Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Coping With Anxiety


Hands down, 2020 has been the worst year of my life. And probably most of 2019. I've gone through a really tough breakup, I've moved out of London and I'm living with my parents again for the first time in 10 years so all forms of independence I previously had has been removed. Oh and the small issue of the global pandemic currently happening. Literally everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong, and it's really affected me.

I don't feel like I've always had anxiety. I think of the past 10/15 years of my life as being so happy and carefree and chilled. Yeah there's been times when I've had sleepless nights, or my brain has gone into serious overthinking mode or I've been really stressed at work, but never anything that's lasted longer than a week of feeling shitty, and then I've sprung back to my usual happy-go-lucky self. I like to think my friends would describe me as always positive, motivated, funny- someone they know they can come to if they need cheering up. But recently I just feel like the life has been zapped out of me. I feel deflated. SO corny but I really do just feel...empty. Yeah I still have a laugh with my friends, but it's not me making the jokes. I'm just there to laugh along. Part of the chorus instead of centre stage where I'm accustomed to being (LOL can you tell I've been watching Wicked the Musical clips on YouTube) Sorry, I'm trying to beat around the seriousness of this post by throwing in some lame attempts of a lol but I will actually get to the point now.

I kind of feel like anxiety has become a bit of a buzz word and people don't really know how to react. Mental health is obviously very serious, but there are peaks and troughs and everyone is affected differently. I'm not saying I'm trained in any kind of therapy or counselling, but I'm sharing my personal coping mechanisms in this post, and if they help just one person sleep better tonight or enjoy a couple of hours tomorrow without feeling like a nervous wreck then I'm happy. I like to think my posts are relatable and real, and as much as I would LOVE Headspace or The Works Pillow Spray to sponsor me, everything mentioned in this post has been purchased with my own money and 100% honest. Full disclosure, I'm absolutely still struggling, but I feel like I'm slowly but surely getting back to feeling like myself again.

Since I became single again earlier this year, I have replayed every single conversation, every single action and every single argument in my head from over the last 6 months and dissected everything that went wrong. Everything I should have done differently. Everything I could have done differently if I could go back in time and change it all. What I should have said on that phone call which little did I know, would be the last communication I would ever have with that person. Everyone who's been through a breakup will know the feeling of just being absolutely powerless. You go from spending every second with that person to nothing at all. I even dreaded night time because I knew I would have to get in bed alone. It's a kind of feeling that you wouldn't even wish on your worst enemy. When I first moved home and updated my friends on my relationship I didn't cry. I wasn't upset. I probably tried to make a few lighthearted jokes. But my anxiety was at an all time high. I was losing handfuls of hair through stress, I wasn't eating and I wasn't sleeping either because I felt like someone was standing on my chest and I couldn't breathe. It was probably about a month in when I just broke down at one of my friends houses, when a few of the girls were round for drinks. And it felt GOOD! They listened, they didn't judge and they encouraged me to cry as much as I needed to. I went from feeling like a burden to them to feeling so loved and cared for. I know this totally depends on your circle of friends, and I've said before about how fortunate I am to have had the same incredible group of girls for the last 10 years, but seriously. Cry it out. Cry as much as you need to so you can start moving past it. (This is 6 weeks later and I still have at least one meltdown a week at a social gathering.)

2. Have a Good Night Time Routine
It can be so easy to get sucked into binge watching 4 episodes of Homeland when you get into bed, but TRY and replace this with something without a screen. Reading a book, writing a diary, meditating, sudoku (lol whatever floats your boat!) I fell into the trap of staying up late watching telly, which totally took my mind off everything going on in my head at the time, but then made it 100000000 times worse when it was 3am and I still wasn't tired and my mind was going into overdrive. Screen time stimulates your brain and makes it more difficult to settle down, so try and avoid it for at least 1 hour before bed. I've never read so much in my LIFE, so if anyone wants any recommendations then drop me a DM cos I literally have books coming out my ears at the moment. Meditation has also become a huge part of my night time routine and helping me wind down. I've moved on from the Calm app, and I've been trialling Headspace for the last month. I'm currently on day 20 of the 'Self Esteem' course, so when I've finished that I put a Sleep Story on, spray my pillow with Deep Sleep pillow spray from The Works, and I'm good to go! 

3. Keep a Gratitude Journal
I think I might have spoken about this before? But when I moved back home at the start of April, I bought a little diary, and each night before bed I write 3 things that I'm grateful for that day. This means even if the day has been mostly pretty shit, I still go to sleep with positive thoughts, and this helps my mind to rest a little easier. They don't need to be huge things either, some of my previous entries include things like one of my clients emailing me saying 'well done' about something I worked on, or that I remembered to drink 2L of water, or that my friend sent me a meme that made me laugh out loud. Literally the smallest thing can make such a difference to your frame of mind when you're about to go to sleep, and I've found that recently my dreams have been a lot less vivid and nightmare-y. (Although this COULD be down to the fact I watch about 8 horror films a week.) I haven't missed a single day so far, and I'm excited to read them back when I'm in a better space (touch wood) towards the end of the year and see what's changed.

4. Don't Put Pressure on Yourself
 Set small goals that are attainable to avoid any form of pressure reigniting your anxiety. I'm in a fortunate position where I can stay at home as long as I like before moving back to London, which takes a lot of pressure off any urgency of finding a new flat, as well of the fear of panic-finding a flat on Spare Room and moving in with randoms that I have absolutely nothing in common with. And as for boys. Well. I downloaded Hinge and Tinder earlier this month, not because I was planning on meeting anyone, but just as something to fill that space before bed where I wanted to ring/call/FaceTime/email/send smoke signals out to my ex to try and get him to talk to me, but I have absolutely no intention in getting involved with anyone anytime soon. Again, it's pressure. Something will happen when the time is right, for now I just need to focus on myself and making myself happy before trying to make someone else happy.

5. Be Kind
Earlier this year I felt so low, like I didn't deserve anything nice. I didn't drink for 6 weeks because I didn't feel like I deserved to have a good time. I forced myself to run every day (even though I haven't run in about 5000 years) because I wanted to feel like I was struggling physically as much as I was mentally. Headspace REALLY helped with this. The Self Esteem course that I'm currently working my way through is slowly but surely turning me towards a much less judgemental mindset, and writing my gratitude journal every night helps me feel so much more peaceful before I drift off. In the last week I've been getting around 10 hours sleep a night, so I feel like I'm definitely making up for all that shut eye I lost in April!

6. Find Something You Genuinely Enjoy
And I don't mean the pub! Seriously drinking is probably the worst thing you could do when anxiety is peaking. The evening is amazing, but the next day when you're all up in your feels...not so good. I've spent so many Sundays crying in bed, only moving to pick up my McDonalds Uber Eats from the front door and then straight back into my gloomy bedroom to pick up where I left off. For me, it's my bike! My friends will laugh reading this, because I have been surgically attached to it recently. I go out most lunchtimes on it, I ride to every girls night on it (arriving makeup free, sweaty, windswept with my hair glued to my head under my helmet but with a massive smile on my face) and I constantly pester Suey to go for long rides on the weekend with me because she's just bought one too. Not to go all Sound of Music on you, but it brings me so much joy! Freedom, fresh air, no headphones or people to talk to, and a really good chance to clear my head. 

7. Etc
I know I mentioned hair loss earlier in this post, so I wanted to share some remedies I've been given in case anyone else is suffering with the same:
Nioxin Shampoo and Conditioner
Tricotherapy drops
B-Complex vitamins
Brahmi oil