Now I’m going to spill some not-so-sweet tea… just before the lock-down my anxiety hit a spike after months of burying it, and I ended up having to sign myself off work due to stress. It’s not been pretty, but that’s the truth of it. Since then I’ve been phasing back and, more importantly, feeling a lot better. Here’s a few ways that I have been coping with anxiety and stress since then; I hope you find them useful.
Keeping calm and carrying on aside, my friends have always been my rocks when it comes to lifting me out of the hole that I bury myself in. I realised though, that unless I could stop myself from falling back into that hole, I wasn’t going to get better. When lock-down hit, it threw me straight in at the deep end, forcing me to find ways of coping with anxiety on my own – so here are just a few things I’ve learned…
The Basics of Wellbeing
I know that this is everywhere, and I know that EVERYone is saying it, but if you’re not doing it then you’re likely to make things much harder for yourself, believe me. It’s so simple and yet sometimes it’s the hardest part: hydrate, eat well, exercise and stretch, breathe deeply. When I was at my lowest (not that long ago), this was sometimes all I could achieve – the point is, it’s okay, just keep doing all you can to care for your needs. They’re the core of wellbeing, and without them it’s like trying to build a house without laying the foundations first.
Routines and Structure
I’d imagine at the moment that some people are perhaps out of sync with their normal structure, whether that’s due to increased hours as a key-worker, or feeling like a spare part after being furloughed. It’s important to maintain a routine during this time, and to be honest routine is a big part of my daily life anyway. Setting yourself tasks to complete, like cleaning out the wardrobe or even allocating self-care time, or keeping a meal plan for the week, can be really helpful in maintaining structure when your mind can be cluttered.
Check out: “The 5 C’s” – for maintaining structure in your day.
The feeling that I am a “bad person” or “not good enough” has plagued me for as long as I can remember, and has at times made me a people pleaser at the detriment of my own self-worth. Something I really struggled with for a while was forgiveness. I thought if I didn’t get that task done, or if I didn’t look after myself or if I snapped because of my mood, that I was an awful person. I try my best to keep it at bay using a technique that my friend Stacey taught me, which helps me to identify and separate these types of thoughts.
Visualise the thoughts as if a parrot on your shoulder is squawking them at you.
For example, one that comes up for me is: “You don’t deserve your friends, because you’re a bad person.”
Use facts to reinforce why the thing that the parrot is saying is simply untrue.
For example, “There is no evidence to support that. I take care of my friends and I love them dearly. They show me often that they love me often too.”
I found apps that log your mood can keep you on track and can be excellent for noticing how much your moods have improved or got worse, depending on external factors. For a few weeks, I was fluctuating between really wired and almost hysterical, to so low I couldn’t get out of bed. It helped to be able to track how I felt down to the minute so I could visualise myself getting better and also get a sense of what my triggers were and become more self-aware.
I’ve been on-and-off bullet journalling for a few years now, so I’ve made sure to keep it up for this month in particular. I started by giving myself just one positive thing to achieve in a day, whether that be making a call, or going for a walk – and then gradually increased the amount I expected of myself as I felt better. (But most of all, NOT beating myself up if I didn’t manage it.) If you map your happier moments, it can also help when things feel like they’re not progressing or when you feel like happiness has evaded you.
I find it really hard to meditate or do nothing for prolonged periods of time. I’m probably not alone in that my world is really hectic and busy. This sudden launch into isolation has meant that I’ve been forced to start taking life more slowly and it’s also meant I’ve had to embrace the silence a little more. Simple things like repetitive exercises and colouring can be a good stop-gap if meditation isn’t your thing, but over the last few weeks I’ve even dabbled in meditation and I’m really seeing the benefits.
Here are just a few guided mindful activity books which I’ve been using (of course, there are more out there!)
- Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith – For when you want to get a bit messy, have a scribble or rip something up.
- 642 Tiny Things to Draw – A drawing prompt book where you can really focus on the physical details of something.
- Creative Flow (A Year in my Mindful Life) by Jocelyn De Kwant – Daily mindful mini-activities to last the whole year through.
- Self-Care Cards – A pack of playing cards to spark ideas of how to break your stress cycles and do something to help yourself.
- Mynd Map – When you want to work in small steps to achieve some big goals. (My post about this from 2 years ago: Learning to be Alone – it’s crazy to see how far I’ve come since then!)
Taking time to do things I love
I’d imagine it’s really hard for key workers and front line workers who tirelessly work to help others; it’s incredible and we’re all very thankful for their hard work. We are all so guilty of putting work first, even in cases like these where it’s necessary. Taking time to do some fun activities during lock-down has been the best thing for me – and my creativity is starting to creep back.
Related post: Geeky Activities to do in Lock-Down
Counselling and Wellness Advice
I was really lucky in that I could access solution-based counselling via my work very quickly – it may not be the best form of counselling, but it’s just an hour on the phone per week where I can say whatever I want with no fear of judgement. That can be so crucial in a time like this, as we all feel more boxed in, and seeking out information from reputable sources has really helped me! I recommend subscribing to Happiful magazine’s email newsletter or looking at their online articles as they have some great tips to help you on your way.
Overall I wanted to end this by saying that my journey is far from over. I feel like I am improving week to week, the “off” days are sporadic now and I feel like all these things have really helped me. They may seem simple but they’re things we often forget to do when the world seems so hectic, and really it’s about building those changes as permanent building blocks in your life. I hope that these tips have gone some way to helping you if you’re coping with anxiety at the moment.
Related post: What I learned from the Live Life Well Weekender
Disclaimer: I am not a counsellor, or health-care professional. I am providing these recommendations based on my own experiences only.