Ever since I can remember I have been the ‘worrier’, the ‘panicker’ and ‘the stressor’ (don’t think those are words but you get a jist) and that only became more apparent as I got older and faced more challenges. It wasn’t until I was around 17 when I realised I suffered quite badly from anxiety. Struggling to get good grades at school as well as figuring out what I was going to do when I left school, trying to look a certain way and also being sociable etc started to get in the way of my overall happiness. Of course I am aware of it now, but back then no one ever talked about it! People used anxiety as a passing term, not an actual issue. Anxiety is defined by Mind UK as
“Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.”
My anxiety (like others) fits into the description and mainly consists of a few characteristics: overthinking, stressing, people-pleasing, headaches and the all mighty anxiety attack.
Overthinking and stressing
Overthinking is a completely natural and normal thing to do (unfortunately). I always find myself overthinking when I am tired or already stressed. If someone close to me starts acting differently- I worry why and often think the worst; if I don’t hear from someone in a while- I think the worst and I definitely find myself constantly worrying about my future, in terms of jobs etc. The only reassuring thing about overthinking though is that 97% of the things I worry about don’t actually happen.
This probably doesn’t seem like a clear link with anxiety, however I find this triggers my symptoms. I have always been a people pleaser- the thought of people not liking me used to kill me, therefore I would go above and beyond to make everyone around me happy. It isn’t a horrible trait to have, if I care about someone I will really really care for them and do anything for them, however it often results in over-exhausting myself, spending money I don’t want to doing things I don’t want to and spending time unwisely. If I’m saying no to something or someone it results in anxiety, but if I say yes when I don’t have the time, energy, money or I just can’t be bothered ends up stressing me out as well, therefore I am filled with anxiety. Thus- its a vicious circle.
Headaches and anxiety attacks
The physical side effects of anxiety are horrid. When I am really stressed and anxious I suffer horrible headaches that often send me to bed. Furthermore, I used to suffer horrendously from anxiety attacks. My attacks varied from crying uncontrollably to acting really erratic to literally feeling like my heart was beating out my chest, I couldn’t breathe properly and the walls felt like they were closing in (dramatic, but honestly, that description is an understatement).
My perspective on anxiety in general
My general concern with anxiety is the stigma attached to it or people thinking you are overreacting. People deal with things in different ways, but it doesn’t make one person any less stronger than another. Despite my ‘weaknesses’ as stated above, I think of myself nowadays as a really strong person. My anxiety is a lot to do with feeling strong feelings, really caring about others and my future and trying to battle anything negative head on. I have found that just talking about it and being more open has helped me a lot because I have realised that I am certainly not alone. I used to think I was a horrible person for stressing over such little things and that I didn’t deserve to be fully happy. But I have learned so much about myself and about life in general that I think I have learned to be happier by not taking anything for granted and really being thankful for when I don’t feel anxious.
What I have learned
I think accepting anxiety for what it is was the first step that took me forward. I realised that trying to ‘cure’ it was a short term measure that kind of worked, but what I needed to do was accept it and then learn how to live with it. I have tried counselling which I did find helpful, but I think I am the type of person who likes to take control and deal with things on my own (everyone deals with things differently so I would definitely recommend seeing a counsellor if you are suffering as it could be the perfect treatment). Realising that I can pull myself through anxious days has proven to myself that I am more than capable of dealing with anxiety, and that I really don’t have to let it take control of my life.
If you, like me, suffer from anxiety I have some tips that I have learned over the past few years:
- Exercise- this is one of the most underrated stress and overthinking relievers ever. As soon as I feel overwhelmed I put my headphones on and head to the gym. I have found that gym classes really help too as if I have booked myself into a class, I have to go! And once I’m there I’m so focused on following the class instructor, I don’t have time to stress of overthink!
- Meditation and mindfulness- don’t knock it until you have tried it. Meditation really calms me and gives me a lot of inner strength. I use the app ‘Headspace’ daily. Learning how to breathe properly has helped me with anxiety attacks.
- Writing things down- whenever I feel overwhelmed, writing things down really lets me see what is making me feel so stressed. Often when I write down my thoughts it is easy to see what to prioritise and what to ignore because it isn’t worth the stress.
- Withdrawing yourself from toxic situations- if someone is sparking anxiety in you- really think about whether you want them in your life. If a job or commitment is triggering symptoms- really evaluate whether keeping that job or commitment is necessary. If you find social media anxiety inducing by seeing others living ‘perfect’ lives with ‘perfect’ bodies- limit your time on social media. I know it is so much easier said than done, but at the end of the day your OWN happiness is most important.
I can honestly say that years on (Im nearly 22) I feel really in control of my anxiety. I can’t even remember the last time I had an anxiety attack or a really anxious day. I think it is down to understanding how to manage my anxiety. Nowadays I try focus on things day by day which really helps my overthinking as I have a new perspective on my life. My new mentality is “I don’t know what I’m going to do next week never mind in a year so why am I worrying about it? Things all work out in the end how they should anyway”. Furthermore I have learned to focus on myself and my own happiness nowadays and in the last few months I think I have become way more focused on me and less on others. If someone doesn’t like me- who cares? It isn’t worth the anxiety and life is far too short for that sh*t.
Admittedly, I have left a lot of my experience out, purely because I don’t want to share the nitty gritty details, however I hope that in just scraping the surface and sharing my experience will help anyone reading this who has suffered from a similar experience. Anxiety is something we all deal with from time to time but if you are feeling like everything is getting too much, take a step back and remember it is okay to not be okay all the time. We are human and by no means perfect. But please please don’t feel afraid to seek help, talk to friends and family or even your doctor. It is something that so many people deal with and once you understand how to deal with it and manage it (it takes time), it is honestly life changing.