:: this post is part of the ‘hope’ series. it includes bits + pieces of my journey with depression, anxiety + insomnia with the hope that it will illuminate, expose, + help ::
When we think of someone whose anxious, we can often think of sweaty hands, grand thoughts, heart pumping hard against the chest, + it only lasting a short period of time.
But for others, anxiety is not just a ‘sometimes’ occurrence… it becomes woven into their daily life + they simply can’t seem to escape it.
And I know how that feels.
For the last couple of years I’ve been incredibly anxious. My depression + insomnia were all interconnected making it hard to decipher what exactly triggered what.
People often have this assumption that “if you’re anxious, get over it”, “learn to trust God”, “give your cares to God”, or “what have you got to be so anxious about?! Your life is brilliant!” etc etc.
But anxiety slowly creeps in.
It begins with one thought + eventually takes up residence in your mind, effecting your entire world; being anxious becomes as natural as breathing.
If you have a bad habit or addiction, in order to ‘kick it’ you must develop new habits.
Anxiety is exactly the same; it’s a ‘bad habit’ that you must focus on breaking.
And that’s why an anxious person cannot simply “get over it”. They have to retrain thoughts that took weeks, months, + years to form.
“As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Some ways my anxiety expressed itself:
Feeling overwhelmed + nervous (majority of the time). Shaky hands. Panic attacks. Butterflies. Scared to go to sleep (had a series of nightmares that led to my insomnia). Hot flushes. Light headedness. Feeling nauseous.
(…obviously they weren’t all happening at the same time. Umm, talk about horrendous if they were!).
What I did (still do + will continue to do):
These are simply things I implemented in my life. Different things work for different people because we all have different needs. It’s like glasses – not everyone with poor eyesight wears the same prescriptive glasses.
This is something my psychologist got me into the habit of doing – write down every single worry you can possibly think of: from the big things to the little things. Go through the list + work out which one effects you right now + what you personally have control over. If it doesn’t effect you right now or you don’t have control over it… don’t worry about it. Instead, focus on the things that you do have control over.
Anxiety is developed because of a particular thought pattern we create, followed by an action/response. Recognising these thoughts helps us realise a whole lot about yourselves.
Write down where you are, the thought you had, how it made you feel, how you reacted, + the consequence (because with anxiety, there is always a consequence – ie: anxious around social gatherings = miss an opportunity to meet new friends).
Doing this made me discover that I had social anxiety to a certain degree (ie: big crowds, social events etc) + allowed me to begin to overcome it.
Since April (prior to seeing the doctor), I had started a ‘Gratitude Journal’ after one of my hilariously lovely friend’s was talking about how she had started one. Before going to bed, I write down a couple of things that I’m grateful for that happened during the day. It realigns your focus + makes you focus on the gems within your day.
Sure, you can exercise in a gym, but being outside in the fresh air does the soul, mind + body good. It absolutely clears your mind + makes you feel incredible.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out. And repeat.
Talk to someone you trust – a doctor, counsellor, psychologist, friend, leader. I’ve discovered that by opening up + talking about it, part of the worry that consumed my mind is released.
Take a Break + be Ridiculous:
Whatever you are doing when you start getting anxious, stop it. Stop doing your work, assignment… get out of the room. Break up your environment. Go + do something else. You could: do your hair pretty, bake something delicious, the dishes, clean, call a friend, put your favourite song on + dance ridiculously. Whatever it is, physically take yourself out of that environment + do something else. And then, go back to it.
Go on a cruise/holiday/roadtrip/just get away:
Something that majorly helped me was that our family went on a cruise. Going away + not having to worry about anything allowed me to completely relax, clear my thoughts, + in a way ‘begin again’ with my mind.
Anti-depressants: Sure, these are definitely not for everyone, but it’s helped + is helping me. I honestly didn’t see how taking them could help my anxiety, but because they’re helping me see, feel + think clearer, I’m able to deal with my anxiety better.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong about taking anti-depressants; think about it – you take panadol when you get a headache from being stressed – anti-depressants are really not that different.
Listen to soothing music:
Some of my faves: ‘To Build A Home‘ by Cinematic Orchestra :: ‘The Violet Hour‘ by The Civil Wars :: ‘Truth‘ by Balmorhea :: ‘Fade + Then Return (acoustic version)‘ by William Fitzsimmons :: ‘Lighthouse‘ by Patrick Watson :: ‘Winter / Breathe‘ by Matt Corby.
beyondblue says that the sooner people with anxiety get help, the more likely they are to recover. They also say that there are 2 million Australians with an anxiety disorder. Just like with depression, that’s a lot of people.
Anxiety happens because something triggers it.
Discover what it is.
And face or change the situation.
No matter how scary it may seem, you’re brave. You’re not a failure or insignificant because you have anxiety… you’re full of strength, grace, + have the sheer courage inside you to keep going.
People think that anxiety robs us of what’s ahead. And it totally can.
But I’ve come to believe that anxiety is actually a tool. It’s a sign letting us know we’re heading down the wrong path, need to rearrange our life, or deal with something in our past or current circumstances so that we can fully embrace life…
“Perhaps anxiety is an act of grace because it encourages us to face our fears so that we can then choose to freely follow God where He is calling us. ” - Rhett Smith
[read more posts from the 'hope' series here]