Free Chapter – Stand Up To Anxiety
Stand Up To Anxiety
I began to struggle with how I was feeling in my teens. Throughout school I had always felt shy and that I lacked confidence but I thought that was normal and something every girl went through. I thought it didn’t matter, that I would grow out of it and had no idea how it would affect my life. I continued facing my life in the way I always had and for as long as I can remember was the “quiet one” of the group. I had just accepted this as who I was.
When I left school it began to get worse. I felt alone, lost, worried, stressed, and down and I didn’t know why. I had no idea what had caused it and I didn’t know how to change it. Looking back in my journals from 2012 to 2015, when I was 17-20 years old I was experiencing these emotions almost daily:
- Upset and crying all the time.
- Argumentative with family.
- Not wanting to get out of bed.
- Nervous around people.
- Not wanting to leave the house.
- Unenthusiastic about things I used to enjoy.
- Feeling lonely and like I had no friends.
- Can’t talk about how I feel without crying.
- Mood changes quickly.
- Easily frustrated.
The day came where I was in a supermarket with my sister, Katy, and she wandered off and left me alone in an aisle. I hadn’t told her how I had been feeling so she had no idea what would follow. The panic began. I was crying and sweating uncontrollably, my heart racing. I had no idea what was happening to me and how to stop it.
I got back into my car and was unable to drive. The feelings were so strong I felt unable to move. I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to. That was when I made the phone call to the doctor. When they answered the phone, I just cried. I couldn’t find the words to explain how I felt or the help that I needed. The receptionist said she would book me an appointment to talk to a doctor.
My appointment with the doctor was a bit of a blur. He asked me questions about my life and if there were any problems at work or home. The answer to both questions was no, there was no obvious problem that had caused me to feel this way.
From there, I had weekly appointments with a counsellor, who told me I was struggling with severe anxiety and depression, and lack of confidence. She also uncovered two huge fears I had of driving and being alone in public. Making that phone call was the best decision I ever made. While it was scary having to admit to a doctor and then a counsellor how I was feeling even though I didn’t understand it, I am so glad I did it.
I began to work with the counsellor on overcoming my fear using a simple technique to face my fears every week. To face my fear of driving I picked my Nanny & Poppa’s old house to drive to. It was somewhere that meant a lot to me and motivated me to go, I felt I could talk to Poppa while I was there, as he had died a few years earlier.
Picking this particular place made it even more special to me facing and overcoming my fear. I set out weekly facing this fear and it didn’t come easy, on the second week a car nearly crashed into me. I stayed committed and stuck to doing exactly the same drive every week at the same time.
Over time the anxiety I felt before, during and after started to go down. It started as a 10/10 and within a few months it went down. My fear of driving had decreased and eventually disappeared.
I used the same technique for my fear of being alone in public places. After the panic attack in the supermarket with Katy I knew this was one that I had to overcome if I was to live a normal life. I chose a store that I enjoyed shopping in and committed the time to facing my fear weekly. I had the same results as the driving fear, within weeks the feeling of fear decreased before going down to zero fear. I can now walk confidently into any shop and spend time there without panic attacks or anxiety. Even if a panic attack does start I now feel I know what to do to get it under control and feel calmer.
The best thing that came out of seeing the counsellor was her recommendation I read the book Finding Peace In A Frantic World by Danny Penman and Mark Williams. At the time I hadn’t even heard of mindfulness and the book was huge, which overwhelmed me, so I didn’t read it. It did, however, help me to realise the world of self-help existed, making me interested enough to find out more. I began to do my own research into personal development to find books that felt better for me and other habits that I could use to help improve the way I was feeling.
I began to feel that I wasn’t alone. I was glad to discover there was a reason I was feeling this way, which helped me to feel more normal and believe that there was a way I could get through it.
On my journey of personal development, I have created a morning and evening routine full of personal development that I stick to daily. It has become a habit to me and as important as brushing my teeth. I have come across many habits on this journey and have tried most of them. Some I enjoy, some I don’t and that’s okay. It’s about finding the ones that work well and sticking with them.
I am now completely different to the person I was back then. To my friends and others I am known as the “happy and positive one” – the complete opposite to the story of my childhood and especially secondary school years. I couldn’t have achieved this without the world of self-help and for that, I will always be grateful.
Advice for you
It’s not about getting rid of these feelings completely. I don’t believe that mental health problems ever go away, they just need managing and that is what I feel I do so well now. Every now and then something will trigger anxiety, knock your confidence or give you a feeling of fear and that is okay. The important thing is knowing how to manage it. By putting together a ‘toolkit’ of tools and techniques, you can be prepared for when these feelings are triggered.
A morning and evening routine is a great way to do this by starting and ending your day in the best way possible. How you spend the first 30 minutes of your day can have a big impact on what follows, so you will set yourself up for a good day. The same goes for the evening, settling down with self-care and personal development before going to sleep, which can help you sleep well and wake up in a good mood. Personal development has the ability to transform your life. It starts with a decision and commitment to want to change.
How to use this book
This book is a guide to build your own toolkit of tools and techniques to use. I will walk you through all the habits I use daily. There are many exercises and questions in the book, so I suggest you get a journal to complete them all and get the best results. Try all the tools I suggest and see how you find them. Please note in this book the words tools, tips, techniques, strategies and habits are all used to mean something you can do or use to help with your anxiety.
Make a list of techniques that work for you and use them when you need to. The aim is to create an anxiety toolkit to use in moments of mild anxiety, severe anxiety, and panic attacks. Come back to this book when you need a refresher or to relearn any techniques.
In section 1, we’ll cover understanding anxiety so you can begin to understand what is happening and why you feel the way you do. Then we’ll move on to other things you may experience related to your anxiety, its potential effects and ways to manage them. Section 3 is all about learning new strategies and tools to manage your anxiety that you can try for yourself and judge the benefits. This will help you to form your own anxiety toolkit that you’ll continue to use after finishing this book.
Before we get started, fill out this questionnaire to assess how you are currently feeling. Answer all questions with either yes or no, then give yourself 1 point for every yes answer. Try not to think about it too much and write down the first answer that comes to mind.
Complete this questionnaire again at the end of Section 1, 2 and 3 to see your progress throughout the book. You can continue to use the questionnaire after you’ve finished reading to track your progress and how you’re feeling.
Do you trust you can cope?
Do you use your breath to calm your mind?
Do you feel grateful everyday?
Do you feel present most of the time?
Do you protect yourself from negative people or things?
Do you know what to do when anxiety is triggered?
Do you make time for self-care most days?
Do you take care of your mental health?
Do you feel equal to others?
Do you love yourself?
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