I’m Mrs C and I struggle with anxiety.
Boom. Now there’s a way to ease you into a nice grab-a-brew-and-put-your-feet-up easy read. I feel like I should be sitting in a circle and sharing. But still, grab a brew and put your feet up. And maybe a chocolate hob nob.
Those opening words might seem awkwardly blunt. But that’s the reality. I’ve always been a worrier and as an adult that developed into becoming anxious quite a lot. I’m one of those really annoying ‘what if’ people. But I’m a pro at writing Risk Assessments!
For a long time we’ve tried to fluff up these kind of issues, avoiding harsh terminology and playing them down to make them more palatable. But what it does is make them unreal. This post is part of a collaborative series which is all about being real women, with real lives, sharing real struggles.
Dealing with something that you can’t use a sticky plaster on doesn’t make you any less you. It doesn’t make me any less…me. I still whistle out of tune and I still laugh when the children at school pass wind and pretend it wasn’t them. I still do a little dance when I’m about to eat yummy food and I still cry at X Factor. I just also happen to have regular tussles with the anxiety monster. He’s an ass.
If you’ve not come across the anxiety monster before, you might want to be aware of his tactics and some handy weapons that you can use against him.
Anxiety Monster tactic: He can turn any day into a piano exam.
Everyone is different but I experience anxiety as continual top-notch nervousness. We can all think back to a time when we’ve been so nervous in the lead up to a situation that we thought our bodies would stop functioning. Racing heart.
Raging, giant, dinosaur eating moths butterflies in your tummy. Tight chest. Clammy hands. Restlessness. Serious nerves. Like, first piano exam nerves. This was my earliest memory of severe nerves and I must have only been about ten. And I thought I was going to die. There have, of course, been many many more times since that I’ve experienced severe nerves but that first time has been etched into my memory because it caught me off guard. It was a new experience. I was scared and I felt out of control. The anxiety monster can make you feel like you’re going in to your first piano exam over and over again.
Weapon of choice: Master the calm
The good news? There are techniques to calm the nerves down. Learn to control your breathing and watch the anxiety monster wince. Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t going to banish anxiety from your life. This is about handling that nervous and restless feeling so that you stay in control. Don’t be fooled into thinking the body is weak when it’s dealing with anxiety – it is picking up on a threat and going into protection mode. The calmer you can get your breathing, the more you will steady your heart rate and the rest of your very clever body will follow. There are loads of apps that can help calm and relax you so have a nosey around. Someone once described anxiety as that feeling you get when your foot misses a step on the stairs and your stomach lurches – only it lasts much longer. It’s an overwhelming place to be in. Panic can easily rise up.
Just stop; and breathe.
I wish I had a one size fits all solution but everyone has their own calm zone. Some people need to completely stop and some people need to pick up the pace. Whatever it is, it has to be something unequivocally selfish. Something just for you. Something that you get enjoyment and relaxation from. For me, when my anxiety was at its’ worst it was hammering it out at the gym. I couldn’t keep still, so it burnt off the nervous energy and gave me something to concentrate on. I never thought I’d ever find tranquility in sweating it out on a weights machine. But I did. It was my sanctuary for a long time.
Anxiety Monster tactic: Secrecy.
The Anxiety Monster LOVES it when you keep that knot in your stomach to yourself and plaster on a fake smile. The last thing he wants is for you to ‘out’ him. Typical bully mentality. So he will whisper lies in your ear to keep you silent. That you’re just too weak to cope with day to day hassles. That you’re just too ‘uptight’. That no one will take you seriously. That there’s nothing people can do anyway. As long as you believe those lies you remain powerless within a cloud of anxiety.
Weapon: CALL HIS BLUFF!!!
Please please please. If you’re reading this and you struggle with anxiety don’t let it become a dirty little secret. Visit your GP. Tell a friend. Contact an organisation. Just talk to someone. Help is available. You don’t have to do this on your own. It’s not your fault.
‘Outing’ the anxiety monster puts you back in the driving seat. If you feel like talking it through- great, if you don’t – fine. But then that’s your choice. Knowing you can if you want to is liberating. The beautiful West End performer Carrie Fletcher posted a video about how to deal with being nervous and I love how she talks about voicing her nervousness. Other people can then relate to it and suddenly you don’t feel like you’re the only one.
Speaking something out removes it from such close proximity to you – the distance changes the perspective. Then it often doesn’t feel quite as scary.
There are links below if you want more information on anxiety or ways to seek help. If you’re worried about someone else, gently talk to them about it or if you don’t feel you can, then maybe pass on this post for them to read. They might not feel so isolated then.
No one should have to do this journey alone.
Mrs C x
The artwork of the Anxiety Monster was ingeniously created and kindly contributed by Toby Allen. You can see more of his stuff here at Zest Does things.