Managing My Anxiety
noun: conscious knowledge of one's own character and feelings.
“the process can be painful but it leads to greater self-awareness”
I wanted to start this post with this statement because I believe it aligns perfectly with introducing myself.
Hello there! For those of you who are new here, I am Lydia. A 21 year old self-employed soon to be health coach. I find pleasure in the smaller things like reading books, baking with plants and taking pictures of everything + anything (‘no srsly, can I take a picture of that?’ - ha!). I have a strong foundation around me; an amazing family, an absolute treasure of a boyfriend and a wonderful group of girl friends. Like most girls in our current generation, I have grown up with the background belief that sometimes I am not good enough (when in reality I now realise that I am more than enough). I guess you could say I have always been a trier and a people pleaser; I found value in myself by making others feel better. However seeking value from external factors will not heal you, it will only delay your process. Healing yourself begins with self-acceptance and awareness; To be self-aware is to proudly know who you are and what you are feeling. So with that overly long introduction out of the way, let me begin by explaining how I became self-aware, and in doing this, managed to get my anxiety under control.
We have so many different versions of ourselves it is often hard to pin-point who you are, or even want to be. We are a different person with our parents than we are with are boyfriend, and different with our boyfriend that we are with are friends. We are different at work to when we are at home and we are different in a local coffee shop to when sat alone at home. Our surroundings have a huge implement on how we behave, or better yet how we believe we can behave. Behaviour, according to google, is ‘the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others’. I read this a few times before I realised it was incorrect. Behaviour, yes, is the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, but MOST importantly the way in which one acts or conducts oneself towards ourselves, not others. From my own self-care routine I am aware that you are actually your truest self when you are alone; being alone you are faced with your long-term sustainable self. You are made to face up to the actions you have undertaken that you may regret, the promises or compromises you have made you wish you’d never and the situations you replay daily which you learn to let go of. By being alone you are made to stop and think; and that in itself is a scary thought.
I have a little activity I want you to do. Stop whatever else you may be doing at this point, aside reading this post, take a few deep breathe and empty your mind. Ready? Now imagine you are at home alone for a few days, or better yet you are anywhere in the world you want to be, but the key here is that you are alone. Ask yourself the following questions, and envision what a few days to yourself might look like….
What clothes do you wear? did you even get out of your pj’s?
What time do you get up? or did you enjoy a long lie in?
> What music do you listen to? are you singing along? better yet are you dancing awfully?
What foods are you craving? Are you cooking for yourself or eating out?
What do you do in your spare time? Exercise? A walk in nature? Writing?
How often do you check social media? or upload a picture?
How often do you check your emails? or wish to make a call? Who would you want to call?
By visualising who we truly are, and who we want to be, we are able to align ourselves with the middle ground. Now ask yourself one last question; do you want to settle in this middle ground? If so, happy days. Some people are happy in this middle medium. Others, like myself, want to push themselves above and beyond. I want to address here that we are ALL human. It is ok to feel sad or anxious and most importantly it is ok to feel like you have lost yourself. There is no starting point for self improvement nor no final result, it is an ongoing life long process which we should thrive off. When I was 15 I saw my first therapist. When I was 20 I was admitted to cognitive behavioural therapy and saw my first councillor. I see neither of these as threats or fallbacks to my life; if anything I try to view them as achievements or badges of honour. How proud I am to have experiences such feelings and be where I am today, sharing and writing this with you all. Your ability to implement change really does start with owning your emotions and your actions. A little note for those more unstable days, which even I still have. Emotions are best lived when we let them be present so allow yourself time to express exactly how you are feeling. When I feel stressed, angry or overwhelmed I will let out an actually ‘Grrrrr!’, no seriously, I will! I do about 3 ‘Grr’s’ before I smile or laugh and realise to express ourselves is fantastic. Grr as loud as you can, or better yet when your happy say ‘Woooohooo’. Let the world know exactly how you are feeling, you will feel 10 times better afterwards. Life will only meet us with situations and emotions that it believes we can handle; so accept the challenge and use your voice.
I have accepted that I will probably face mental health dips throughout my whole life and I am ok with that. Since leaving university I have found myself spending a lot of my spare time on self development activities which have massively contributed to my day to day mentality. I feel like around now I should stop rambling and start sharing how I transformed my mental health victim approach to feeling like nothing will ever be too much for me to handle. Becoming self aware involves being critical of yourself, but not in a negative way. It may sound stupidly simple, but by directly outlining the contributing factors to not only anxiety, but day to day stress and unhappiness we can confront ourselves head on. Think of it a little like a pep talk you would give your friend.. except this time it is about coming face to face with yourself.
For the next two weeks I advise you to make a note of what sparks your anxiety, and also what makes you feel happy. These can be things that led to a mood crash, or one main event/meal/conversation, big or small factors, get everything written down. To make things super easy for you, I have added a free downloadable file which I actually created and completed myself in order to elevate my mental awareness and tune in my sub-conscious behaviour. Sometimes what sparks our anxiety/depression can be an underlying issue which we are trying to mask by avoiding, so be as truthful as you can with this exercise. It is private and only for your own benefit.
For the next week, make a note somewhere private of what sparks your anxiety, small or big, take note. Vice versa when you feel happy, small or big, take note.
Here are a few examples from my own dairy sheet.
Foods: When I eat too many sugars I feel more anxious and irritable.
People: There was a rude man on the train who was rude to me which spiked my mood and made me feel angry.
Activities: I scrolled social media for 30 minutes and after I stopped I started to question myself which made me feel insecure - I then began worrying if I am good enough.
Time Management: I feel frustrated that I spent so long procrastinating on my phone when I could have been writing a blog, reading my book or working out.
Work: I received a late night text from a freelance client just as I was about to start reading. My evening routine was then pushed back and I felt agitated and out of control.
Appearance: Today I wore nice underwear and a pretty dress, i did my hair and makeup and I felt empowered and confident.
Skin: My skin is clear today and I feel comfortable to leave the house with no makeup on.
Matcha Latte: I took myself out for coffee today at The Garden in Hale and had a matcha. It felt nice to have some alone time and to enjoy a drink by myself. This boosted my mood.
Prayer: I prayed for continuous growth and stability, I thanked god for my current position and the opportunities ahead. I felt lighter and calmer after doing so.
Reading: I re-read a chapter from the 5am club and It really picked my up and motivated me to keep pushing myself to achieve more.
Fresh Air: Nature for me lifts my mood so much - the fresh air, the sunshine contrast of the crisp air, the noises, the utter peace. I feel most alive in these moments.
Foods: I had a big superfood salad today - It made me feel like i was glowing inside and out. I feel in control when I eat good food because I am respecting and purifying my body.
Classes: 1 hour GRIT PLIO + CARDIO on Wednesday 6-7pm - the worst and favourite hour of my week. I feel so great afterwards and I have made some friends in the class which makes me feel like less of an introvert.
Songs: ‘Sam Henshaw - Church’ makes me feel all kinds of blessings and makes me want to jump out of bed.
Sunrise: Going to bed earlier and waking up earlier makes me feel in control and I notice I achieve more throughout the whole day.
Education: I try to learn something new everyday because I feel great about myself knowing I am constantly pushing and evolving my knowledge.
As you can see both the positive and negatives can be as small or large as you like, it is just about noticing what sparks your anxieties, and if there are self inflicted behaviours or not, and if not, how to learn to find calm in these moments. When you think about it, our unhappiness and anxieties are like little safety bubbles that subconsciously stop us from taking risks. We install them as a daily defence mechanism so that everything we do is approached with such caution that we never accept moments for what they are, but what they could have been or should have been. If like me you are ready to take control and not let anxiety rule your day to day life then keep reading.
“Don’t let a bad hour ruin your day, or even week.”
Learning how to bounce back is inevitable in learning to deal with your anxieties. No matter how many times you fall down, learning to get back up is where you will build your strength. Find comfort and motivation in the knock backs; you wouldn’t be presented with anything god does not believe will serve you.
From your list of positives, highlight those in which you feel you could incorporate into your daily routine. This may be as simple as setting your favourite song as your alarm sound. Or wearing your favourite outfit on a Monday to start your week as your most confident empowered self. This could be treating yourself to your favourite coffee on your lunch hour. This could be canceling plans with friends you don’t really want to hang out with to read the last chapter of your book. This process is about Y O U ! Don’t be ashamed in prioritising what is best for you, as you are your longest commitment and the return of investment in yourself is endless.
The most important thing I believe I can share with you from my personal experiences with anxiety is that by being conscious and aware of how you feel you are already in control. Once you realise you have the power to implement changes and conflict your mind you will be able to find more peace with you anxieties. Choose to undertake actions which reinforce your control.
Self control is strength. Calmness is mastery. These simple awareness methods helped me get to a point where my mood doesn’t shift based on the insignificant actions of someone else. Do not let others control the direction of your life, and certainly do not let your anxiety control this direction either. Do not allow your emotions to overpower your intelligence.
Explore through writing, drawings and quotes who you want to be without your anxiety
Write down what spikes your mood/worries
Write down what makes you feel happy/alive
Create a routine which helps boost your mood, control your mind and find calm
Be present in your actions. Appreciate the now for what it is rather than what it could or should be. If you struggle with this, write down daily gratitudes to make you realise the present.
Remember everybody falls down at some point, but accept the challenge and start climbing back up.
You will only be faced by what god believes will serve you. Introducing a relationship with god can really help serve you. When you pray or address god, he listens. You may not gain anything back from it, but you do loose something. You loose the emotions you shared, the struggles you face and the anxieties you wish to let go off.