It’s wonderful to see that the stigma attached to anxiety and mental health in general is slowly shifting. Having said this, it’s important to understand that there are so many different mental health challenges and that one persons experience isn’t going to be the same as the next.
I want to share with you my own experience with anxiety, to give you a little perspective.
I’m not an anxious person. Generally speaking, I don’t overthink things and I don’t get overwhelmed very easily. I can speak to a room full of people or present a workshop to complete strangers and I don’t feel nervous.
The simple tasks are the ones that get me. Supermarket shopping, shopping centres in general, the prospect of cancelling on friends of family, not sitting on the end of a row in a theatre or conference, public transport, packed bars. These are the things that catch me out and give me the jitters.
Do I let that stop me? If I’m completely honest, sometimes it does. Sometimes, I cancel at the last minute because it’s all too much for me. (And that is completely ok!)
On the most part though, I have ways to deal with these situations. With the help of my psychologist I have been able to recognise anxiety for what it is. For me, it’s just an emotion like happiness or sadness. I don’t wonder why it’s popped up and I don’t beat myself up about it.
I am my own ally and speak to myself with kindness and compassion.
Mindfulness and the practice of gratitude have been game changers for me. Quite simply, they create a change in emotions and I switch from negative to positive in a few short seconds. When the negative ‘what if’s’ start popping up, I catch myself and replace them with the opposite, positive ‘what if’s’…. What if I have a fantastic time? What if I love seeing this show? What if I learn something new to share with my clients? What if this is a new and exciting experience for me?
Social media also has an impact on my mental health. It’s important that I spend time on social media as it’s a place where I can share my health and wellbeing knowledge, however it can have quite a negative impact. Seeing friends getting together when I haven’t been invited, seeing people with sparkling clean houses when mine is a mess, having people share their amazing holidays when I’m stuck at home… All of these things breed negativity and anxiety. I focus on the social media accounts that inspire me, that make me want to be a better person or that just make me laugh (@animalsdoingthings is great for a giggle!). You have a choice to feel great or to feel bad, make the conscious choice to feel good and do it without any guilt.
Something that is important for me, is to look after myself ALL of the time. To do that I exercise regularly, eat well, don’t drink too much alcohol and I’m never afraid to say ‘no’. When invitations come my way I think about them before I respond. Is this something I really want to do? Is this going to lift me up or pull me down? I don’t ever do anything because I feel I ‘have’ to do it. In fact, it’s those engagements that are the most negative for me, so I’ll 100% decline.
Doing these things I am able keep myself in the most positive headspace possible, so when anxious moments pop up, I can meet them and move on.
Today, and always, be kind to yourself and be kind to those around you. You really never know how someone is feeling, despite the smile on his or her face.
This article was first published on The Geelong Edition.