ANXIETY MY OLD FRIEND

If you experience that surface level anxiety that just sort of lurks with you for the whole day, then you are not alone. Find out what helps me navigate an anxious spell...

Anxiety and I are old friends, it likes to come and visit me every once in a while. Even though feeling anxious is familiar to me, I am baffled by my need to worry each time. It’s panicky nature is smothering and I wish I knew the secrets to mastering it and banishing it from life for good.

There are bound to be lots of other folk that experience this surface level anxiety that just sort of lurks with you for the whole day. It’s like I can’t access that calm relaxed feeling, where I know everything will be okay. Currently, it’s more common for me to have a fluttery tummy, feelings of unease, sweaty palms, cotton mouth and a panicky feeling in my chest.

There are certain things I can pinpoint that are likely to be causing me more anxiety than normal, but generally everything seems to be making me feel anxious at the moment, and life is a little overwhelming.

One of the reasons my anxiety levels can be so high, is down to my wild imagination. It’s one of the things I am so thankful for as it feeds my creativity, however it is also the cause for me imagining all sorts of fanciful things happening and going wrong.

Another source of my anxiety is letting myself be vulnerable, which I understand is unavoidable if you want to live a creative and wholehearted life. Some of it is habit… it’s so easy to slip into old patterns. Every time, I have to relearn how to distance myself from the worry and remember how to feel calm and centred.

My husband pointed out something to me when we were chatting about this the other day; the anticipation of not being able to cope with something is a great source for my anxiety, and often causes more stress than the actual event itself.

When you are thinking with a clear head, it is crazy to be worried about the perceived threat of something. Plus these things are all in the future – a great reminder that living in the present moment really is such a gift and key to a happy life. Also, most importantly, history has proven that I have coped with all the things that life has thrown at me. I might not have coped with as much grace and ease as I would have liked but managed I have.

It’s also important to remember that when life hands you a difficult phase and things start to feel hard, that it is a great opportunity for growth and change.

One thing that really helps is focusing on my breath and allowing that to wash over me like a wave of calm. By breathing through my anxiety, and being really mindful of where my thoughts go, I’m just about managing to navigate this anxious spell.

Here are some things that help when I am feeling anxious…

  • One day at a time – By just focusing on what’s happening today it helps bring my mind to the present, and avoids any worries about future events.
  • Time with loved ones – Spending time with Bailey, and my husband, and lots of extra cuddles and hugs reminds me what it is to feel safe.
  • Deep breathing – This is really what saves me when I am feeling really panicky. Dropping into my breath slows down my thoughts and takes me out of my head and makes me aware of my body. Again it brings my focus right into the present moment.
  • Healthy snacks – Regularly snacking so I don’t get hungry really helps me. Leaving too long between meals makes my anxiety worse.
  • Time in nature – Once again, nature works wonders for my well-being. It helps me feel grounded and helps put everything into perspective.

I know I have to be better at trusting that it will all be okay and allowing myself to surrender to the ride that is ‘life’. But boy, that is hard to do. I would love to hear if you have any secrets for mastering anxiety; What works for you? What do you do when you are in the middle of an anxious spell?

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  • Oh I hear you, Melanie! You’re absolutely not alone in this, I recognise, and I’m sure many others will to, how your anxiety manifests itself. And I completely identify with loving a wonderful imagination but not when you feel it’s turning on you.
    Feeling the shadow of anxiety can take up so much space in your mind. I agree with all of your practices above and have several more I can add. I’ll just mention a couple here briefly or else I’ll end up writing an essay!
    Acknowledging your anxiety with compassion for yourself can be helpful in easing the stress you feel. Being anxious and worried feels horrible and scary so telling yourself not to be silly, trying to push the thoughts away or beating yourself up about it doesn’t help. Tell yourself that this is difficult, that you’re scared, that it’s okay to feel like this and literally give yourself a hug. Self-compassion studies show that comforting yourself as you would a friend with soothing words, hugs and even hair strokes eases the distress you feel.
    It can sound counterintuitive at best, lunacy at worst, but facing up to your worry and acknowledging it really can lessen its hold on you. That uneasy, uncomfortable feeling of fear at the edges of your mind and life has more power because of it lurking in your shadow where it seems big and uncertain. Turning to face what you’re worrying about, challenging it and disputing it, gives you back the upper hand. Your anxiety expects you to cower from it, not shine a light on it and when you do, it often turns out to not be as frightening as you were thinking. As you mention, a lot of fear is found in worrying that you wouldn’t be able to cope with a situation, and yet you’re here, you have coped with everything life’s thrown at you already.
    I’ll also just say that sleep when you’re feeling anxious is hugely important. Everything is more difficult when you’re exhausted and life can feel more dark, uncertain and frightening when you’re sleep deprived. So do whatever you can to get as much sleep and rest as you need.
    There’s lots more I can say but I won’t fill up your page here! xx

    • Tempy Osborne

      Fully agree with you Gabrielle, as a one time sufferer I can say that I’ve tried all those things ; -) I just had to comment here because Melanie it is totally possible to get rid of this. Well certain levels of anxiety are normal but you know what I mean? I had anxiety and panic attacks for nearly 10 years, severely at times. As a creative with a bit of a wild imagination also I totally get how things can spiral. There are loads of ideas about how to cope with it and how to calm yourself which are great but the thing that helped me actually get rid of it was reading about the mechanics of it and how the brain works. How and why anxiety and panic creep up and take over. No Doubt there is something or many things in our pasts that have triggered anxiety and created neural pathways in our brains- like a well trodden path we automatically walk without realising. The way to break free is to break the pathways by creating new ones. We can’t change the past or other people or situations, only ourselves and how we feel about things. Ok this might be getting a bit obscure but maybe you could read up on the whole concept? Or if you’d like me to tell you more about my experience I’m happy to help 😉 Btw love your honest writing and beautiful photos x

  • Vanessa Maxham

    Lots of love to you. Yes to Mother Nature and her ever calming heart. XO
    Vanessa

  • Emily Barnes

    After an incredibly frightening bout of anxiety around 18 months ago, I sought help – I finally realised that anxiety was my MO and something had to change. The greatest thing I learned is to let it be. Being frightened of my anxiety only fed it. Now I’m learning to listen to it, to really feel it, to let it be as big as it wants to be. And you know what? When I do that, it’s like setting something free. I relax. I let go. I’m also learning that I’ll never be free of anxiety. It’s part of me. But I’m learning not to fight it or worry about it coming to bite me. Instead I treat it in the same way I would a frightened friend. I pause, I listen, I feel compassion. I focus on the physical sensations, I don’t fight them, I pay them some attention, without judgement, and before I know it, those physical sensations lessen and eventually disappear. It’s been a life changing lesson for me, and one I continue to try & get used to. It is, of course, counterintuitive to befriend a monster! But I’m enjoying the challenge and seeing some very lovely results. If you want to talk more, you know where I am hun. Stay strong, be you, breathe xxx

  • Rebecca Eddison

    Thank you so much for sharing this, I too am a ‘what if worrier’ I get myself in a tizz over things that I have no control over and haven’t even happened yet, but I worry how I will cope, I panic I will just crumble, but you are right little things to bring us back to the present moment is good, I find if I am having a particularly rough time and really can’t get out of my own way a walk in nature paired with an audio book to stop my mind wandering and keep me concentrating on other things helps. Thanks again, sharing issues like this makes them seem less alien, more common, somehow this comradery helps us all to move forward and look at the bigger picture.