The world is becoming aware of how common and serious mental health issues are. An estimated one in six people will experience 'neurotic health problems' each week. It can feel lonely and scary to have anxiety issues so I thought I'd tell you about my experiences, the causes and the home remedies that I have conceived to help me cope.
"You were such a carefree child, what happened?" If I had a pound for every time that was said, I'd probably still be an anxious person but at least I'd be rich. A common misconception is that one must have always have suffered from anxiety. There can be many triggers: family problems, financial issues, health scares or a stressful environment. Anxiety is also not an ever-lasting condition, for those very seriously affected I would always recommend seeing a GP and trying therapy but it doesn't always have to come to this.
My anxiety probably started when I began GCSEs and continued through my A Levels. The older generation dismisses the pressure now put on us to get the top grades and attend top universities. I will never accept the generalisation that grades are improving because of easier exams. What the people who make these comments don't see is the hours of work teenagers do to achieve the grades; depriving themselves of sleep, rest and food in order to study.
I put this massive pressure on myself to do well and achieve the top grades. Whilst I did achieve them, I can honestly say I saw people work half as hard as me and still do well. Which is why I have learnt to ask myself this question: is it worth it? Did I really have to work as hard as I did to be happy? By all means, work hard and pull all-nighters if that's how you work best. However, a simple test I devised told me when I was over doing it... Lie down in a calm setting and close your eyes. If in a moment or two you feel that aching pull of sleep, you are too tired and need rest. Your body is telling you it needs help and you will suffer mentally and physically if you don't give it a chance to recover.
During an anxiety attack it can feel as though I can no longer breathe properly, my heartbeat increases to a painful degree, my vision can begin to blur and I feel like I may be sick.
To calm myself down when I can feel a panic attack coming, I try a few things. These methods may prove effective in times of stress, anxiety or if you generally want to relax.
1) Deep breaths. Imagine there is a candle on a cake on the other side of the room that you have to blow out. You must exhale until you feel like the there is no air left in your body, breathe deeply holding the air for a few seconds then exhale again. The issue with panic attacks is that the sufferer continuously breathes in, forgetting to exhale. Therefore this visualisation will regulate your breathing which in turn should start to lower your heart rate.
2) Grounding. This is the generic term for several techniques used to calm yourself down. However, the one I mostly used is the '5, 4, 3, 2, 1' method. This calls for you to list five things you can see, four things you can feel/ touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste or imagine the taste of (what exactly you do at the each stage slightly varies from source to source). The point of the exercise is to not only let you feel in control of your surroundings once more but also to get you to concentrate on other things. Anxiety can be self perpetuating; the more you think about being anxious, the more anxious you become.
3) Self-soothing. This is going to sound a little strange but imagine that it isn't you having the attack but a friend, or even a stranger. Imagine how you would try to calm them down, what tone you would use and what words. Hear that voice in your head. Make it urge you to be calm and relaxed, tell yourself that everything will be alright and speak yourself through the top two steps, slowly.
The increased awareness of mental health issues is still not enough for people to take them seriously. A mental health problem can be as serious as a physical health problem if not treated appropriately. What methods are effective is a personal preference but hopefully some of you will find these as helpful as I do.