Anxiety is a bit of a sticky subject for me. My GAD, over the past few years, has ranged from mild-moderate-severe; back to mild, then to severe, then to really severe, and at the moment it’s a steady moderate (touch wood).
I tend not to include my anxiety a lot in my writing. My coping mechanism is to pretend it doesn’t exist within my brain. It sometimes works, sometimes it doesn’t. One of the downsides to being at uni (depending on how you look at it!) are the looooooonnnnnnggggg holidays we have between semesters. The Christmas holidays are a lot more reminiscent of the six-week summer holidays we loved as children.
Thing is, there’s only so much you can do in six weeks during the winter. Obviously there’s Christmas, Boxing Day and the festivities of New Years’. But aside from those, a couple of days spent with friends and a few nights with my S.O., I’m pretty much alone with my thoughts fifty per cent of the time. Anyone with Anxiety will tell you, it’s not fun!
So, I thought I’d bite the bullet. I’m going to talk about it. I’m going to do better than that, actually. I’m going to give advice on it. I’m not a qualified mental health officer, but I do have experience. This is what works for me, but it’s trial-and-error. Let me know how you get on!
IT’S OKAY TO SIT THINGS OUT!
Take it from me; you’re not a bad friend/child/sibling/partner for getting overwhelmed sometimes. It’s okay to sit some things out! If you were out all day with family on the 20th, and your friends want to go to a Christmas party on the 21st, it’s okay to say no! I often make a conscious effort over Christmas to get my face seen by at least four of my loved ones. I might attend a family function a couple of times over the holidays, and sit the next couple out. Find a system that works for you, and never be afraid to say ‘no, thank you’.
DO THINGS THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY!
Christmas day itself can be pretty overwhelming; you’re spending an entire day around people with not a lot of downtime. So, make sure you do things that make you happy! In terms of downtime, you could have a bath, put on some makeup, take a nap after lunch, watch a Christmas film… When you’re with your family, suggest something fun for everyone! Play your favourite game (alcohol-fuelled charades is a good’un), eat until you burst, go on a Christmas walk if it’s getting a bit too stuffy. This day is about family and friends, both of which include you.
BALANCE THE GOOD TIMES WITH THE BAD
Anxiety can get depressing. When you feel yourself going downhill, schedule something for the next day. It could be anything. Shopping, blogging, going for coffee with friends… Allow yourself to feel bad for a day or two, then go and do something positive! Even just getting up, having a shower, watching Netflix in your PJ’s and having a takeaway. It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom – it’s what you make of it.
TAKE A SELF-CARE DAY
I mentioned briefly in another blog about mindfulness and meditation. These two techniques really help me to cope. An ideal self-care day for me would include; having a lie in, listening to music, having a shower (and brushing my teeth), chilling with no makeup on, do a bit of blogging, catch up on social media, eat lots of junk (meh, I’ll make up for it later) and into a Netflix special to see us home. Nothing is off limits. This is your self-care day. Do you.
Experiencing physical symptoms of Anxiety on a day/night out is the worst, amirite? It’s a real feeling of urgency, you feel it as something that could make-or-break the rest of the day. All the red lights are flashing.
Stop. Take a breath. You’ve got this 100%. You’ve got a couple of options here:
Self-guided relaxation: You might choose this if you’re a pro, or if hearing the sound of someone’s voice is too overwhelming. There’s this wonderful breathing technique called square-breathing. What happens is; you inhale to the count of four, you hold it for the count of four, then you exhale to the count of eight. Then, you continue to do this for as long as it takes, until your symptoms subside. Telling yourself ‘I’ve got this, it’s just anxiety. I’m not going to be sick. I’m not going to faint. I’m going to be fine.’, and reminding myself of this helps me too.
Guided relaxation: I’ve been using the Calm* app for just under a year. Under the meditation section, there’s a 3-10 minute programme called ‘emergency relaxation’. Depending on how anxious you feel, you can choose to do this for three minutes, five minutes, seven minutes or ten minutes. This is guided; which means a soothing voiceover talks you through a couple of techniques (namely square-breathing and progressive muscle relaxation through body scan) while you put them into practice.
Phew. If you’re still reading this, thank you for getting this far! Let me know your coping techniques in the comments below.