Anxiety is so different for everyone, there are so many different types of anxiety on varying degrees. I’m not trying to generalise my experience. I’m just opening up about it.
Firstly, I’m a big worrier and stress quite easily. I worry about my past, present and future. I worry about everything and everyone. When I don’t express the stress or deal with it, it eventually creeps up as anxiety.
I had my first panic attack on New Years Eve 2016. I was in a situation where I didn’t know the outcome of someone I love’s health. It was a pretty traumatic experience and I’m still sensitive and triggered by similar situations. If you’ve never had a panic attack before, for me, my chest tightened, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My heart was racing. My whole body was shaking, sweating and crying, just lots of crying. It’s like your body gets stuck in a state of overwhelming worry and fear, to the point that it doesn’t know how to calm down. So your body goes in panic mode to identify the emotion you’re feeling but it’s so hard to pinpoint that it accelerates all the responses to all the emotions in one go.
I find that anxiety occurs when you’re fixated on something in your past, future or the expectations we have for ourselves. When we have anxiety we’re not focused on the present, it’s when we feel like we have no control. When we can’t control a situation all we can do is to take it one step at a time, to carry out the smaller tasks that will lead to our bigger picture. Even if we encounter blocks along the way, we need to trust ourselves and the universe that whatever is happening, is happening for a reason. If we keep encountering the same blocks, the universe is telling us that we still have a lesson to learn. What we need to practice is to actually taking it as a lesson and learning from it. Instead of getting into an emotional spiral and fixating on everything that’s going wrong.
I’m currently fixated on my future. I know where I see myself but in order to get there I need money. To have money I need a job. I’ve been back in Perth for 10 months now and am having still no luck getting a job. I apply to jobs every week, but still nothing. Yet here I am, no proper job but I’m still able to create ceramics. I just can’t take it through the whole process because I need a kiln. I know the job market is tough in Perth, but I had set an expectation for myself that I would have one by now and able to fund my ceramics business on the side. I’ve set a lot of goals around this area of my life and the stress I’m creating through my impatience is resulting in the last few months of anxiety.
For those that are prone to anxiety and needs some ideas and tips on how to navigate it, here’s what I do before, during and after:
For me anxiety occurs after I’ve suppressed a lot of overwhelming negative emotions. When I’ve pushed something aside because I don’t want to deal with it. For example having constant reoccurring thoughts that I will never be successful in ceramics because I can’t financially fund it. So instead of sitting down and addressing my thoughts and feelings, to work out a new plan of action to make it more achievable. I keep brushing it off until the thought becomes so strong and overwhelming with stress that I can’t ignore it anymore and I breakdown.
Address the negative emotions as soon as you feel it —I like to journal it out, I just write out all of my thoughts and feelings. You’re addressing your emotions, letting it all out and it’s the start of accepting your present.
Accepting your present —you can’t move forward if you’re living in your past and fixating on the future. Accept your past because you can’t change it anymore. Forgive yourself for being so harsh on yourself. Focusing on the future takes away your ability to live and enjoy your present life. Set your future goals and intentions, then action small steps each day to work towards your future.
Self care —take care and time for yourself. You need to feel and be your best self to have the mindset to achieve your goals. Whatever you like to do for yourself —getting out in nature, painting, exercising, getting a massage, meditating or journaling. Do it.
Anxiety and panic attacks can be so different. Sometimes it’s so crippling that you can get out of bed. Sometimes you just need to take a breather and sit in it for 10 minutes and then you’re back on your feet. I’m at the point when I can feel it coming on. Before or during the actual anxiety attack once I’ve given myself a moment to feel it out, which is very important. To come out of it I practice gratitude:
Gratitude for others —first I place my energy and thoughts into gratitude towards and for other people. This helps me to calm down because I’m out of my head and no longer thinking about myself. I do this until I feel calm.
Gratitude for myself —now that I’m calm and my anxiety levels are down, I come back to myself and say what I’m grateful for in my own life.
Then when I’m ready I will do the following:
Journal —I journal the whole things, from my my mood before the panic attack, my feels during, I write out my gratitude list for others and myself and if I can bring myself to any of the root issues and feelings I’ve been pushing away that lead to the panic attack.
Self care —is a must!
For those that have never had a panic attack or experienced anxiety. I understand how all of this could be perceived as people being “over dramatic” and confusing because you can’t relate to how they’re feeling. But let’s just remind ourselves that because one individual has never experienced anxiety doesn’t give them permission to shame and invalidate another’s feelings. All feelings are valid. So for those that have never had anxiety here are a few dos and don’ts if someone around you is having a panic attack or sharing with you their experience:
Please don’t tell them to “just meditate’’ —yes, mediating is an amazing practice to help keep you grounded and present but it doesn’t fix everything. Just because you meditate everyday doesn’t mean that your life will be problem free.
Don’t shame them and invalidate their feelings. Don’t tell them to just get over it, to let it go, because it’s not that easy. Like everything else it’s easier to say then to put into to action. It takes time to come out of it.
It’s perfectly fine to ask questions, just don’t pass judgement.
Honestly the only thing you need to do is show compassion and hold space for that person. You don’t have to say anything just be there with them. If they tell you they need to be alone, then let them be. It’s like any other emotion experienced. They will let you know what they need.
The best advice I could give to anyone experiencing anxiety in a similar way to me is —to feel your feelings and express them because that’s the biggest and most effective preventative measure. If you need to speak to a professional or confide in someone you trust, do it. It will help you and others better understand what you’re going through.
What has been your experience with anxiety?