From panic attacks leading to multiple visits to A&E to jumping off the tube because I can’t ‘breathe’, I find the subtler ways anxiety affects my life to be more powerful. Yesterday was World Mental Health Day and whilst there’s plethora of information out there on days like that, it can also be very triggering. Triggering because you are reminded quite heavily how devastating mental health issues can be.
I haven’t slept very well in the last few weeks. That feeling of being suffocated wakes me up at least six times a night which generally makes me anxious about bed time. I am very happy to report however that general day to day living has been much more pleasurable and I think the following have helped with feelings of anxiety:
Changing my routine
I changed my route home! Now whilst that might seem like quite a trivial thing it has made a word of difference. I’ve started taking the bus home more often. I found even things like the possibility of missing my train home quite distressing and I have a suspicion a lot of people can relate to this. Palms get sweaty, heart’s racing, will I make this train? It was getting ridiculous. Changing my route/scenery has helped massively and maybe could help you too? Sitting on the bus means I don’t have to battle angry Londoners for a seat as the buses are generally less busy at that time of day and I can pop my ear phones in and listen to a podcast or two!
Removing stressful people from my life
Never easy but necessary, and by removing I don’t mean completely (even though that could sometimes be the way forward). Now whilst I’ve often been aware of what my stress triggers are I haven’t always been good at finding a more sustainable solution to keeping said triggers at bay. I’ve decided that if certain people contribute to my mental instability then they get the chop! Nobody is worth the turmoil. It is of course difficult when family cause you stress but even then being conscious of the role that they play in making you feel mentally drained is a start. I’ve stopped saying yes to every invitation and being more open to accept that it’s okay to be selfish. Repeat after me, it is okay to be selfish.
Separating FOOD and GUILT
I feel like on days when I’m overwhelmed and stressed out I’m only one oreo away from a binge, which then leads me to feeling more stressed out. Anxiety around food for me is one of my biggest triggers and can turn a bad day into a bad month. I start to guilt trip myself about not being ‘healthy’ enough, I beat myself up over missing and gym session and then ultimately eat junk food I don’t even want. I’m slowly learning that I’m not a failure if I’m not living my ‘healthiest’ life possible. I’m slowly eliminating the guilt I feel when I spend a lot of money on food- even if it’s some overpriced smoothie! Fried plantain on a Tuesday? I’m in. If obsessing over calories and reps is going to be damaging to my mental health then I want no parts of it.
Doing shit I like
I love a good spin class. I love exercise when I’m not using it as ‘punishment’ or holding it over my head to guilt trip myself. I love a Vapianos pasta and a chin wag with my best friends, I love putting my face on and making sultry poses on snapchat. Basically, I’m doing all the seemingly banal things that make me happy. The shit you love- do it.
It can be extremely hard to remember what makes you happy when you are in the throes of anxiety.
On days when I’m really going through it I can barely get out of bed, I can’t be bothered to put eye liner on, I find the walk from my house to the train station tedious and impossible. I’m finding that even incorporating just one thing that makes me happy a small step to ‘feeling like myself again’.
I don’t know that anyone is ever ‘cured’ of a mental illness and with all of us experiencing moments of intense mental unwellness at some point in life it is important to talk about it. It is important to not feel silly about opening up about not having it all together.
You are human.