Anxiety- How to feel better
Feeling this wave of intense fear in normal situations daily, sometimes for months at a time can be a challenge, I know I have been there myself.
I do feel that it is helpful to pass on some tip's that helped me to cope during my own journey.
I won't pretend that this is an easy time, having Anxiety can be one of the most scary and distressing times you will ever have in your life. During feelings of acute Anxiety I spent most of my time keeping myself together getting through the next minute never mind having the strength to reverse things, but however bad you are feeling there are ways to cope better in the short term with your symptoms, while you get a handle on things and begin to move towards remission.
Here are some helpful tips that will help you to cope during the acute stages of Anxiety and in helping you maintain your recovery once your symptoms are in remission.
Take regular exercise , even if you do not feel like it
The importance of building an exercise regime into your life and sticking to it during your acute symptoms and once symptoms are in remission cannot be underestimated.
Stress produces excess adrenalin and adrenalin must be worked off to limit the effects of Anxiety symptoms. It must be worked off both while you are suffering and also once you feel that you have regained your quality of life, to keep your symptoms in remission.
Exercise not only burns off all your excess adrenalin (which needs to go somewhere), but it also releases the feel good hormones endorphins and improves your self confidence. Personally I now exercise 5-6 times a week and would never be without it as I understand how important it is to my wellbeing. It helped me to have more bearable symptoms during my own acute stages and now helps me to keep my own symptoms in remission.
The same self care would apply for physical illness, let me give an example:
Let's say that you have suffered a heart attack. On leaving hospital your doctor have discussed with you that because you have had a heart attack you could be more prone to suffering another.
He would have highlighted that there are things that you can do to minimise the chance of this happening such as, stopping smoking, reducing your salt intake, limiting your alcohol, and taking regular exercise. He is not lying, it is now your choice whether you take the advice moving forwards. You can accept this advice and understand that there is no going back now, you have to accept that whether you like it or not and that to avoid heart attack in the future you must understand your condition and look after yourself more, developing new habits that you will have in place for the rest of your life.
We'll try to look at Mental Health as exactly the same, you have suffered with Anxiety or Depression and the fact is there are things you can do to limit your chances of ever having to suffer again. You must first accept that you have the "condition" and also that you must manage it going forward to prevent relapse.
Let's look at me as an example. Even though I suffered with both Anxiety and Depression I spent a long time never really accepting that this was now a part of me and I would have to actually do anything to prevent its return.
When I started to feel better, I just grabbed it with both hands and tried to forget how bad it had been as I raced straight back into my old ways of thinking and life.
Four major relapses later, and lots more self searching and needless suffering I now understand that I must look at ways to limit my stresses, challenge my way of thinking and the way I look at the world and look after my body. This will then reward me by lengthening the time I stay recovered. If I don't do it I will end up back there and believe me that option is not something I want.
I now exercise regularly and could not be without it. I feel so much better and I can tell in my mood if I let it slip.
I find cycling and running work well for me, but any form of exercise will help. Being outside puts you at one with nature and brings you outside of your head and if you would rather join a class that is great too as it gets you back into socialising with others.
You must do it though, it's an essential part of Anxiety and Depression management.
Adapt your Diet to limit foods and drinks that over stimulate your nervous system
Think about it, your nervous system is already well over stimulated and surging with adrenalin, so why would you feed yourself things that are going to stimulate it even more such as sugar based foods?
Mood and diet are strongly connected, so managing your diet will help your symptoms become more manageable.
Have a look at the diet page for information on which foods to avoid.
Accept that the early days are going to be difficult
When you first begin to suffer Anxiety and Panic symptoms, it can be a frightening experience. You cannot imagine ever feeling well again, time seems to stand still with every minute seeming like an day in length. It feels a struggle to hang in there and make sense of what you are feeling. There is no getting away from this and it doesn't feel great, but as a veteran of feeling this way I can promise you that this won't last. Over time you will be more and more able to stand back from these thoughts and feelings. The hard bit is accepting that you need to change the habits you have to stay well. One of the best things I did for myself during four relapses was to accept that when these feelings were most acute, that it would pass and to keep my hope.
It is all about accepting that the early days will be tough.
Mindfulness in short is the art of being in control of your own mind and thoughts. It's about living in the moment not in the past or the future. It's about allowing in your thoughts whatever they are, in to your mind, observe them without judging them to be good or bad and allow them to float away.
Obsessive thoughts are a symptom of Anxiety, they can feel debilitating, however it is not the content of the thoughts that are relevant, more that there is a bigger cycle going on and the condition generates the thoughts rather like when you get chicken pox you get spots.
You don't have to like your thoughts, but you can learn to accept that they are there and choose whether to let them bother you or not. This is really worth practising as the art of learning to quiet your own mind is essential in Anxiety and Depression management. There is more information on mindfulness here.
Try to give your mind something else to focus on now
Every moment that you can spend engrossed in something other than Anxiety is a moment that your mind is centred on the present moment and the task in hand you do not have to suffer and will give you some relief even if just for a short while.
You can not Panic in the present moment, if you panic it is because you are thinking of something from the past or worrying about something that will happen in the future so learning to centre your mind in the present moment would be very beneficial in helping you to cope.
I find that something that really engages your mind such as playing cards (solitaire in my case), or maybe knitting or writing in a journal or cleaning the house (cleaning out cupboards or scrubbing floors). Anything that will re direct your thoughts and cause you to concentrate on something else. The more time you spend away from Anxiety provoking thoughts the closer you are to creating a habit of thinking away from your Anxiety.
Over time you will find you naturally step back, but in the beginning when I was completely caught up in the thoughts, feelings and sensations I found this tip really helped me to cope. Learning to centre your mind to concentrate on the job in hand, it really does help.
Learn to stop or just not pay attention to the " What if thoughts"
What if I never get better?
What if the Doctor has missed something and there is something much more serious wrong with me?
What if I can't breathe?
What if I choke to death?
What if it's just me that feels like this?
What if I'll never be able to enjoy the things I used to?
Remember churning over things your mind will keep your Anxiety strong and current as rumination is a "symptom" of Anxiety and so if you continue to feed this symptom Anxiety does not improve.
Almost all your what if thoughts will never happen and all this constant worry will do is keep you firmly stuck in the cycle of anxiety, you are feeding the fear not removing it.
Recovery from Anxiety comes from resting the mind as much as the body. You have anxiety because your mind has already been flooded and can no longer cope.
Change "what if" to "so what".
Stop believing in that Miracle cure as it does not exist
It really does not exist, trust me if there was this miracle cure I would have found it as I spent twelve years searching for it and left no stone un turned in my search.
I think that looking is a mistake that most people make as they want something that will make this go away in an instant.
Recovery from Anxiety is not something you have to find, these feelings are normal what everyone has, with anxiety they are just magnified.
Recovery ultimately can only come from you. It is about seeing things in a new perspective, moving your focus away from Anxiety, gaining the right knowledge and moving into new more positive thinking and habits. After all this, it is then about learning to live without it.
There is no missing piece of the jigsaw so stop looking for it.
Learn to go with the flow and just be, let go of control
This is a tough one, but an essential habit to form both while you are suffering with Anxiety and once you feel better.
It's all about learning to just take life as it comes. Dealing with it as and when you need to, just as you did before you began to focus on Anxious feelings. It is about not trying to control anything or worrying about the future and things that have not even happened yet. It's about just living your life in the present moment as it happens and accepting things for how they are.
You do not need to fight your symptoms or try to rid yourself of them. You don't need to churn things over in your mind trying to find a solution. There does not have to be a solution in Anxiety.
The more you worry the more tired you will make your mind and the more detached you will be from the world around you.