I have lived with anxiety most of my life, at varying levels, and I know a lot of you do too. I manage it more than it manages me these days, but it hasn’t always been that way. There was a time when Clive (what I named my anxiety monster) ruled the roost around here.
Sometimes he stopped me from exercising. Sometimes he stopped me from doing the grocery shopping. Sometimes he stopped me from going outside.
And although I manage my anxiety really well now, I think it’s important to get all Terrorist Watch on its arse and remain alert. Because it’s when you relax and think it’s totally gone that it rears its head again.
And I like to bang on about it regularly too, because I think:
a) it’s important to acknowledge that it’s possible to live with anxiety and still get on with living a fuck yes life, and
b) sometimes anxiety makes you feel like you’re the only one, and it’s nice to know there are others who are dealing with that shit too.
To that end, I thought I’d share some top tips on dealing with anxiety that I have gathered over the years:
My best tip is to move your body. I know that when I exercise regularly, Clive gets tinier and quieter. But it’s that tiny, quiet voice that gets me out of bed and into my running shoes at 5:20 am in the middle of winter when it’s dark and cold. Because I know if I don’t, he gets bigger and louder, and I’m the one that starts to disappear.
I also asked some awesome ladies I know who are nailing this anxiety gig to share their best tips. The thing about each of them is that, from the outside, they all look like they have got their shit together. It’s important to remember we’re all just humans doing the best we can, no matter how it looks to everyone else. Here is what these wonderful women had to say…
I have found positive affirmations help me when I am filled with disaster thoughts which is often at times of high stress. At first I would simply say to myself “touch wood” whenever I had a bad thought about something catastrophic happening. The only problem is that I’d often found myself nowhere near wood, so it freaked me out. So then I started saying “touchwood, touch wool, touch all”. “All” being my heart. Sounds a little loopy, but I am.
A couple of years ago, I simplified even further by tattooing a little love heart on my wrist. When I am filled with anxiety that something bad is going to happen, I touch it. It makes me feel better. It helps me calm my thoughts. Obviously, not everyone’s going to get a tattoo, but it is something that’s helped me. I can feel my pulse when I touch it and reminds me I am alive and to stop living in fear. Anxiety is a real knob and impacts people in different ways. Find the thing that helps you and stick to it. Believe in it. It will help. Bianca Wordley, Big Words Blog
I have a little collection of things I do regularly to manage my anxiety levels. These include talking about how I’m feeling, sipping a cup of herbal tea in a quiet spot, going for a brisk walk, cleaning and writing lists. All of these things help me think more clearly and quiet the chatter in my mind. They also make me feel calm, rational and on top of things. We may not all suffer from anxiety, but I dare say we all experience stress and I think it’s important to have coping strategies in place to help us through these tough times. Sonia Styling
1. Breathing properly can be as effective as a Valium. Truly. I was cynical until I tried it. If you’re in the midst of an anxiety attack or having troubles sleeping, breathe in for a count of four seconds, hold for a count of seven, and breathe out for a count of eight. Keep doing it until you feel better or fall asleep. It works. I promise.
2. Distraction. Distract distract distract. Keep busy. If you’re feeling highly anxious watch one of your favourite shows on TV or the iPad. Read one of your favourite books, websites or magazines. Listen to music. Talk to someone. The brain cannot focus properly on two things simultaneously so the aim is to crowd the worried thoughts out of you head. Kerri Sackville, author of The Little Book of Anxiety (or check her out on Facebook)
I told EVERYONE. I was suffering from depression and by telling everyone (I even wrote about it on my blog) I suddenly had all the support I needed. Trust me, your husband needs to know. And who gives a fuck if your in-laws judge you? You are more important than that.
Over the years I have learnt to deal with my dark side. I can see the warnings and have learnt the tools to counteract them. I have been happily taking medication for a few years and I can see the sun through the trees.
Please talk to your husband TODAY! PLEASE make an appointment with a GP today. You do not need to be living the life that you are trapped in. I KNOW BECAUSE I WAS YOU. Mrs Woog from her post Start the Conversation
Great article on handling CLive. I did a lot of reading on neuroplasticity
The Brain that Changes itself’ and ‘The Brain’s Way of Healing’ and it really helped me with anxiety. Very practical steps of acknowledging the anxiety, feeling it, finding a physical distraction that makes you feel good and an affirmation. It doesn’t happen overnight but the rewiring does happen. It’s a bit like magic.
Must look into that – sounds fascinating! Thanks Cee. x
Great post ladies. We need to talk more about Mental Illness – it’s real people. ??
Thanks Deb – agreed! xx
Great to see these conversations take place. I don’t hide my anxiety at all and it’s made me stronger. I don’t love it but I live with it and manage it really well. Organization is key for me x
Love that, Anna. I’m all about managing rather than trying to find a magical cure as well. I find it has helped me to relax and just learn to live with it, while still taking daily steps to do something about it.
What a great and helpful post….and you know, knowing that these cool, clever women that I admire also feel the anxiety that I feel makes me feel better.
Because you fit right in, right? There is nobody cooler or cleverer than you. Except maybe the company you keep… xxx
Anxiety is a bitch, but it is the whole reason I started blogging. There are some great tips here from great ladies. Thanks.
Thanks Melissa! Writing about it sure is therapeutic – and I think it serves to take away that stigma as well. xx
Isn’t it amazing how we can think these smart, capable, successful, hilarious, gorgeous women couldn’t possibly suffer from depression or anxiety? As women we present ourselves as having our shit together to the outside world and inside we feel like a tornado is raging. Posts like this help us know we’re not alone and we can support one another through this crazy ride called life. x
Absolutely! And that’s why I wanted to share the experience of so many great women. Because when even women with hair as fabulous as yours find themselves struggling occasionally, we know there is something going on there. xx
I am constantly in awe of the amazing people who live with anxiety like I do – like yourself and those you have included comments from in this post. I don’t take any medication – it makes me very, very fat and unwell in other ways! I live a quieter and slower paced life now that Anxiety is my companion. I sent my Clive packing and he disappeared for a few months but he is back now and causing me havoc. I think he has returned because I am going to my first ProBlogger event in only 2 weeks and anxiety over that has meant that I haven’t slept properly for 3 nights now. I am constantly convincing myself not to sell my ticket and that I must go. I need to be more active – I know that and I know that it makes a huge difference. Clive seems like such a good name for the bastard! Fantastic post – it’s so good to share so that we don’t feel so alone with this shit! 😉 xo
Oh Min, don’t sell your ticket! It is very noisy and there are loads of big personalities there, but there are also friendly faces at every turn, and lots of people who want nothing more than to meet new friends. And imagine how great you will feel when you conquer that fear! See you there. xx
Great that this is being discussed. I’m over 50 and for many many years after a traumativc event I went through when I was a teenager I suffered anxiety and depression. I thought I was the only one. Nobody talked about it. Thank goodness things are changing. We’re all in this together. The more you share the more you’ll find people care.
I so agree with that, Marie! When I was young I was incredibly ashamed and thought there was something very wrong with me. Now it seems like every second person has some level of anxiety or depression. It’s nice to have company and feel normal!
What an open & revealing conversation about anxiety & I appreciate such a wide range of people connecting about their experiences. I’ve always been a “worrier” & a “what if this & what if that” kind of person & at certain points of my life have suffered attacks of anxiety which can result in irritable bowel Diarrhoa. It’s been exacerbated over past 12 months by 3 major life changes – I’ve written about them on my blog – and I’ve only been able to continue to make changes to how I lead my life by actually “getting to know my anxiety” and stop pushing it away. THAT has been & continues to be the HARD part! Two experts in the field are helping me & they are intertwined in their approaches. One source is the book & CD of meditations called The Mindful Wat Though Depression & the other is Headspace (Get Headpace app) via mediation. I have followed this daily meditation now for.. 120 days! The current program within the app is on anxiety & Andy Puddicombe (Headpace founder) talks about “noting anxiety” not pushing it away..just acknowledgement & moving on .. It’s almost too hard to explain but by this new to me understanding I’m not placing so much internal emphasis on “it must go away”. “I hate this”
Best wishes for raising this issue & having such great support. Denyse x
Thanks Denyse, I love Headspace too! And well done on meditating for 120 days – that’s absolutely brilliant.
It’s so lovely to read you’re not the only one! My anxiety is pretty mild, but when it flares up it flares up. And it’s a horrible feeling. Thank you everyone for sharing x
Nice to know you’re not alone, hey! xx
My doctor recently gave me 4 tips for reducing anxiety (which she was told by a psychologist). Get good sleep, exercise where you are getting exposure to sunlight, reduce alcohol consumption and reduce screen time (particularly of a night time). I struggle with the alcohol and screen time are these are things I usually think ‘help’ with my anxiety but actually make it worse! 🙂
Thanks for sharing those tips, Heather, they sound very sensible to me! Reducing screen time and alcohol have helped me too.
Brillant story. Could relate to the freaking out when there was no “wood” to touch…on freeway in peak hour…making it so much worse!
I ended up giving my anxiety a presence, a bit like you naming it Clive, telling it to ‘piss off’ if it tried to rear it’s ugly head. This technique seemed to change the way my brain was wired, eventually reducing the crippling attacks to almost none. It was utterly liberating.
Great to hear we are not alone x
That’s great! Thanks for sharing that technique Anna. Love it! x