can draw a square with a pattern of breathing.
Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, hold for four seconds.
Try out what I’ve listed! I found they work for me and they might just help you too! But please don’t take my word for it. I am by no means a healthcare professional and just explaining what I’ve experienced and what I do as a coping mechanism.
There is absolutely no shame in seeking help when you need it and its okay to not be okay!
Since I’ve been through therapy and medications, I take my anxiety’s out on sport; sometimes even just going for a walk.
It’s amazing what fresh air and a 5 – 10 minute walks can do for you when your struggling.
Where can I get more information?
Below is a list of resources which are available if needed and place you can contact:
MIND for better mental health - https://www.mind.org.uk/
CALM: Campaign Against Living Miserably - https://www.thecalmzone.net/
Samaritans - https://www.samaritans.org/ (116123 from any phone in UK)
Rethink mental Illness - https://www.rethink.org/
Time to change - https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/
Again, I must stress, I’m not a professional in this field. I’m just sharing with you some research and my own experiences with anxiety.
I hope this has been some help for those suffering with anxiety and helped to not only control the effect of it, but to also understand it. Also helped those suffering to seek help when they need it the most.
Stay Strong, Stay safe.
(All statistics are correct as of end 2017)