This week while meandering along the footpath of life minding my own business, I fell down a hole, metaphorically speaking. It was a big, fat anxiety hole at the deep, dark bottom of which I floundered around for a few days feeling lost and desperate, before climbing back out to rejoin the world.
If you or someone you care about, tends to do the same from time to time, here’s what’s fresh in my mind about the experience:
Anxiety can hit at any time
Often mistaken for normal levels of stress and worry, anxiety is quite different. For many who suffer, it can come on at any time without any obvious cause. The triggers leading to a tumble into the anxiety hole can be subtle and deeply rooted; learning to recognise and manage your own triggers can help.
When anxiety hits, it will usually pass.
Know that just as the waves in the ocean keep on rolling, so this anxiety episode too will pass.
Sleep is the single most important management strategy I know. After experiencing, then writing and posting intimate details of my anxiety spell this week, I was spent. I went to bed with my notebook, kindle and some happy movies; it was utterly delicious. If I don’t do this, my risk of sinking into a post-anxiety depression is much higher. On the other hand though:
Don’t stress about not sleeping
Sometimes sleep is a seductive but elusive mistress. If you can’t sleep, relax and rest, stressing about not sleeping just makes things worse. Strip off your tight, uncomfortable clothes, slip into something warm and soft. Dim the lights if it’s nightime, step into the sun if it’s day time. Rest and be kind to yourself. Just be. Ask your GP for help if your sleep deprivation becomes chronic.
Run, jump, walk, skip, swim, rumble with the dog or the kids. Borrow a dog. When we’re anxious, in fight or flight our brains flood our bodies with cortisol. The endorphins generated by moving around eat cortisol and adrenaline like pacman eats monsters. You don’t have to go all yoga and kale, just move, the more intense the better.
Call your partner or a sensible friend who gets you
Someone else can sometimes provide the voice of reason when you can’t find your own. It helps to feel loved and supported. Personally I’m crap at asking for help.
Breathe and Meditate
I was cynical about meditation for years, too afraid to listen to all that noise inside perhaps, but now even a five minute breathing exercise really helps if I feel myself starting to shift to anxiety state, and I love the luxury and peace of meditation.
In crisis situations,try the simple breath square used by emergency services staff, you can do it anywhere:
Man up, get professional help
Sometimes we really need someone experienced to help us. Anxiety is a kind of illness really, so don’t be proud and sad, get some help.
Have a chat with friends, your GP and people you trust to find word of a good psychologist you’re comfortable working with, perhaps some medication can help too. You’d be surprised how many people are on it and don’t admit to it.
This step seems to be particularly hard for men, it doesn’t need to be because it’s not a failure, it’s totally courageous and the best thing you can do for you and your loved ones.
Involve your partner
Being in a relationship with someone who suffers anxiety can be
taxing exhausting and it’s important to keep within your own boundaries. “I want to support you but I don’t know how,” is more common than you might think. Go together to see your GP or therapist, you’re in this together.
Anxiety sucks I know, but with management and a level of acceptance that it is a part of you, it can get better.
If you need support NOW call
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline 13 11 14
Do you have any other tips for managing anxiety?