Understanding Life with Anxiety

Life with anxiety

Anxiety hits many of us. As we are all individuals, we deal with things in our own way. But what does the term ‘anxiety’ actually mean? People can often confuse the term with ‘stress’.

Here’s how Spink describe the difference between the two:

The term stress usually describes feelings experienced when the demands made on an individual are greater than their ability to manage, and we often know precisely what it is we are feeling stressed about, e.g. starting a new job, sitting an exam or attending an interview.

But, anxiety is an unease about something with an uncertain outcome – and that unease can exist even when the cause of the worry is gone. Symptoms of anxiety include feelings of worry, apprehension and uncertainty.

Spink - how to spot anxiety

Taking the above definitions and examples into consideration, I can completely relate.

Stressed. A word that many people believe you need to be a particular age in order to experience the feeling. And a feeling that certainly isn’t healthy for anyone when you really are experiencing it. Experiences of stress in my world have included: the feeling you have in the lead-up to and during your exams, controlling a heavy workload, unemployment, taking on a lot with family issues, and the loss of a loved one.

Sometimes stress can turn into anxiety just like it did with Ellie, her nana’s passing turned grief into anxiety.

Her mum says:

Ellie would cry all of the time and wouldn’t go out then her parameters changed for her exams and it looked like she wasn’t doing as well as she thought. Her anxiety spiralled and I was very worried about her. I considered taking her to a counsellor but we didn’t. Her so-called best friend was a very negative influence on her and since she has broken away, she has improved loads and is much more positive.

When I was unemployed I didn’t want other people to pay for things for me. I just wanted to be happy in a workplace and progress in my career. And until I got there, I was stressing about when that was going to happen and how long I would have until my own money would run out.

Stressing over studies in school often shown that I had nothing to stress about because I did really well but I would stress how much I really wanted to do well, and in the process would make it my absolute utmost priority to pass every exam. When I think about it now, work was so much easier back then. College was the one that hit me really hard. It was the most difficult between secondary and further education. Again though, I did really well in my favourite subject which is the one I’ve travelled into to get where I am today.

When university arrived it was a strange experience. It was more relaxed in a way but then you constantly have deadline after deadline and your mind works overdrive, well mine did. I was accused of plagiarising with the thought that university could end for me.

After a lot of stress and tears, it turns out my score was completely fine and there was nothing to concern them after I had what felt like a court hearing! I didn’t always get the marks I wanted but passing them and moving onto the next unit was the most important thing for me.

That’s when finishing university was the part that mattered the most to me. As much as it’s always been my own life, this really was my time. I might have taken myself through a couple of temporary roles but for the age of 23, I think I’ve done well to have reached the role I’m in considering it’s something I’ve always dreamt of.

Accepting that something has happened or something has changed is one of the most difficult things for some people to do. And I think that experiences along our journey can determine how we react to certain things.

I have stressed about how I look. Why people pretended to ‘like’ me or any of those kind of things. You can beat yourself up wondering what if, and why. The best piece of advice that I can give is accept who you are. Work on being you. If you need to be better, then work on being better but don’t punish yourself when you’re better than the thoughts of other people.

Don’t waste your time comparing yourself to other people. I must say, I do it a lot less now than I used to. What I’ve learnt is that, people might be able to things faster or better, but surely what matters is how you’re doing, focusing on your progress and achieving in your own time. People will think you haven’t experienced ‘life’ but you know what you’ve seen and dealt with.

And then there’s anxiety. A feeling I have known too well and is probably a lot more under control since I started to try to worry less about worrying!

The sweat, the tension, the headaches, the worry…

I used to worry about things before they had even happened. However now, I like to take things in my stride. Staying as positive as possible is key. That being said, it’s easier for some than it is for others. Although, I do think that when you think things in small chunks and deal with them that way rather than as one big bubble of worry, it can help.

It’s important for me to be anxiety-free as my medication can affect my heart rate and emotions (feeling double anxious when anxiety is brought on). Sometimes I’ll get the shakes a little or pins and needles more often, and if I don’t eat, just any human being, it affects my coordination, concentration, and wellbeing.

With that in mind, I need to remember that I’m going to be bloated, whether that’s a little or a lot at times. I have to help that drinking plenty of water and being active rather than putting myself down that I look like a marshmallow. But I do love food and marshmallows, so it’s okay.

For me, experiencing anxiety when going to the gym or going on the beach, are the small things. Although for some, they are the big things. My biggest anxiety troubles have involved situations where I’m a different light than other people.

But that’s why we are where we are today. All of life’s experiences brings us to where we are and moulds us into the people that we are.

Some people are able to explain a greater sense of anxiety, just like Sarah.

The most important piece of advice would be to seek help before it gets out of control like I let it do. It’s so much harder to deal with on your own. I went to my GP for something else and I just broke down in the doctors and gave the doctor a big shock and ended up having a huge panic attack breathing into a paper bag.

This was after it getting worse and worse over a matter of months and had rashes, sickness, uncontrollable itchy skin, night after night of broken sleep, shaking uncontrollably and many more things that were all related to anxiety.

I would never have thought that all these things could be down to just one thing. I ended up on tablets, which I was reluctant to take, and got referred for counselling where I had a mixture of talking therapy and CBT. The first couple of sessions I hated and was so tempted to sack it off, but after about five, things started to click into place and was such a relief to realise that I wasn’t going crazy and it wasn’t just things in my head.

Then came the CBT which thought me so much and so many techniques to control my thoughts and feelings and calm myself to prevent panic attacks and anxiety. I still use these every day and learnt so much from it.

My advice to anyone starting with counselling would be to stick with it, persevere and have trust in the counsellor. They really are amazing. I still struggle with it often, but can deal with it a hell of a lot better. It will never go away I don’t think but I know how to recognise the signs.

Sometimes it’s easier than others to deal with and there are times when my head just isn’t in the right frame of mind to do things like mindfulness. I even found that meditation techniques helped and that started to be part of my daily routine.

I honestly believe that age doesn’t determine the amount of stress or anxiety. There are different lengths and types of stress and anxiety.

Take a look at the awareness video below.

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