Anxiety – We all cope differently.

Anxiety is hard, isn’t it! It can be mild or utterly crippling, and everywhere in between.
One of the ways my anxiety shows up is with overthinking. This post is a prime example. I find social media frustrating and like most people, I fear judgement. So I have been overthinking and procrastinating over this post for days. I have written and rewritten it I don’t know how many times over the last 4 days. Oh, the thoughts!! Is it too much? Too long? Too personal? Not personal enough? What if no-one reads it? What if? What if? What if? Ugh! Esther! Get out of your primitive brain!! I have had to give myself a serious talking to, and use the methods I use with my clients on myself.
I have suffered with anxiety for a long time. I didn’t know that’s what it was until I learned more about anxiety in recent years. I previously believed those feelings were just a normal though unpleasant fact of life. I believed I just had to suck it up, after all, what had I got to be anxious about?! My life was great!
We’ve all heard people say things like – “Oh, you’re alright”, “don’t worry about it”, “there’s always someone worse off than you”, “just don’t think about it”, “it’s not nerves it’s excitement”, “it could be worse”, “what have you got to worry about?” While ‘technically’ they may be correct, those words of advice are not helpful at all. Yes, someone else may have more on their plate, but their plate might be a big stoneware platter and yours might be a thin paper plate. We all cope differently with things, and our capacity to cope varies, hence the plate analogy.
3.5 years ago when I left the USA to come home to the UK, my capacity to cope was tested to its limits. In the space of a couple of months I went through divorce proceedings, selling our home, planning the move back to the UK for my daughter, myself, 2 boxer dogs, and all our personal belongings; packing & shipping our belongings, multiple vets visits to make sure the dogs were okay to travel and shipping them ahead of us. All of this while still working full time and still sharing the house with my ex (it was a bit acrimonious, so very awkward as you can imagine). To say I was stressed would be an understatement.
Prior to this, what I now know as anxiety had me constantly questioning my own mind, second-guessing myself all the time and I was overthinking everything. I was always getting headaches, my IBS was a fairly regular visitor and I always woke up with that weird knot in my stomach. Waking up feeling anxious just became ‘normal’. I worried about my daughter all the time, always ready to do battle to defend her against the bullying she was receiving while she was battling with her own anxiety and depression. Talk about full stress buckets! I honestly don’t even know how we did it. Most days my heart rate was over 100 BPM consistently; I was in a permanent state of fight or flight. I fully expected to land back in the UK and have a complete meltdown. I didn’t thankfully. However, a short while after I did have a very upset, emotional, and angry outburst at my poor Mum (sorry Mum). A sure sign of an overflowing stress bucket!
Now, I know I am not alone in what I have experienced with my anxiety. So many of us suffer in similar ways, but anxiety can show up in different ways for different people.
Just because I am a therapist does not mean I don’t have struggles with my mental health. It means I am more aware of it, I recognise early on when my stress bucket is filling, and I have the tools to combat it, to nip it in the bud quickly and effectively. I work hard to keep my anxiety in check by using my SFH methods on myself.
But, if my anxiety levels start to creep up here’s some of the things that I start to notice… I find that I am overthinking things, I lose confidence & I question my abilities (hello imposter syndrome!), I find myself biting my nails or biting the skin around my nails, biting the skin on my lip, fiddling with things, increased heart rate, IBS, difficulty concentrating or focusing, and interrupted sleep. Oh, and of course these days (now I’m of a certain age) my hot flashes are worsened when my anxiety levels are higher, what fun!
So, if you’re reading this then I must have stopped with the overthinking and posted it! Yay! About blooming time! Hopefully, the next social media post or blog post will flow out of me a little more quickly. Til’ then let’s keep the conversation flowing about anxiety and mental health. Talk with your friends, tell them how your anxiety affects you. Find out how their anxieties affect them. Let’s help and suport each other.

Valuing Our Mental Health

Photo by Total Shape on Unsplash

The conversations surrounding mental health are getting louder, yet it still seems to be quite a taboo subject with so much stigma attached. But why?

People who suffer with mental health issues often feel that the stigma associated with mental health problems leads to discrimination and further negative impacts on their lives. The stigma and discrimination that is experienced doesn’t just come from society as a whole, often it is much closer to home, such as friends, families,

and employers. This extra negativity then perpetuates the problem, potentially worsening the person’s state of mental health; especially if they delay the process of getting help and starting their journey to recovery due to the perceived stigma, shame, and guilt surrounding mental health issues. Media has exacerbated the problem, often linking mental health issues with violence, and portraying those with mental health illnesses as dangerous, evil, disabled, or crazy. And it’s just not true.

According to the World Health Organisation, depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression; and more than 275 million suffering with anxiety disorders. That is almost 8% of the global population, and those are pre-covid numbers. We can be certain that the number of people suffering with mental health disorders in 2021 has sky-rocketed.

According to the mental health charity Mind, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England, and 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week in England. These numbers are from a 2014 survey, so imagine how much higher those numbers potentially are now. We all know at least one person who suffers with some sort of anxiety disorder or depression.

So, what can we do to help stop the stigma? Well, we can start by understanding that those with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders are not broken. Their mind and brain are trying to protect them from something, from a perceived threat. Now that perceived threat may seem irrational to you or I, but to their mind, it is very real. Our minds cannot tell the difference between what’s real and imagined. So, if something is perceived by our brain as a threat, our sympathetic nervous system, which controls fight, flight, and depression, will generally step in to help. Since our brain loves patterns, if what we did yesterday ensured our survival, then we are encouraged to do it again, and repeat that pattern of behaviour.

So why should we value our mental health, and the mental health of those around us?

Well, our mind is responsible for everything we do, and everything we do relies on us being able to cope with our day-to-day activities. Going to work, taking care of family & children, dealing with problems should they arise without flying off the handle or breaking down into floods of tears, etc. Mental health issues such as chronic stress, anxiety disorders, anger, depression, etc., these all have a ripple effect on our lives. If you suffer with any mental health issue, it affects your quality of life, your home life, your relationships (friends, family, spouse, children, co-workers), your work life, your sleep patterns, your physical health, and so on. There is no corner of your life that is not affected.

So, let’s turn that around. If we work to understand and improve our mental health, then that improves every aspect of our lives too! It improves your relationships with everyone you come into contact with, improves your home life, your work life, you sleep better, feel more energised, your overall health improves and you reduce your risk of chronic disease, so you can live that happy, content, and fulfilled life that you long for.

As a global population, the vast majority of us have a tendency to put value in and invest in ‘things’.  Those things are nice, but they don’t bring value or true happiness to our lives.

We invest in our vehicles and our homes, we value them. New cars, Mot’s & services, furnishings, redecorating, extensions, new kitchens, etc., and when they break or go wrong, we invest in repairs and maintenance as soon as possible because we need these things in order to go about our day to day lives.

We carve out the time and make the investment to go on holiday so that we can have a break from our day-to-day lives, chores, responsibilities, to recuperate and gain perspective, because we value that time and space away from it all. But how many of us dread coming home, back to reality, back to the stresses and strains of our hectic modern lives.

We are all very quick to invest in our health care, our physical health. We diet and exercise, we invest in gym memberships, exercise equipment, diet plans, expensive supplements, etc. We do this because our physical health is important to us, we value it. We all want to stay fit and healthy for as long as possible.

But what about our minds? What value are you putting on your mind and your mental health? Our mind controls everything we do. We can’t expect to live the happy fulfilled life we long for if we don’t hold value in, prioritise, and invest in our mental health. Everything we do, all day, every day, has an effect on and is affected by our mental health. It’s time to make our mental health our priority and live a happier and more fulfilled life.

So, what will you be doing today that will benefit your mental health? I will be making sure I take a break and go for a 20-minute walk with no distractions, to unwind my mind, just me and nature.

Have a great day everyone! And, if you don’t want to miss any future blog posts, subscribe by popping your email address in the box and you will receive notifications via email.