IMG_4277I’m, going to share my top tip for those trying to address their anxiety. As you know, I LOVE a metaphor, so bear with me on this, it will make perfect sense in a moment.

My husband badly hurt his shins running a marathon. He couldn’t walk and had to temporarily re-locate to the creaky third-hand, musky scented sofa bed in our little London flat because it was ten yards closer to the bathroom.

 

He took medication. He saw physiotherapists. Nothing worked.

Soon after, we had a summer holiday booked with my parents and he still couldn’t walk unaided. We arrived at our stair-filled holiday home wondering how on crutches he was going to navigate the cobbles of the sweet Greek streets that surrounded us. My Mum happens to be a physiotherapist, and under her encouragement and guidance (and strict physio schedules…I mean he was gonna do what she said right? Mother in law and all!), he did certain exercises three times a day. It felt fruitless to begin with. These tiny little movements he had to make whilst gripping onto the crumbling wall of our apartment, over and over and over again as Dad and I watched on, sipping Sangria. Dull and relentless.

He carried his crutches home, walking totally independently.

It was the seeming relentlessness that did it. The tiny movements, over and over with tiring commitment. They seemed too small to be irrelevant, but over time, they changed muscle and sinew. Over time, the pain was replaced with strength. Over time, not overnight.

You know, you can try all the techniques and approaches for anxiety you like, you can dip your toe in the water of every single theory going…but what makes the difference is the seemingly relentless, daily application. THAT is what changes things, THAT is what will turn the anxiety from the raging bull into a small yappy dog that nips at your heels.

Let me use an example from my own life. My intrusive thoughts are anxiety driven, they pop into my head like a mini assault on my mind. Some days, I let them pass by, other days I turn the flash of fearful thought (usually someone I love dying) into a whole scenario, adding colour and words and feeling. Before I know it, I’m feeling a small stab of realistic grief as if the death of my child has actually happened, or I’m freaking out about how the hell I’d pay the mortgage if my husband died on the way home as I feared.

What works for me is noticing the thought and imagining it passing through my mind like a silk ribbon rather than a gripping, flesh-tearing fish-hook. It’s there, I’m not going to force myself to deny it, but it passes. I also use breathing to ground me and calm those physical anxious feelings (see this site). I try to practice it even when I’m feeling A-OKAY so that it’s a familiar tool on standby for when I need it. I have to use this imagery every single day. Sometimes a shed load of times. It’s my tool. It helps. I don’t ‘arrive’ at a point where I’m utterly anxiety free and go ‘WAHOOOOO. Seeya breathing techniques and imagery. Bye old friends’. No, I will be using techniques for many years to come, but the more I’ve used them, the easier they are to access at an earlier point (rather then when I’m down some anxiety hole where everyone I love has died and I’m the only one standing…oh I end up there sometimes, but less than I did)

Here are some tools that will be beneficial no matter what your circumstances are:

  • Learning to access the parasympathetic nervous system through breathing. This is undoubtedly a physiologically powerful tool that counteracts the stress and anxiety response in the body  – find out more here
  • Not waiting until you ‘feel’ worth it before you introduce acts of self-care. They can be as simple as making sure you’re drinking enough water and eating food that nourishes you. Self-care isn’t all about massages and  manicures. These acts directly oppose the critical and internal voice that often fuels anxiety.
  • Start small. Habits of a lifetime aren’t broken in a day. Small, continuous steps will get you there in a way that is more sustainable than short, sharp change.
  • Get used to asking yourself what you need. Within anxiety there is often a fear, a need and a feeling. Learning to identify them helps you in finding ways to meet them. The more you do this, the more sensitive to your needs and feelings you’ll become, and the easier it will be to acknowledge them. When my feelings are fuzzy and hard to determine, I ‘try on feelings for size’ by listing them until I feel like something clicks – ‘am I feeling, sad, lonely, angry, hurt, scared’
  • Be kind to you! Start challenging the inner critic/abuser/bully. If you’ve got a constant, cruel dialogue going on internally, it will be chipping away at your self worth and value. Start noticing how you talk to yourself in your mind and start thinking about how you’d respond to someone you love if they said those things. Start introducing a more compassionate internal voice. Read this
  • Speak to someone who might understand. Not everyone will, but someone you know to be kind and compassionate may be able to help you talk through some of you anxieties, introducing a kinder voice. Sometimes just verbalising what goes on in our minds
  • If you are finding that your anxiety is taking over to any extent, please seek an appointment with your GP, or a Counsellor/Psychotherapist to chat this through further.

I’m sure you might have a few to add to this list as it’s nowhere near exhaustive, but those are the ones I use the most.

But, my TOP tip for addressing anxiety is..

Start small. And keep going.

Even when it feels silly.

Even when it feels fruitless.

Even when it feels like nothing is ever going to change.

Even when you don’t truly believe it will help.

Keep going.

And if you forget? Or you have an anxiety filled day where things have taken over and not one coping mechanism has been accessed, be kind, DON’T beat yourself up. This is a process and it’s a tough one, and often a long one, but a wholly worthwhile one. Carry on. Carry on.

If you’re someone who likes imagery, find a metaphor that encourages you. I like to think of a motorway that has closed down! No cars are allowed, and they are forced to drive beside it on grass and mud. Wheels get stuck, flicking up mud and requiring pushing out. It’s slow and bumpy and downright annoying. Drivers glance at the empty motorway beside them, it’s so familiar, so easy, so smooth. BUT. Overtime, the wheels carve a new path. The ground impacts, the bumps are smoothed. The journey is getting easier. And as for the motorway? It’s has gradually run to ruin. The tarmac melted in parts by the summer sun and never addressed. Weeds poking through the lanes, tree roots tearing up what was once flat.

Whatever your battle is against and whatever your techniques are (as long as they are good, healthy ones), I want to encourage you to keep utilising them. Use them when you’re feeling okay, use them when you start to wobble. The deeper you are into the hole of anxiety, the more effort required to use the tools that pull you out.

Every time you speak back to that familiar, cruel voice that has you questioning life and future, pick up that tool. No matter how successful it was, pick it up again next time too. Yes, maybe sometimes introduce a new tool or an additional tool, especially as they slowly become second nature and less effort, but make sure you have SOMETHING to hand. I introduced breathing for anxiety, and then once it became almost second nature, I introduced a gratitude journal. And now that’s part of my daily life, I’m trying to drink enough water in order to tell my body it’s worth being hydrated no matter how many times I need to pee. See what I’m saying?

When I speak to coaching clients, I don’t make false statements. I don’t promise them that their worst fear won’t happen, I’m not God, I don’t have the insight. I’m not going to promise them that everything will be okay, because nobody can promise them that. But I DO promise them that if they pursue relentlessly, regardless of feelings, the tools we speak about, then the voice of anxiety WILL get quieter over time.

Sometimes change is about driving in the rain and suddenly realising that this would have made you panic a few months ago. Sometimes it’s about you having a nice long bath and suddenly realising that a few weeks ago, this would have felt like an utter, worthless waste of time because you weren’t of enough value to do something kind like this.

Find the tools that fit you, whether through therapy or apps, research or reading. Value your tools. Use them relentlessly and be kind to yourself when you forget, or they don’t seem to work. Keep keep going and change will come, slowly but surely.

Ax

 

🚫🚫NO!!!🚫🚫 This term is batted around so generously. Yes, of course, recognise moments for their worth and enjoy them if you can. But, life can be shit. Days can be long. Tears can be plentiful and salty. Curve balls, words, moods, drama, trauma, tantrums, bad news, tantrums…happen.

You can feel like you’ve been depleted of the energy to even put one foot infront of another (if that’s you, focus on the movement not the moment…you’re doing it darling)…and then we get told to ‘enjoy each moment’. Way to pile on the guilt. There is SO much value in the practice of mindfulness and gratitude, but it can heap feelings of guilt onto the soul when the laughter and smiles don’t come so freely.

I want to say – be kind to yourself. If your day is tough, work is draining, family are hurting, your kids are driving you into the ground, and your focus is on making it through, PLEASE don’t beat yourself up for not ‘enjoying’ it. You’ll have days and moments where your heart practically bursts with enjoyment in life, love for your kids, content in the mundane, and you Cheshire-cat-grin your way through, but it’s OKAY to not always feel like that.

It’s OKAY not to savour every moment like it’s your last. So, whether you’re enjoying or surviving, that’s okay for now. You’re human. You’re not a platitude.

It’s in our nature to present the best bits of our homes, faces; relationships, lives, children. I mean, why wouldn’t we! We KNOW that they are the best bits, we know that there are messy piles out of shot, that the momentary smile has been the only one in the day amidst the grumpy whining, or that the gorgeous meal at the fancy restaurant on holiday we shot, didn’t actuallllly taste that fab.So WHY then do we choose to buy into other’s representation of the better parts of their lives, their best angles, their tidy corners? No, we make a vast and dangerous assumption this is their normality throughout, and we end up self-critical and dis-enchanted.

Even the great parts of our lives fall under this shadow, thus we lose gratitude and enjoyment.

We know the truth of our own circumstances. We know our lives aren’t full of happy faces and ever-clean worktops. So, let’s continue to share the nice photos, but also write and share the rawer side of the truth too. But, lets choose to stop believing the total crap that the snapshots we see of other people’s lives, are the full picture.

Here’s my kitchen right now after a happy whirlwind of friends, kids and @blom_cards packing!

Some days, we breeze through until we fall into bed tired and content. Some days feel like trudging through sticky treacle, every step requiring strength and muscle, and we fall into bed surprised that we made it through.Some people have more treacle days than others, for some, they are few and far between. Some treacle days are caused by circumstances – work stress, family dramas. Some treacle days are caused by black, hovering clouds inside tired minds.

Move.

Just keep moving.

Some days you’ll leap energetically. Some days it’s one step in front of the other. Some days, it’s tiny little baby steps inching and shuffling through the moments. But the important thing is that you move.

HOW?

1 – Identify what is keeping you stuck where you are. Is it fear of failure?

For some, to move is to be at work on time, to stay awake through meetings. For others, to move is just to make the difficult step of getting out of bed and getting dressed. Perhaps it’s perfectionism or depression. Try and identify what’s holding you where you are.

2 – Start small.

It’s not about ‘winning at life’, it’s about showing up. Be kind to yourself. What little, achievable thing can you do to ‘move’ forward today? Maybe it’s a little shake up of the usual routine, or perhaps it’s about making a call you’ve been avoiding, or jumping into the shower instead of living in your pj’s until the afternoon. Maybe you need to see a friend for encouragement or wisdom.

Whatever you do…just take one step (no matter how small) today that moves you forwards.

What helps you when you’re feeling stuck? xx

Here’s to being OPEN. For openness leads to FREEDOM. Here’s to the end of secrets and shame. Here’s to hugs and kindly faces. Here’s to the TRUTH that we aren’t alone. Here’s to the END of silencing our own anxiety, depression and neuroses. Here’s to HOPE that THERE IS A WAY through. Here’s to the tentative budding choice to believe that WE ARE WORTH IT. Here’s to tears of RELIEF that comes when we take the risk of talking to the right people. Here’s to the beginning of the END OF STIGMA. Here’s to the start of VALUING our own processes. Here’s to RECONCILIATION. Families and relationships REBUILT. Here’s to RECOVERY. Here’s to the investment in making KINDER choices. Here’s to SELF CARE even if it feels unnatural at first. Here’s to picking up the phone to SUPPORT NETWORKS. Here’s to daring to LEAN ON others. Here’s to learning more about what it feels to be ACCEPTED and the conscious act of letting yourself be LOVED. Here’s to chipping away at the power we’ve given abusers and bullies and CLAIMING BACK our ground. Here’s to TAKING UP SPACE in the world and recognising that we DESERVE it as much as the next person. Here’s to starving the critical voice and FEEDING the one that says I’m INNATELY VALUABLE. Here’s to STANDING ALONGSIDE EACH OTHER, brothers, sisters, just finding our way through. Here’s to STARTING THIS JOURNEY. Here’s to CONTINUING THE CONVERSATION about mental health. I cried writing this. I truly believe that every word is possible. If I can spend my entire life sharing, writing and talking about this message in the hopes some of it may provide people with increased freedom and understanding of their worth, I will.