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10 October 2016

anxiety - things i've learnt

With today being World Mental Health Day, I felt like I needed to write something. I hope it makes sense, and I hope it flows, though sometimes these things feel completely senseless, don't they?

In my life I've lost a lot of time and energy to anxiety. I feel something akin to grief for those lost hours. The physical manifestations of the psychological have previously so often overtaken me, that I've also grieved for the clarity I felt before it hit. Is that the right word? I don't know, though the idea of it having the impact of an earthquake with tremors and aftershocks fits extremely well, I feel.

It's interesting to me how something can be so life-altering, so effecting, so much like a lens that changes the way we see and feel the world, and yet be so invisible to others. We can smile, we can laugh, we can say we're okay, but, out of embarrassment and out of pride, we can often hide how we truly feel.

Almost all of us to some varying degree will experience elements of anxiety, depression, or other forms of mental illness in our lifetimes, and almost all of us will struggle with it. That's why today is so important, and why it's so encouraging to see so many people breaking taboo while breaking down walls by discussing and dissecting mental health. The more we talk about it, the more we can learn from ourselves and from others.

Over the years, I know I've slowly learnt to be kinder to myself. I've learnt how to not be overcome by things that would've previously engulfed me. I definitely don't bear the definitive answers to the healing process, in fact I don't know much. But I wanted to share some other things that I've learnt, for what it's worth:

- When you need to rest, rest. Take a bath, read a book, have a nap. Look after yourself. I find when I'm feeling particularly anxious that a long walk with a podcast in my ears helps to relieve it. Also, importantly, sleep! Sleeplessness, for me, is a vital component in exasperating my symptoms. Get into bed early, listen to something to help you drift off if you have a racing brain, or use the Headspace app  to help you relax before you put your head on your pillow.

- You don't always need to go that social occasion. If you know something's going to require a lot of mental energy, and you're not up to it - don't go. If you know you'll feel a lot worse after it, don't put yourself through it. Stay in, relax, don't hurt yourself for fear of what others will think. There will always be other nights out you can go to, and other daytrips. Your mental health is much more important than, say, a drink in the pub.

- There's power in vocalising your pain. Though it might sometimes feel like the hardest thing to do, talking it through will help. It's easy to get lost in your own mind, isolating yourself away from people who most of the time will be able to relate in some shape or form. I can't count the amount of times I've been saved by having best friends that I can turn to and be honest with about how I'm feeling. You need supportive people around you.

- Someone can look okay, but that doesn't always mean they are. It never hurts to ask someone how they're really feeling, and truly listen.

- Create. Pick up a pen, or make something. Channel your frustrations and your pent-up energy into something productive that will get you out of your mind and into your body.

- It's okay to take medication. If something helps, it helps. There's no shame in that.

- Eliminate the fear, and be kind to yourself. Fear feeds the flames, which fans the despair and the feeling that things won't get better. You are not your anxiety. You are not your struggles. You need to recognise that your mind is poorly, and adopt healthy habits to help it and to help you be your best self.

Most of all though, remember to be kind to yourself.



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