My anxiety since this weekend just gone has been particularly bad. I’m not too sure why though. I’ve just handed in a lot of college essays, so maybe its the stress and adrenalin from the last two weeks wearing off? Maybe it’s because the weather has taken a turn for the worst, that always seems to impact on my general state of mind. Maybe it’s because I’m just generally exhausted since the past few weeks have been constant go, go, go. I however, have no one but myself to blame for this. I have a really bad habit of leaving everything until the last-minute and totally panicking the night before. But I absolutely never learn. No matter how many times I swear to myself that I will never get into this position again. 😴 I ALWAYS do.
Anyway, rambling aside, I thought maybe I could do a small blog post on managing stress and anxiety since we are all facing into exam time again.
It would be totally hypocritical of me to write about tips and tricks to control anxiety because, clearly, I’m still in the process of learning how this is done. I still have panic attacks pretty regularly and I still freak out over the smallest situations that should absolutely not make me nervous what so ever. However, in recent months my anxiety has gotten increasingly better, so I thought maybe I could talk about some of the coping mechanisms that I use to try to keep a lid on my stress levels.
The first thing that I have learned and possibly one of the most important things to remember, is that talking is key.Telling people you’re stressed, talking about the source of your stress and being able to relate to others that are stressed for the same reasons. Talking to a friend, parent, relation, neighbour anyone really who you feel comfortable talking to! Sometimes talking about what ever has you a bit all over the place can put the problem into perspective. You begin to realise that whatever you’re dealing with is manageable. That it’s not always as huge as it seemed when bottled up in your head. Always talk!
Another thing that’s not always easy to remember at the time, but that always helps me is breathing. Whenever I begin to feel a panic attack coming on or just even a little anxious, it always helps to regulate my breathing and focus on each breath. When I get nervous, I start breathing really quickly without noticing. Gradually the lack of oxygen leaves me feeling dizzy and nauseous and by that point usually there’s no stopping a panic attack. If someone points my breathing out to me or I notice before too long has passed, generally I can take the steps and avoid an attack.
I love art, painting especially. I have begun to notice, that if I’m having a bad day, if my heads a bit all over the place or if my anxiety is just very prominent at the time, sitting down with some music and painting totally calms me down and almost immediately improves my mood. So I suppose, on a bad day, taking an hour out just to focus on yourself and to do something you really love doing is important. Even just to give your mind a bit of time out from all the worries and stresses. As cliché as that is!
Another thing that I find really helps my anxiety is exercise. I used to run a lot before I dislocated my knee and after that I never really got back into it. I used to find running put me at ease and was one of the few things that always helped with stress. While, I don’t run much anymore, I walk my dog everyday. Sometimes company can be a real comfort and a great chance to unwind. Ash, one of my best friends and I go on walks with the dogs once or twice a week. I also like having my own time. Putting my earphones in and just forgetting about everything for a while.
I used to get annoyed at myself when anxiety would get the better of me and caused me to cancel plans or stutter in a conversation. I would say something stupid because I got nervous and I would focus for weeks after on what I said wrong, instead of focusing on the fact that I’d managed to have the conversation in the first place. I think when I started being less hard on myself and stopped putting myself under too much pressure to achieve things that I knew inevitability I wouldn’t be able to do, things started looking up. When I started setting myself small challenges like; instead of walking into a big group of strangers and feeling comfortable straight away, I now walk in, find someone I know and then begin to introduce myself to one person at a time until I feel less anxious. I also just set myself a goal of staying for a minimum of say 20 minutes, rather than 3 hours. That way, instead of spending my time stressing about the fact that I still have 2:55 hours left, I focus on just making the best of the 20 minutes that I have. Usually, 20 minutes is plenty of time to make a few friends and begin to settle down. Before I know it 3 hours has passed and I’m having the time of my life.
I still have a lot to learn about my anxiety and how to conquer it, but by setting myself small challenges, like this blog, I’m hoping that my confidence will grow and that slowly but surely, things that are nerve-wracking to me now, will soon become tasks that do not even require a second thought. I have set myself a few small enough goals that I’m going to attempt to complete and hopefully, with a positive attitude, I will be a much stronger person in a few weeks time and things like the looming exams will seem much less daunting!