I remember in my early to late teens experiencing panic attacks, and them being the most frightening experience of my young life-I felt utterly terrified, and almost as if I wasn’t in my own body. Fortunately, as I grew into my twenties these attacks subsided and I led a pretty normal life.
About 4 years ago however, when I turned 34, I started to get the attacks back once again. Looking back I can see that they were triggered by a period of immense stress- I was working extremely long hours in a very tough work environment. I’ve always been able to handle deadlines and large workloads, but I started to feel as if my new job was almost too much for me, and I felt out of control.
Over the next year the symptoms got worse. I’d have a panic attack at least 3 to 4 times a week, and I started to feel depressed, withdrawn and inclined to just stay at home. I knew that things had to change when, on holiday in Egypt, I would get severe anxiety when I left the hotel complex, and this included feeling extremely dizzy and breathless too. In my head I thought that I was suffering from all sorts of serious diseases, and this further fuelled my stress and anxiety!
When I got back to the UK I decided that enough was enough, and that I needed to change my lifestyle. I left my stressful job, and started working in a new, less demanding role. I also did loads of research on the subject of anxiety, and experimented with lots of different coping strategies- some didn’t work for me, whilst others were very effective.
The anxiety is far less of a problem for me now. In fact I would now say I’m 95% better, and it certainly doesn’t interfere with my life, which I think is the central point. If you suffer with anxiety you have to be brave and confront the problem head on- you really have to try NOT to let it stop you from leading your normal everyday life. There are plenty of treatments, resources and self-help strategies that are available to you- I would say to sufferers not to suffer in silence and seek help.
For me the most effective coping strategies for anxiety are as follows:
- Overhaul your diet – By cutting down on caffeine and cutting out sugary foods, you tend to find your energy levels remain more stable, and in return you are less prone to anxiety attacks. Really think about the food you eat, and strive to consume a healthy, balanced diet.
- Exercise- Yes, I can hear the moaners! But the fact is that exercise not only leads to a fitter, healthier body, it also helps you to eliminate all the pent up stress and anxiety in your body. You don’t have to sign up for your local gym- a brisk walk 3 or 4 times a week for at least 30 minutes will do the job!
- Relaxation- We all need to take time out of our busy schedules to relax and unwind. Our bodies work on cycles of activity and rest, and if you miss out on the rest cycle, there can be severe implications for both body and mind. I like to relax by listening to classical music, hang out with my cat Rosie, listening to meditation CDs or having a nice long sauna! Find out what works for you and find the time to do it!
I hope you have found this short post useful, and I would encourage anyone who thinks they are suffering with anxiety to seek the necessary help and support. It can be beaten!