In February, for #BellLetsTaIk day and Time to Talk day, I spoke about my experience with anxiety.
Many of us with chronic disease have dealt with anxiety at one stage or another.
There is the anxiety of meeting a new doctor, the stress of multiple appointments, new symptoms, the worry about the future, and anxiety over keeping your symptoms in check.
There is also the anxiety over how other people treat you. If you use a disabled parking badge, will someone say something to you, or judge you? If you use a mobility device, will your friends invite you somewhere accessible? When people find out about your health issues, will they say rude, or judgemental things?
So, what can you do to help deal with your anxiety?
I started painting last year. I decided to paint my symptoms, and so I used it as a therapy to process how I was feeling about things. I’ve found it really powerful to see my symptoms come alive. It’s validating.
Painting also is calming. You have to slow down, think, and focus. It’s also a lot of fun!
I also enjoy colouring books! Yes… Adult colouring books are fun, and a great way to switch your mind off and relax.
I wrote a whole post on why I love podcasts.
They are a very low energy way to be entertained. I can lie in bed, and don’t even need to have my eyes open to follow along.
They also are a brilliant way to distract you from intrusive and annoying thoughts. If you are laughing at a funny comedy, interested in learning things, or relaxing to a calming podcast, you will be too distracted to focus on being anxious.
Meditation and Mindfulness Exercises
There are all sorts of meditation and mindfulness exercises that can help with anxiety.
Breathing exercises, and activities like tensing up your body part by part, then relaxing it slowly, part by part, can help when anxiety is high.
If you want more exercises, there are tons of apps and videos on YouTube that you can try.
Getting out in nature is wonderful.
Studies have shown that getting outside has a lot of benefits for our mental health.
Now, it can be difficult if you are ill, or have mobility issues to get outside into nature. I get that. I struggle to get outside, and very much miss my nature walks.
However, if you have a backyard garden, you can sit in it, or go to a nearby park. I also find watching a nature programme on TV can be relaxing, or looking at nature pictures online.
Even if you are stuck in bed, find some ways to sneak in a bit of nature in your day.
Exercise is a tricky one for many of us with chronic conditions, but the benefits to mental health are well documented.
Going for a light walk, yoga, swimming, aqua workouts, or even seated exercises can be great ways to get some activity in, even if you have health issues (you can find seated/wheelchair workout videos on YouTube).
At the end of the day, sometimes our anxiety cannot be managed on our own.
There is no shame in going to therapy to get help. I’ll repeat that. THERE IS NO SHAME IN GOING TO THERAPY.
There are many different types of therapy. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is often used for anxiety, but there are other types of talk therapy. There is also Exposure therapy (virtual reality is now being explored for this), and other types.
Nowadays, therapy can even be done online, so if you struggle to leave your house, please know that there are options for you.
Please reach out and talk to a therapist if you feel like you might benefit from it.
I recently read a book on anxiety that is brilliant. I will warn you, it’s not exactly for the faint of heart. It’s full of swear words, and has a very straight forward, and honest, tone to it.
It’s called ‘Hardcore Self Help: F*ck Anxiety.’ It’s written by Robert Duff, a hilarious clinical psychologist.
The book explains various types of anxiety, goes through ways to approach it, provides helpful and practical advice, and makes you feel empowered.
The swearing and direct tone may not be for everyone, but it suited me more than a more flowery self help book would. I very much recommend it.
You Are A Fighter
One thing I’ve learned is is that anxiety is a beast. It is not infallible. It is not stronger than you. It cannot control you.
It just feels like it.
I am strong. You are strong.
We can keep fighting this beast.
If you struggle from anxiety, I’d love to hear how you cope with it!