As it’s Mental Health Awareness week, I thought it might be a good idea to write about my own experience with mental health. I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety for about the last four years. It was triggered by a very unpleasant and ongoing stressful work situation and compounded by insane working hours (14 hours a day for at least 5 days a week for about 3+ years!), moving house 4 times in 3 years and the death of both my grandmothers. When I spoke with the counsellor my GP referred me to, she wasn’t at all surprised with how I was feeling, especially as there’s family history of depression. I don’t want to go into the details of how I felt at my lowest points, as it’s still too soon. However, at one point, my anxiety was so bad that I would wake up with palpitations. So I made the decision to quit my job and get myself well. After a few years, I’m starting to feel more like me again. That’s not to say that I’m ‘recovered’, as I don’t think I ever will be.
While my depression is pretty much under control, I do have bad days, though thankfully, they’re rare. What does flare up much more is my anxiety and it can be triggered by anything from overtiredness to just feeling overwhelmed. Mostly, however, it’s when I feel out of control. So when people tell me, ‘Just don’t worry about it’, that’s like telling me not to breath. I don’t choose to worry and I realise that a lot of the time, I’m worrying about things I can’t control, but knowing that doesn’t help. Last week, I had an anxiety flare up because we booked a last minute holiday, which is crazy right?! Holidays are great so why would that make me anxious? Well, I plan everything. It helps me manage my time and that helps me feel in control, which helps me manage my anxiety. By being spontaneous, it meant that everything I had planned had to change. My anxiety peaked during Body Combat, when I felt so overwhelmed I nearly cried. Did I manage to get everything done? Yes. Was my holiday as awesome as I knew it would be? Yes. Will that help me to control my anxiety the next time I do something spontaneous? Not a chance! I can go weeks without being anxious, then I’ll be anxious for days.
There are few things that I do which help. Eating a healthy diet definitely helps. It helps me feel better generally and it helps me feel in control. Exercising is also a massive help, as it makes me feel good and releases lots of lovely good endorphins, improves my sleep and helps me forget about what’s worrying me by making me focus on what I’m doing. There’s no way you can successfully do a Body Combat class while thinking of something else. No way! Not working too much helps too, which is why I always try to finish work at 5pm, walk Poppy, do a section or two of Fit in 15 before relaxing for the evening. I’m also thinking of trying Headspace, which is guided meditation for modern living. It’s supposed to improve mindfulness and help manage anxiety. I’ll let you know how I get on!
How about you? How do you manage the stresses and strains of everyday living? Have you ever suffered from anxiety? What do you do that helps you cope with it?