Anxiety… where do I start? It makes me anxious just thinking about it!
Nearly everyone feels anxious at some point in their lives, but on a larger scale there are people experiencing anxiety disorders such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) & Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
In Australia alone, it’s estimated that 45% of people will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime and in any one year, over 2 million Australian adults will experience anxiety.
As a recruitment consultant, and an anxiety sufferer myself, working in a high-pressured sales environment, I have come to realise the importance of being vocal, sharing experiences and discussing ways to live with and overcome it, especially in the work place. Mental health awareness is so important.
Is anxiety a myth?
The perceptions surrounding anxiety is what I find the hardest to deal with. I have friends and colleagues who are sceptical. Is it even a thing? Is it an excuse? Do the symptoms of a tight chest and heart palpitations come from drinking too much coffee?
Anxiety is such a complex disorder. There are so many types, triggers and coping mechanisms. Without adequate research or seeking professional help, how would you even know what type of anxiety you suffer with? The point I am trying to make is, I urge anyone to do their research as without experiencing it yourself, you really do not know what a sufferer goes through daily just to make it through that day. Funnily enough, some of the best supporters I have had are those who have never experienced anxiety, but have put in the time to learn the perfect tools to help.
My first experience
As a kid, you only know what’s going on in your little world. For me as a child, I had a mind that would be in overdrive, a constant need to please in fear of rejection, nightmares for years that always had the same setting, a racing heart and a tight chest in the playground when there were too many faces and the list continues.
With the help of social media, mental health is now being openly and consistently discussed. I now know that I have always battled anxiety. Perhaps if more parents knew more about it back then, there would’ve been an opportunity to combat it early. Perhaps I could have avoided it altogether? What I do know is, the earlier anxiety is professionally diagnosed, and strategies to help put in place, the better the outcomes.
Working with anxiety
Working with anxiety can be extremely challenging. It can rear it’s head at any time, seemingly from nowhere, and has the potential to hit you like a tonne of bricks. Sometimes it’s mild, but other times it is fierce, exhausting and can be extremely distracting. Working with anxiety takes a lot of energy to control. It is not something that can be dismissed.
Everyone’s symptoms are different, but some of my own personal struggles include; severe panic attacks, a tight chest, feeling nauseous, paranoia, dread.
Imagine experiencing any of these in a busy, outcome focused environment. It can take the smallest thing to trigger it and for some people it’s game over for the day, unless you’ve learnt to manage it. Luckily for me I am extremely fortunate enough to work with some of the most supportive people. Some of my peers suffer themselves.
Often those who suffer with anxiety will mask their symptoms with social coping mechanisms. Those who appear to be an extrovert, and seem happy all the time, are often the ones suffering in silence, behind closed doors. The ones who act as though they don’t have a care in the world, will be the ones who analyse and deconstruct everything. You really don’t know what battle someone is facing, so be kind, always.
Here are my top 5 tips for managing anxiety
Whether you spend 20 minutes walking on your lunch break, 30 minutes in a boxing ring or 45 minutes at a Spin Class, get it done! I should probably take note of my own advice on this one and get to the gym more than once a week, but since Christmas I have been working out with a personal trainer and It instantly makes me happier. I feel healthier and more confident, it really improves my mood, which in turn reduces any anxious thoughts. Endorphins are your friend.
Sleep, eat well & drink more
Insomnia is an exhausting symptom of anxiety (not for me personally, I could sleep for England!) Some may find this a challenge, but it is so important to get a good nights sleep. Alongside rest; eat well and drink plenty of water. You will feel so much healthier and it will improve your overall concentration at work.
Meditation & music
My most valued coping mechanism is meditation. I cannot get enough of it. Spending 10 – 15 minutes a day just winding down, either with a meditation track, a meditation class or music on my journey home. It makes me feel centred and calm. When I’m having a panic attack, I will put on a meditation tape or Adele’s greatest hits and focus completely on my breathing and soon the world is OK again.
Work from home
Charterhouse Medical offer working from home days once a fortnight. I am so grateful for this flexibility. I find these days help, as I cope with my anxiety so much better at home and can often switch off from the social anxieties I come up against in the office setting. Having said that, what you don’t want to happen is to isolate yourself and suffer alone at home. Choose these days wisely, depending on what works for you.
Write a blog
This is my first ever blog and to say its been therapeutic is an understatement. I have found sharing my story so far and researching others stories has been a really great experience. If a blog on such an important subject matter can help even just one person, then I hope everyone follows this tip.
A friend of mine who suffers with anxiety herself told me about a book that has really helped her on her journey called ‘First we make the beast beautiful’ by Sarah Wilson. One quote that stuck with me:
‘This journey is what I do now. I bump along, in fits and starts, on a perpetual path to finding better ways for me and my mate, anxiety, to get around. It's everything I do.’
Don’t be ashamed to experience anxiety, embrace it. As hard as it can be at times, it makes me realise how real I am.
Before I sign off, in addition to all the tips and information we’ve covered, I want to offer one vital piece of advice when it comes to anxiety…TALK ABOUT IT. The stigma behind anxiety makes people feel embarrassed, ashamed and upset. The only way we can end this is to be able to talk about it in an open forum. Look at the statistics. You are not the only one.
If you’ve taken the steps to manage anxiety independently and feel it is out of your control, it is important to seek guidance from your GP.
Always remember, even when you don’t believe it yourself, you’re going to be okay.