5 Ways To Manage Overwhelm and Anxiety
We’ve all experienced some form of anxiety in our lifetimes. Maybe it’s when you have a presentation to give in front of people, maybe it’s a tough conversation with someone, maybe it’s going skydiving. Your hands feel clammy, your heart beats a little faster, you have butterflies… maybe even nervous poops (I know you know what I’m talking about).
People who live with an anxiety disorder experience this every. day. Sometimes every moment of a day, a week, a month.
And it’s not usually over something that makes sense. It’s not usually a rational reaction to whatever is at hand. I like to explain anxiety to be just like a recently boiled kettle; as soon as you turn the kettle on, it boils over very quickly, sometimes instantly.
I’ve been a recently boiled kettle for the past 2 and a half months. And I mean constantly a recently boiled kettle. Desperately trying not to allow my kettle to be flicked on.
Before COVID-19 hit and before Melbourne was put into one of the toughest lockdowns in the world, I hadn’t had a panic attack for over a year. I’ve worked really hard in the last few years on bettering my mental health, and I was managing okay, even managing really well at times.
But over the last couple of months, I’ve had a panic attack every other day. And I was frozen. Stuck. I didn’t know how to, firstly, deal with this new mental state (which is comparative to my pre-antidepressant state), and secondly, come to terms with the fact that my panic attacks were back, after a blissful time without them.
I should note that I still don’t really know, but I’m working on it. And that’s the important part.
I’ve been struggling. Like really struggling this year. Mentally, physically, emotionally, professionally.
But I know I’m not alone in this, hence why I’m writing this blog. Hearing other peoples experiences, treatment and management strategies for this condition really helps me process and come to terms with it.
I got stuck in a scary thought cycle in the last few months. Why me? Why do I have to live with this? Why isn’t there a cure? I wish I could just get surgery and have this out of me. It’s NOT fair. Over and over and over and over.
I’m sure you understand if you have anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or ANY condition for that matter. But silent ones especially. How are we supposed to communicate what we’re living with if no one can see it? How can we justify taking sick leave or annual leave or disappearing for a bit? How do we keep friends around when sending that message is so so hard, but it shouldn’t be?
Part of this is society; the stigma around mental health conditions is so severe that it’s downright scary saying “Hey, actually I have depression and I can’t come into work today”. It’s even scarier (for me at least) to be on medication for it, as if relying on a pill to function is abnormal… but it’s not.
The other, larger, part of it is our brain. Our inner mean girl or boy tearing us down, our anxiety and depression itself fuelling the fire to stay alive.
It’s like you’re walking up hill with a tonne of bricks tied to you. It’s possible, but it’s fucking hard.
So how do we make it easier? Make it more possible? Here’s what I’m doing, and what I’ve done in the past to help:
- Build your support team – I find it important to have both a professional team (meaning health professionals) and a personal support team. Loved can’t always help us, and professionals can’t always help us.
- My professional support team is made up of a good GP who listens to me and cares, a psychologist who I gel with (extremely important) and a natural health practitioner. It’s important for me to tackle all of my health issues in a holistic way.
- My every day support team is made up of my boyfriend, my parents, my boss and a couple of good friends.
- Make time for yourself, daily – Society is all about go go go, and with social media and smart phones it literally never stops. It’s easy to get caught up in the motions, but if we’re not taking time for ourselves then we are constantly putting ourselves last. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so when do you refill it? Here are some ideas:
- Journalling – this has a bit of stigma tied to it as well, but all it means is that you are jotting your thoughts down on paper. I also like to call this a Brain Dump, so you can dump everything in your brain and carry on with a clear mind.
- Yoga & Meditation, or even just some deep breathing – this is seriously underrated.
- Creative expression – whatever that may be for you; gardening, dancing to your favourite music, arts and crafts, etc.
- Let yourself feel – it’s easy to push down our feelings over and over because we are too busy or even just don’t want to deal with it. Letting your emotions come out followed by some nurturing activities (as above) helps to stop having those melt-down-moments.
- Eat your damn veggies – it’s a pretty common thing to say ‘eat your vegetables’ but seriously… eat your vegetables. And eat all the colours, mix it up regularly, make them the base of your meals.
- Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, and are just as important as macronutrients in my book. The levels of micronutrients we are consuming can govern how our body feels. For example, low iron = low energy, if you have depression this will make things so much harder. And it’s a similar story for the other micronutrients, when we are deficient, there’s no definitive symptoms we just don’t feel right. So, eat all the veggies and all the colours.
- ROUTINE – this one is last and in caps because it is the most imperative for me. Having a structure to the day means that I am doing the things I want to be doing and I also don’t have the opportunity to mope and stew and make things worse.
- Having the same wake-up time and bed time not only builds routine but it literally sets your hormones up to have a proper circadian rhythm, meaning you will have a better quality of sleep, your body may be able to process external stressors more efficiently.
- Including exercise into that routine is extremely helpful as well. To put simply, more exercise = more endorphins = more energy and mood boosting.
- I’m repeating myself again, but including time for yourself into routine is key.
I’m hoping these 5 things have shed some light on dealing with your struggles and may offer you some hope looking forward, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the current state of the world and it’s sending your mental illness into overdrive.
Take things day by day, one step at a time, and reach out to those around you for help.
As for the world opening up again, I think all I can say is to reread the line above. These are unprecedented times, 2020 was a fucking mission. It still is. And if you are struggling with the social pressures right now, that’s okay. I am too. Be social when you’re ready, but still connect to your loved ones. All we can do is be honest with our struggles. Because if there’s one thing 2020 has taught most people, it’s what mental illness can feel like.
Until next time, sending light and love your way.
Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.
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