What I’m doing about my anxiety

So, you know who I am and you know that I’m an anxiety sufferer from my first 2 blog posts – have a read if you haven’t already. I also said, i think in both of my previous posts, that enough is enough. It’s time for me to end the suffering and live the life I really want to. But how do I go about doing this? It is a good question and I do feel the answer is perhaps slightly different for different people, meaning that different things work in different ways for different people, after all we’re all unique. Having said that there are certain strategies than can benefit us all.

What am I doing and is it working?

Firdtly, I’ve started to change my diet. Now I have to say I haven’t yet completely irradicated all processed food from my diet but I am working towards that stage. It will take some time as I think I have, what is bordering on, an addiction for biscuits! (Cookies for friends in the US). I find comfort in earing biscuits dipped in my cup of tea, it’s like an emotional crutch I use to feel safe and secure. I read a really good book called The Anti-Anxiety Diet which is excellent. Not only does it give easy to understand explanations about why certain foods are beneficial in our diets but it also gives a helpful guide about how to get started with diet changes, such as creating shopping lists and meal plans. I have been using this book as a guide to get me started. There are certain foods such as spinach, avocado, certain nuts and seeds and oily fish which are great for increasing the feel good chemical being released from the brain and these should be included in your diet, especially if you have mental health issues. I’m planning to create content in the future which goes into detail about specific foods and why they benefit the anxious mind.

The next thing I’ve already started doing is taking a herbal supplement called Ashwagandha. It comes from ancient Indian medicine and is derived from a plant so is entirely natural. If you search the Internet there are a few studies on its benefits and lots of people who have had very positive experiences taking it. The small amount of evidence there is does suggest positive effects on anxiety levels. There is caution about taking it long term however, as there is not enough scientific evidence yet to rule out side effects from long term use, so taking for only 3 months continuously is recommended.

I have also started to drink a cup of green tea every morning. It has an anti oxidant in it called L-theamene which aids brain function and improves mood.

I have started to regularly meditate and listen to positive affirmations in an attempt to irradicate negitive thoughts and improve my own self esteem and self confidence, which are very low. After listening for 20-30 minutes I feel physically and mentally calmer every time I use this strategy, I want to build this into my daily routine in a more structured way. I also want to include yoga into my daily routine. I have done some yoga but it has been very intermittent and I believe the most benefit can be reaped from these activities if they are practeice daily.

I have read a lot of books lately about building self-confidence and self-esteem and conquering anxiety. It has all helped me build a plan for changing my mindset and improving my mental health. I have (only yesterday) started reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Nnow (I was delighted to discover it was on Audible). Im not even half way through and I already think it ‘s going to be utterly life changing! I would highly recommend it.

Lastly, I’m drinking more water. Very simple and something that most people know they shoild probably do but actually making sure it happens isn’t as simple as it sounds. I now try to take a water bottle with me everywhere and drink to through the day. Thus way it doesnt feel like such a pressure and I get it down no problem.

The reason I can’t really say if things are working well for me or not is because of the current pandemic. Most of the time my anxiety is triggered by going out places or thinking about having to go out places. Obviously, in recent time this hasn’t really happened, I’ve hardly been anywhere. All appointments have been over the phone and there’s been no school, no clubs or activities, no outings with the kids and so on. This means my anxiety has been hugely decreased anyway. The test will come next time I do need to go anywhere out of my comfort zone. I will have to keep you posted about how this goes when the opportunity arises.

My next step, as well as the ones mentioned above, is to start an 8 week mindfulness training course in MBSR (mindfulness based stress reliefe). It starts this Monday and I’m very excited to get going with it. I will keep you posted with what that is like too. I am also looking at the idea of teaching mindfulness to others as I really feel it can bring great benefit to everyone. I would like to link this into a life coaching practice that specifically aims to help those who face mental health challenges. But that’s all for the future and something I will need to build over time.

Please let me know in the comments if there are strategies you find work well for reducing your anxiety.

Thank you for reading.

How Anxuety Affects Me

Everyone becomes anxious or worried, it’s a natural response to a situation where we are under threat. You have probably read about fight or flight etc. so I won’t go into that here. The reason it becomes a problem is when our minds and bodies go into this state doing day to day activities when there is no real threat at all. It can be very inhibiting and stop us from living the full life we want to.

Everyone one who sufferers from anxiety has a slightly different experience. Some people suffer insomnia, lying awake for hours on end with a million thought going round in their heads. Some experience heart palpitation, shortness of breath, chest pains, derealisation or depersonalisation (which is a feeling of being outside your own body), stomach problems, blured vision, feeling dizzy or faint, red or blotchy skin, headaches and I’m sure many others that you could share. The point here is that many people believe that anxiety is something we only experience in the mind, this is simply not true. It affects every fiber of our being and often the physical symptoms can be even more distressing than the psychological ones. Of course, the psychological symptoms are real too, the fear, worry, dread, panic, feeling inadequate, embarrassment, helplessness etc. I’m sure you could all add to this list too. These symptoms vary from person to person too.

For me, anxiety hits my stomach first. I get cramps and an urgent need to head for the toilet. It can the progress into feelin dizzy and faint, panicy, blured vision and depersonalisation. I have an overwhelming urge to escape and get away from whatever situation I’m in. However, I’m so self contious and have such low self esteem that I dare not do anything that will draw any attention to myself, like getting up and leaving a room. So, i internalise absolutely everything. There’s no wonder that I just sit quiet in a corner in social occasions.

I will take you though an example situation that happened to me exactly a year ago from now.

My daughter plays in a brass band and they had the opportunity to play with them in public. There performance was on a bandstand in the middle of a lake in a park, at a popular tourist town by the sea. This involved a 20 minute bus ride, a 3 hour train journey and then a taxi ride to get there. I felt pretty ropey during the initial bus ride, with stomach ache and mild dizziness, but I held it together, hoping that it would improve. This stayed the same until the train arrived. We boarded the train, as we found a seat, I could feel those awful sensations building (I can literally feel it now as I type) my symptoms intensified, I felt like I wasn’t in my own body, I started shaking and fidgeting, I started panicking badly. I then broke and headed for the train door (the train was still idling in the station). I grabbed my daughter and her instrument, I desperately wanted to get off that train but the doors had just closed. I hit the button anyway, the door opened about an inch and stopped, the signalman blew his whistle, the door closed again and we began to move out of the station. My daught was trying to reassure me, we stayed in the vestibule for a few minutes before going to sit down. I gradually calmed to a milder state of anxiety but felt utterly drained from the experience. We traveled 2 or 3 stations into the journey and I kept telling myself, its OK, you can get off at the next stop if you need to, you can get a train back home if you need to. After the 3rd station we got off. We could have caught our connecting train there to continue or we could catch the train home. I couldn’t do it, we caught the train home. My daughter was very understanding, but I still felt immense guilt that I’d taken such a wonderful opportunity away from her, I still have guilt about this situation even now. This is the kind if situation that is driving me to conquer my anxiety and help other do do it too.

If you would like to share your story I will feature it in a future blog post. You can email me at info@wellindsbyerica.com and you can be credited with your story or I can post it anonymously, its entirely up to you. I just think its important that we share experiences so that others can relate to them and not feel alone or feel ashamed to talk about mental health any more.

Thank you for reading.

An Introduction

I thought the most logical first blog post would be an introduction to myself, to my plans for Well Minds and to talk about what has led me to starting this adventure. I apologies if I repeat anything you have already read on my web page but I’ll gloss over the boring bits as quick as I can.

Who am I?

Well, that’s a question I am still trying to answer myself at the age of 36! But in the more literal sense, I am Erica, I live in the UK, I’ve lived in the same city my whole life. I lived with my Mum and Dad growing up, it was just the three of us, I have no siblings. I lived in a small house rented from the local authority until I was 11 and during my younger days played with other children who lived on the same street and attended the same local school. There was a nice community spirit back then, neighbours all looked out for each other and would pop to each other’s houses for a coffee, it was warm and friendly – with a few acceptations. When I was 11, we moved to a different area as my Mum and Dad bought a house, the area was very different, it was very busy and multi-cultural, it had a very different feel. For me the big difference was not having friends nearby to pop round and play with.

There was one day at school, I must have been about 10 years old, I remember the other kids playing a game and giving me the worst part in the game because I was the quiet one who wouldn’t argue back. But this day I told them all, it wasn’t fair, they weren’t being good friends and I wasn’t playing with them anymore, and I didn’t. I sat through the next entire year of school on my own at break time and lunch times. I decided, at the time, that it was a matter of principle. I wasn’t going to play with other kids that weren’t nice to me. In reality, I think what was really happening was the beginnings of social anxiety. I didn’t want to play their games because I wasn’t confident enough and didn’t fit in. I tell that story because on reflection I can now see this was the beginning of a downward spiral.

My time at secondary school was a little better in certain ways. This was because I attended a mainstream school but the school also had a separate provision for visually impaired pupils. This meant I met other kids who had bad eyesight, or no eyesight, just like me (I do have some sight). To find other kids who were like me was great. We also attended a residential building where we got independence lessons, but mainly just got to hang out together. Obviously, like all teenagers, we had out ups and downs but it was the only time I felt like I really belonged somewhere. I made a few fully sighted friends but only ones that were brought into our group by someone else, I didn’t make the friends, they were found for me. Though my latter teenage years was spent with those new friends. At that time, I certainly was very shy and reserved and had some social anxiety but it was very manageable and didn’t stop me doing things. Unfortunately, as I had children pretty young and they didn’t we drifted apart as we went into our 20’s.

Since leaving school, I’ve flitted from one interest to another, I’ve never found anything that I’ve stuck at for long enough to be a success at it. Here are some examples:

I went to college to study Travel and Tourism, I left ¾ of the way though.

I worked at the factory where my Mum worked, I stayed 3 months.

I worked at Burger King, I stayed 3 months.

I worked for a large bank, I stayed about 14 months.

I worked in a call center, I stayed about 4 or 5 months. (That’s the last paid job I had in 2005)

I twice got places at the local college to study different thing (childcare and accounting) but never ended up going.

I trained to be a massage therapist; I did complete the course but didn’t do anything with it after.

In 2011, I embarked on a journey to become a primary school teacher, which is the thing I always legitimately wanted to do. It took four years and though I did come out of it with a degree, I was unable to complete the second-year teaching placement as I become so overwhelmed by anxiety, I did not end up as a qualified teacher but did graduate.

Last year I begin another degree, this time in Data Science, the reason was I can do the course and perhaps the job from home so I could stay at home all of the time and not go out into the scary world which fuels my anxiety. Its interesting but I know my hearts not really in it like it was with the teaching.

I would always have an excuse for leaving or not continuing but in reality it all came back down to anxiety, the fear which would build up to a point I could take it no more and I would feel too overwhelmed and just stop. Instead of facing the problem head on and finding a solution I would just run away. I have had 4 children during this time so I have hardly been sitting idly, as most will know that is a full-time job in itself!

It is over the last 2 or 3 years that my anxiety is now preventing me from doing pretty much anything that involves leaving the house. If one of my children gets a hospital appointment, I will take them, but it is an awful experience. Appointments are pretty much the only reason I leave my comfort zone of my house, the school run and the local shops. I did things for a long time feeling physically ill without telling anyone but it has become gradually less and less. This helps the physical symptoms certainly but it is like putting tape over a leak, the hole is still there under that tape. The anxiety is still there and will pop up at the least convenient time.

My plans for the future.

I’ve now reached a point where I’ve had enough, this needs to change. I cannot continue not living the life I want, not giving my children and husband the wife and mother they deserve. So, I’ve stared to make a few small changes, I’ve started to eat better, take a herbal supplement, started meditation and learning mindfulness techniques. I’m trying to be more active as I know physical activity is key to lifting mood but I’m still trying to fit that into my routine properly. I’m no longer feeling guilty for spending time on myself as I was before, I’m beginning to see that improving myself will benefit those around me too.

Starting this project seems like a natural progression in my journey to getting my life back. I know that there are so many people going through the same thing so I thought, if I could share my experiences and learn new things to benefit myself, I can then share with other people, like you, it could greatly benefit me but also many others too.

Though I’m beginning by talking to you about my own experiences I will work hard to bring you useful information verified by experts and content that I’ll create from what I learn. I will not share anything with you that I don’t personally believe in. Some of the resources will be available for free, such as blog posts, YouTube videos, written guides etc. But further down the line I hope to create items such as MP3 and PDF downloads for purchase. I’m even toying with the idea of training as a life coach and/or mindfulness and meditation teacher so I can bring even more benefit to people who are suffering from mental health difficulties.

Now, more than ever, we need to support people with mental health issues and help them return to the lives that they want and deserve. So, this is a call to action, please like and share my content to benefit others and join in discussions and comment on these posts and social media. Together we can create a supportive community where we can all benefit and support each other on our own unique journeys.

Thanks for reading.

Let me know in the comments any particular topics you would like to see information on, what would benefit you or someone you know?