Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Anxiety Aunt

Dealing with any type of mental illness is difficult. In fact, dealing with any kind of illness is difficult. Some suffer worse than others, but that doesn't make it a competition.

When I wrote my last post on anxiety, I was not prepared for the response I received. The love, support and messages from people simply saying "thank you" was incredibly insane.

We all suffer with anxiety in different ways, but the world of blogging has allowed me to get a handle on my anxiety in many ways. I decided I would share with you my top ten tips on how I fight my anxiety. This varies from "oh ok I kinda feel a bit anxious today" to "I can't do it" anxiety days.

These methods are things that help me personally and this is certainly not a guaranteed anxiety fix. But hopefully by sharing these with you all I might be able to prevent or maybe even beat some of that damn anxiety.

#1. Ground Yourself
One of the best tips I have learnt is a sequence called grounding yourself. So when you are in that 2-3 minute period of thinking "yep, I'm starting to feel really quite anxious now" begin this process and see if it works for you. Look for 5 things you can see. Write them down, what colour they are, how big they are, and order them from closest to you to furthest away. Then find 4 things you can feel. Write down the texture, how they feel in the palm of your hand. Then write down 3 things you can hear. How loud is the sound? If it is talking, then who is speaking? Write down 2 things you can smell. Do they smell good? And finally write down 1 thing you can taste. If you can't taste anything, have a sip of a drink. Is the drink still? Fizzy?
The best thing about grounding yourself is that you can do it no matter where you are. Don't have a pen and paper? Type it on your phone. If not, just think through these thoughts in your head. It helps. It makes you realise that your senses are still working, and you are still completely in control.

#2. Ice Cold Water and Cutting Out The Caffeine
I am really bad for not drinking enough fluid on a daily basis, and that is bad enough for you on its own! I don't drink caffeine at all, but if you do, avoid all caffeinated drinks, and sugary drinks and anything fizzy. Stick to fresh cold water. It will refresh you and keep you hydrated. And for some reason I always seem to find the colder the water the better.

#3. Lush Cosmetics - Butterball Bath Bomb
If like me you enjoy a bath, then you may find this really useful. Lush stock a bath bomb which is called Butterball. The bath bomb contains ingredients such as Fair Trade Colombian Cocoa Butter and Ylang Ylang oil. On the website they describe the bath bomb as being really beneficial for dry/irritated skin, which don't get me wrong it is brilliant for, but there is nothing specifically written about it being any type of stress relief. There is something so calming about this bath bomb which relaxes me straight away. The scent and feeling of the dissolved bomb in the water automatically relieves a tight chest for me and I literally couldn't live without it. They are £2.65 per bomb and I tend to break them in half and get 2 baths out of each one. 

#4. Fresh Air & Keeping Cool
Fresh air is the best thing for anxiety, its a common fact. But more importantly when you are experiencing the beginning of an attack. Weirdly I find making myself cold really helps. If I am in a hot stuffy room, this alone tends to spur on my anxiety. Stand outside, fan yourself down, or simply splash some cold water on your face! Do whatever you can do to cool yourself down and allow some fresh air in. I sometimes find working in an office can get stuffy, so sometimes I will just pop the window open for 10 minutes, or maybe just take a walk to go grab the morning post. Sometimes doing these things in advance can stop that stuffy, panicky feeling.

#5. Lavender Oil
Lavender is commonly known for its relaxation effect and how it can calm the body down. When I was little my nanny use to make my cousins and I a little lavender pillow. She would grow lavender in her garden and sew it into a little pillowcase! It was so cute! But now you can buy lavender sprays which you can spray either in your room or on your bedding. I find this so relaxing and relieving. The sprays can be bought from anywhere such as Avon, Feel Unique and probably most UK drugstores (not sure about outside of the UK!). These are definitely worth investing in if your anxiety tends to ruin your sleep pattern.

#6. Home Comforts
A lot of my anxiety stems from my fears. And my biggest fear is flying. I have been on a fearful flyers course and it did nothing for me. I am due to go on holiday next week, and already my flying anxiety is sky high (pun not intended!) I find that homely comforts in situations help to relax me. This could be listening to specific music, a certain scent, or maybe even a personal belonging. When you are going to an event of some sort that has you feeling anxious, wear that perfume that reminds you of a past holiday, take your blanket from home onto the plane with you - do whatever makes you think of home or a safe surrounding. This will help relax you and again ground you.

#7. Have A Little Cry - It Helps!
When I get anxious I can literally feel myself holding in the tears. This then leads me to get more anxious because I worry people will know something is up. If you feel like this, let it out! I have now learnt that sometimes shedding a few tears if you need to is actually the best anxiety killer. Sometimes I get a little upset and then automatically say "Ugh - that's so much better!" Never be ashamed to let out a little emotion. Besides, I cry at everything so no-one knows any different!

#8. Control Your Breathing
YouTube contains hundreds and thousands of videos with relaxing breathing techniques. You may find something that suits you, but personally I just tend to breathe in for 5, and out for 5. Sounds silly and simple, but it works. Anxiety is all about telling yourself to be relaxed, and breathing is the most important factor of relaxing. 

#9. Don't Force Yourself To Do Something - Make A Judgement Call
Sometimes I find that going to an event is causing me to become anxious. I also feel the pressure of people expecting me to go. I have 2 sides to this. The first side is that if you really don't want to go - don't do it! If you genuinely feel the event is going to cause you more anxiety then you shouldn't force yourself into going. If you want to stay and watch back to back 90210, then do it! Don't worry what people will say. I tend to panic that people will moan at me, and 9 out of 10 times they're fine with it anyway! However, I also believe that you shouldn't let your anxiety stop you from doing things you want to do. Sometimes when you get to that event, you immediately feel better. A lot of the time the build up is actually worse than the event itself. You have to be the one to make that judgement call. Don't ever feel you should or shouldn't do something because you are expected to.

#10. Be Comfortable and Most Importantly - Be Happy
Have a day on the sofa watching films. Eat chocolate. Order take-out. Spend the day with loved ones. Sometimes life can get so busy at work, at school or studying that we forget to live. Sometimes the things we need to calm us down most are those things that make us happy. Exercise is good for anxiety, but so is slouching on the sofa infront of the TV. Whatever helps you feel better do it, and write it down, and when you feel anxious again, you know how to get back on the road of recovery.

Lots of love,

Chelsea x
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