The main mental health issue that I deal with on a day-to-day basis is anxiety. It comes in many different shapes and sizes. For instance, there are constant repeats of that small gnawing feeling that I’m sure anyone reading this will be familiar with: “Was that the right thing to say? Christ, what if that person hates me now?”. Another is “the fear”, again, something many of us have experienced after a night out. But there are more severe ways in which anxiety can manifest itself, such as that “Was that the right thing to say?” question occupying your mind for most of a day or two, to finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning because of a fear about almost anything, really. It’s the latter of these that I’d like to discuss my experience coping with in the past. I’d like to stress, of course, this does not constitute medical advice and if you feel like you may have an anxiety disorder, make a visit to the GP or therapist. This little blog serves more as a chance to let anxiety sufferers know that there are more of them out there and they can count on others support if needs be.
So, here we go!
Rationalise your way around the anxiety.
I find this an immediate way of steering clear of a possible anxiety on a smaller scale. If you feel those familiar “Why did I…?” questions come along, try and think your way out of the situation. For instance if I feel like I’ve made a social faux pas, or are worried about the quality of an essay, I will say to myself “is it such a big deal? Is there anything I can do to change it? Will it affect me that much?”. Actively pushing my thoughts in an opposite direction to where they’re going can help!
“The tapping technique”
I won’t lie, when I first heard about this I thought it was nonsense, but:
If I’m feeling at all anxious I sometimes imagine what it is I’m anxious about, and rate said thing out of 10 for how bad it is (1 being not at all – 10 being severely bad). Once I have that firmly established I’ll start to firmly tap my cheekbone just under my eye, or turn my hand into a fist and tap the soft underside beneath my little finger. Whilst I’m doing that, and breathing deeply, I’ll take that ranking of severity that I’ve associated with what’s causing me to be anxious and count it down until it’s at one. I’m not sure why, but I find this incredibly useful, and it works for me!
Let your friends know
This is a difficult one for a sufferer of social anxiety, my belief being that friends would like me less/not be interested if I let them know that I’m suffering from an anxiety attack. But I’ve found that letting my friendship group know has been an amazing way of tackling anxiety in the moment and of helping ease it in the long run. Whether it’s their attempts to rationalise my anxious thoughts, being able to joke about the condition as a way of reducing its impact, or feeling confident that they’ll be accommodating when I let them know that I’ve had an anxiety attack and I won’t be my normal self that day. This is certainly the method that has improved my ability to live with the anxiety the most and an effective way of beating it in the longer run.
So yes, those are some of the ways I’ve managed with my anxiety. I have also been lucky to get therapy which, again, I stress is something you should seek if you’re a sufferer also.
Douglas Keith Jack – GUU Assistant Honorary Secretary 2017-2018