What is Anxiety?
I didn’t always have anxiety, at least, I didn’t think I did. I just had insomnia, right? Insomnia isn’t anxiety! Neither is the occasional panic attack… or not being able to enter a venue by myself… or the tight chest when thinking about certain situations… or a very long list of other things that are totally not anxiety.
Well, age 24 I discovered that yes, insomnia (amongst all those other things) is caused by anxiety, and yes, I do have anxiety, and have had it for a very long time.
Anxiety in general, apart from the insomnia, didn’t so much affect me as a teenager. As I had grown up dancing, doing drama and singing, performing was nothing new to me so my life became a bit of a performance in order to get through all that awkward, anxiety fuelling teenage situations – chatting to that cute boy was a non-issue! I was also so stubborn that I would force myself through any anxious situation just to prove I wasn’t shy… only to then lie awake at night over processing, thinking about it all in the minutest detail wondering… “what could I have done differently?”.
However, adult life is very different with a lot more situations to panic over or feel anxious about than when you’re a teenager (although I suspect teenagers today have it a lot worse than I did in the 90’s) – work, love, friends, family, finances, the list goes on. None of that really worries you until you hit your early twenties and that’s when I, like so many others, found out I was living with Anxiety.
I like to think of there being two main forms of anxiety – the type that is caused by life, and the type that is caused by the chemical imbalances of the brain (meaning you have a neurotic personality… this is the one I have), but no matter which form you have it’s about feeling helpless, and losing control of our own thoughts, our bodies, and can make life almost impossible to live sometimes.
Anxiety is not easy to beat or control, no matter what they say, and medication isn’t always the answer. However there are ways to distract yourself from it, to kick it in the butt, and beat it into submission – you own your brain, you control it!
So let’s take back control, and let’s beat anxiety!
How to beat Anxiety
Hang on, if my mind is already racing, why would getting busy help it?
Because if you busy your mind and body, you are being in control of a situation, and focussing on whatever it is you are doing in that moment. This helps to distract yourself from those trains of thought that take you nowhere.
Busying yourself – it could be cleaning the kitchen, online window-shopping to create a perfect outfit, or even colouring in! Ben bought me a fabulous sweary colouring-in book and colouring pencils and whenever I’m having a panic attack, it’s the first thing I reach for. There’s something completely cathartic about not only keeping busy, but colouring in obscenities with pastel pink pencils.
This is more or less a continuation of the above, but I think it deserves its own entry.
Focusing on putting one foot in front of another, not tripping on that hole in the pavement, being distracted by that pretty tree, taking a random photo of some interesting architecture, knowing where you are going and being in control of your body and your destination, helps rein in mental chaos, and again helps you be in control.
White Noise Tracks
When you’re laying in bed in silence, it’s easy for your thoughts to seem too loud and to completely take over. Then you hear a noise – what was that? Is someone breaking in? Ghosts? Demons!? Zombies?!?
Listening to a rain track, or a white noise track, helps control what you can and cannot hear when trying to sleep. It will drown out these external noises that will cause concern, and also help quieten the internal noises that are keeping you awake. It may seem weird at first, and you may have to play around with tracks to find the one that suits you best (I vary between “Perfect Storm” “Rain on Leaves” and “Thunderstorm” depending on my anxiety levels) but give it a go – I am sure you’ll be surprised by the results!
Fantasise and Day Dream
You know when you’re in bed and you’re replaying the day over and over again, or thinking about tomorrow and worrying about what it will bring, and what the outcome of todays action will be tomorrow? Instead of focusing on the things you can’t control, fantasise about situations which give you complete, utter control and power. No matter how fantastical, fantasising about being a queen in a magical land, or the millionaire CEO of a global corporation, by daydreaming about situations over which you have power, it’ll help you feel in control again and help distract you from invasive, anxious thoughts.
Talk about it
When you’re feeling anxious it’s all too easy to curl up into a ball and not let anyone inside your safe-zone. However, talking about it, being open and honest about how you are feeling and what is going on inside of you does help. You’re not burdening anyone with it, you’re simply saying “sorry, I’m feeling a bit anxious today” and you are taking control of your anxiety, admitting to it so you can work through it.
When you talk about your anxiety, you discover that you’re not alone, and that you have a support network to help you through and who cares for you. Even if all they do is give you a hug, tell you stories to make you laugh, or give you the space you may need, knowing you have people to talk to, no matter what craziness is going on inside our heads, there’s always going to be someone there to catch us if we fall.
It can be hard to admit you have anxiety, but the first step to taking control of any problem – whether it’s anxiety, depression, or something worse such as alcoholism – is admitting there is a problem that needs to be controlled.
These are the ways that I manage my anxiety, and although they’re only temporary measures they’re free, and they’re healthy, and they’re always there when I need them. Anxiety is about feeling helpless, and losing control, so it’s time to help ourselves, and take back what is ours – the control of our self and our anxiety!
Do you have anxiety? How do you beat it?