How I Manage Anxiety And Stress
Stress… we all have it in different shapes and sizes.
As I’m getting older there seems to be a lot more of it so I’ve been looking at ways to manage it.
During the summer I was under huge stress due to having a huge depressive/anxiety episode. I basically had a breakdown, which was the worst I’ve encountered since they began when I was fifteen.
I was born with an anxiety disorder as you know, which has got progressively more difficult to manage since having my son five years ago.
This summer it escalated higher than ever to the point where I was scared to be home alone, but I was also scared to be around people.
I feared being out in public including places I know well, such as dropping my son to school or going food shopping. I was scared to eat, scared to sleep but also scared of how I felt without sleep.
I was having panic attacks daily that were lasting at least four hours, which would result in my body shaking, dizziness, my jaw clenching to the point my teeth hurt constantly, pacing my mother’s garden from 5am until 9am non-stop most days, and feeling like my heart was going to explode.
I even had many occasions where I struggled to be around my son. I could see he only wanted to hug me to make me feel better but I couldn’t cope with human touch.
I couldn’t even cope with the smell of food in the mornings so found it hard to make him breakfast.
On many occasions over the last few months I’ve been suicidal.
People would say “think about your son he needs you” and all I felt was that actually no he didn’t.
He didn’t this shell of a human that couldn’t look after herself let alone him, who was in mental agony all day and night. I was exhausted.
My body was literally giving up. I lost a stone in a week and for two months I could barely even eat one meal a day.
My anxiety would kick off from 5am so I wasn’t sleeping, and even now I can’t sleep past about 6am so it’s still not improved hugely.
My hair has thinned and sprouted more grey hairs.
My face is more lined, and I look grey.
Depression literally ages you.
Over the last couple of months I’ve worked hard to stabilise my mental health, by working with relevant professionals, taking support from my family and reading a lot of books to try various techniques.
I’m about to start some intensive therapy which I’ve always been scared to try until now, because I’m determined to no longer let this rule my life.
During this dark time I’ve researched many ways to try to alleviate the anxiety and stress in order to function and I wanted to share with you a few ways that have helped me in case you are going through a tough time.
Tips To Reduce Stress And Anxiety
Decluttering The Diary
Having the courage to leave a toxic relationship was probably the icing on the cake, but was by no means the only reason.
This breakdown was due to spending the last few years making sure every minute of my day was taken up parenting, doing educational courses, working and voluntary work.
I never allowed myself to just be and just rest, probably because I was trying hard to avoid having to be left alone with my thoughts.
So I had to look at my diary and seriously think about what needed to be there.
Did I really need to invest a lot of time trying to fix a local park that was frustrating me no end? When we put in pieces of equipment they were immediately vandalised, so did I need that continued stress?
I made sure the final essay of the year-long course in community development was completed and I stopped myself signing up for more long-term courses. It was more stress on top of work that wasn’t helpful.
I limited how much work I took on, because I needed time to heal.
I work to live, I don’t live to work like so many people I know.
Yes I’m broke which can be a stress, but at least I get time to be with my child while he’s young and I’m not stuck in an office five days a week which used to increase my depressive episodes no end!
Neuro Linguistic Programming / Eco Psychology
I’ve been attending a short course on these subjects to learn techniques to manage anxiety and depressive thoughts.
I’ve trained in NLP before so know how great it can be, but the added element of Eco Psychology has been fabulous. It has shown me ways to use nature to centre myself and to be in the moment.
I totally recommend looking into this, and the Mandala of Being is a great technique to help when I have certain worries that I want to remove from my head.
NLP has many great practices which includes taking each thought you have and thanking it for coming into your head, and then getting yourself to pretend the thought is in the palm of your hand and then you blow it away.
Sounds crazy but it’s powerful for your brain and it processes these techniques better than you realise.
This sounds very easy to do, but in practice is really hard!
It’s about living in the moment. So all thoughts about the past and future have to be blocked out of your mind.
You have to focus on the sounds, smells and sights around you as they are happening. You have to be aware of how your body is feeling right at that moment, from your head to the tips of your toes.
You have to sit with the present moment and not drift to other places in your mind.
It’s powerful when it works, but takes a lot of practice and I’m slowly getting there!
During many of my recent panic attacks I have tried to centre my thoughts by listening to motivational videos on YouTube.
My favourite person to listen to is Les Brown, as some of his videos are about how to get out of a rut, how to motivate yourself to get through the tough times and the way he talks just resonates with me.
There are also some great videos that combine many motivational speakers so you get a nice variety of input.
I also like using the mindfulness and meditation videos when I am trying to get to sleep, because anyone with anxiety knows how hard trying to shut your mind off in order to sleep actually is.
This is so much more powerful than people realise, and free!
I got my first allotment early this year, as apparently it can help reduce stress and mental health issues. I have never gardened in my life so this was a challenge, but I love it.
I try to go at least once a week in winter, and most days during summer.
I find during the time there I don’t think about anything other than my vegetable plants and the nature surrounding me.
It feels like you are in another world and it does relax you, whilst giving your body a great workout!
And the satisfaction of growing your own vegetables from seed and then cooking them for your family is truly an amazing feeling.
Don’t knock it til you try it!
I may even write a new blog solely about my allotment…
You have to be careful with these as some will be really scary and full of people who claim to know about things that they don’t.
I found a medical one that was recommended by many and I always take comments with a pinch of salt.
In the end I found a small group of people who were starting the same medication as me around the same time.
We formed our on Facebook chat and have been talking daily ever since.
They have been my lifeline on days where my anxiety or low thoughts have not subsided.
They have shown me how I’m not abnormal as so many people have the same thoughts and issues as me across the world.
Most importantly they understand what I’m going through, a lot more than friends and family who have never experienced it, so they have been able to support me in a way nobody else can.
Medications (Including Natural)
Part of the increased anxiety came from trying a new drug this summer, which has huge side effects for at least 12 weeks, but I was determined to see it through in case it worked in the long term.
However, I don’t want to be dependent on medicine for the rest of my life as long term use can affect your organs.
I have started having ear acupuncture and cut out caffeine nearly completely.
I’m exploring crystal healing and I take lots of natural tablets such as probiotics, fish oils, vitamin D and magnesium.
Crafts / Puzzle Books
I’ve been doing a 6 week sewing course, because I wanted to learn a skill that I’ve always been useless at!
I wanted to see if it would encourage me to make things for my home and during the course so far I’ve made a pin cushion and a cushion.
I’m enjoying it because it’s a skill that involves concentration, so I can shut my mind off from everything else.
I plan to use online tutorials to learn to crochet blankets, as I hear this is a very relaxing thing to learn and lots of people with anxiety use it to distract their thinking.
Puzzle books are also great, especially mid panic attack, because they distract your thinking and focus you on a task, which helps to calm your body down.
I’ve been trying to improve my diet now that my appetite is finally coming back!
I’m reducing sugar using a lot of the sugar free recipes I started to post on here last year.
I’m researching healthy, quick meals and looking at my snacking.
This is a hard section for me, but I find that if I am doing fun activities like the crafts and walks then I’m not craving constant food, so hopefully this will continue to improve.
So these are what I have in my stress/anxiety toolkit at the moment.
Do you have anything I can add?
Comment below if you do!