How Walking and Audiobooks have helped my Anxiety and Depression: Guest blog by Tan at BooknerdTan

audiobooks1

(image: BetaNews)

For most of my life I have had relatively good mental health and considering the rather…’turbulent’ upbringing I had I’d say that was pretty much a miracle. All came to a head in June 2018.

I was in a job that was incredibly stressful for minimum wage, I had a toxic boyfriend who did nothing but make me feel worse about myself and I had an abuser resurface into my life completely unexpectedly. All this happening at once lead to some kind of mental breakdown and I couldn’t function for around 4 months. I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t go to work – I could barely eat or string a sentence together. Everything I heard was white noise, everything I saw was in slow motion and I was just completely numb.

I went to seek help with my doctor and was prescribed medication (which I am not currently taking as of the New Year) and was referred to Birmingham Healthy Minds service. This is a service which I cannot recommend enough – I was really scared of counselling after previously having a bad experience when I was younger, however I’m really glad I went ahead and gave this a go.

The best thing about this was that my counsellor was not passive (unlike my previous experience), in fact he gave me so much advice that will stay with me forever. I relied heavily on my friends during this time and they were an amazing help, but sometimes it is nice to offload some of your worries on to someone who is essentially a stranger. It allowed me to say things which I may not necessarily feel comfortable telling my family or friends.

Ever since I went and spoke to someone about my condition, I have been looking for the best ways in which to cope on a daily basis. The main way I keep my anxiety at bay is with a combination of walking and audiobooks. This has done wonders for my anxiety. I have always been a big book nerd; I read every day, manage to polish off on average 100 books a year and run my own book blog so it’s safe to say that I am a major bookworm!

I’ve constantly heard and read about exercise being an amazing coping mechanism for people dealing with depression. I have close family members who also suffer with depression and confirmed to me that exercise is one of the main things that relieves some of their symptoms. Having this information only told me one thing – get to exercising!

I live in a really pretty village so I decided to put my headphones in, pick an audiobook and walk. Walk until I couldn’t feel my legs. 3 hours later I came home and was elated. Body numb, blood pumping and feeling a tiny bit more positive than when I left the house.

My anxiety got to such a point that I wasn’t able to breathe properly. I was always taking short, sharp breaths and it never felt like I was in control which exacerbated my anxiety. Walking allowed me to think about and control my breathing therefore lowering my anxiety somewhat. Combining walking and my favourite hobby (devouring books) helped me so much more than I ever expected and am so thankful for it.

I recently wrote a blog post about how audiobooks helped me control my anxiety and was overwhelmed by the response it got when I shared it on my blog. Not only by the amount of people who are dealing with anxiety themselves, but how happy they were that they found the post and are willing to try it out to see if it helps them too. It’s that kind of response that reminds me of why I love blogging and sharing my experience! I hope someone read about my experience and it was able to help them.

Every day is still a learning curve but I’m definitely getting there. Going forward, I hope that everything I have learned in the past 9 months will aid me in keeping my anxiety and depression at bay and be able to handle it as best possible when/if it arises again with a vengeance.

I am always hopeful that if I ever feel the same way again, I will be able to see the signs a lot earlier, implement the coping mechanisms I’ve acquired and nip it in the bud before it manifests even further. I hope that somehow my experience can help someone else out there cope a little better and make them realise that it is possible to come out the other end even when you’re at your darkest.

 

This guest blog was written by UK book blogger and writer Tan at https://booknerdtan.wordpress.com/

Advertisements

How is Massage Therapy useful when recovering from an Anxiety Disorder? Guest Blog by Ashley Smith

massagetherapy1

(image: Ashley Smith)

Massage therapy, which is often sought by people for relaxation, is not only offered by luxurious spas but it’s also becoming a mainstream treatment technique for boosting mental and physical health. Nowadays, healthcare professionals especially physical (physio) therapists are using this age-old and unique healing technique to relieve pain that stems from a wide range of physical and mental health issues.

Yes, massage therapy is not only essential for improving the mood and offering relaxation to those who live an utterly busy life where they have to deal with tight deadlines all the time, but it’s also beneficial for people struggling with conditions like stress, anxiety disorders, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder apart from musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses.

Yes, the mental health benefits of massage therapy are endless, so you shouldn’t hesitate to seek it. Divided into several sub-categories such as Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, prenatal massage, and infant massage, etc., massage therapy is one of the most crucial techniques that make it easier for you to live a pain-free and fulfilling life.

If you talk specifically about anxiety disorders which include generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and selective mutism, they can interrupt your life completely.

Characterised by common symptoms like sweating, trembling, sadness, restlessness, excessive worry, fatigue, insomnia, fear, and nausea, etc., an anxiety disorder makes it difficult for you to focus on both your personal and professional life. For example, if you are struggling with a panic disorder, you will keep on experiencing frequent episodes of intense anxiety and fear that prevent you from concentrating on your work. And when your fear reaches a peak, you encounter a panic attack.

Similarly, if you talk about Generalised Anxiety Disorder, you will keep on worrying about day-to-day activities.

According to The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), people who suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience excessive worry for a minimum of 6 months about various areas of their life like activities of daily living, interacting with people, and personal health, etc. And this fear makes it difficult for them to do good in these areas.

Experiencing anxiety is normal; the problem comes when you suffer from an anxiety disorder. Yes, there is a vast difference between experiencing anxiety and suffering from an anxiety disorder; the former is quite healthy for you, but the later is a mental illness. That’s true. Normal anxiety helps you prepare for future events and situations, whereas an anxiety disorder like panic disorder and social anxiety disorder, make it difficult for you to face those events.

The fear that stems from normal anxiety disappears soon; however, the worry that attacks you due to an anxiety disorder stays with you until you recover from your problem. And what’s concerning is it can  worsen with the passage of time in the absence of professional help.

Yes, seeking professional help is the only way to recover from this mental illness.

According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” It further states that “Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.

So, here is how massage therapy can help you battle an anxiety disorder.

 

In Reducing Stress

The stress that stems from facing tough situations can lead to further health complications if you fail to take professional help for it at the right time. You should take corrective steps to minimise your stress levels if you can. Consulting a licensed physical (physio) therapist to seek massage therapy can bring tremendous change in your health.

I believe that since people struggling with an anxiety disorder also experience high-level of stress, they should seek massage therapy to address anxiety, alongside other methods.

When you are stressed out, your body releases a hormone called Cortisol, which affects several areas in your life such as public speaking, social interactions, performance at work, and happiness.

Since you always feel stressed out, you can’t experience happiness in your life. Therefore, to deal with the problems that you face in different areas of your life, it’s essential that you work on improving your mental health, and one of the best ways to start in this direction is to control your stress levels and promote relaxation by seeking massage therapy.

Your therapist might use Swedish massage to reduce your stress level. According to Gulf Shore Physical Therapy Center, “Swedish massage is more gentle and targets more superficial tissues, perfect for anyone looking to relax and relieve mental as well as physical stress. As the best-known type of bodywork performed today, one of the primary goals of the Swedish massage technique is to relax the entire body.

 

In Minimising Muscle Tension

Muscle tension and muscle pain are the symptoms of elevated stress level, and hence, people living with an anxiety disorder also experience them. Seeking massage therapy, wherein your massage therapist uses hand techniques to reduce muscle tension and pain, can have significant benefits for your mental health.

Since it offers relaxation, it not only helps in improving your performance at work but also allows you to spend quality time with your loved ones at home.

 

In Improving Sleep

Sleep problems are one of the most common signs of an anxiety disorder, and massage therapy is in our opinion, the best way to address it. Whether you stay awake the whole night because you find it difficult to fall asleep or you are someone who wakes up frequently from your sleep, massage therapy will deal with these issues by offering relaxation and addressing the problem of muscle tension and pain.

When you enjoy a good night’s sleep, you will wake up feeling fresh and energetic in the morning, which plays a crucial role in improving your entire day.

 

In Enhancing Your Emotional Well-Being

People with an anxiety disorder often struggle with their mental health and some have depression alongside it. Massage therapy can promote relaxation and boost wellbeing. Experts believe that it has several benefits for mental health, you shouldn’t underestimate its potential to improve your emotional well-being.

Since it reduces stress and anxiety, it eventually stabilises your mind which improves your emotional well-being.

 

In Reducing Chronic Pain

If you are also living with pain due to an injury or illness apart from an anxiety disorder, massage therapy can help reduce your pain. Since it helps in enhancing circulation, you will see a tremendous improvement in the reduction of pain after a massage therapy session.

It will also accelerate the natural healing process by supplying nutrients to injured tissues.

Massage therapy will also help in enhancing your mind-body connection, which is extremely useful for your overall well-being. It can be used alongside conventional therapies, to support relaxation and good mental health. Try it today.

 

This article was written by Ashley Smith, freelance writer in the USA

Blog for No Panic on Living with Social Anxiety: by our founder Eleanor

nopanic
(image: No Panic)

I am delighted to collaborate and write a blog with No Panic, an amazing mental health charity for people with anxiety disorders. You can read it here on their website:   https://www.nopanic.org.uk/living-social-anxiety-story/  and also below:

nopanic1

(image: No Panic)

I have lived with my anxiety disorder for most of my life, but it really started at aged 15, when I was so acutely anxious I had to take six weeks off school during my GCSE year. I was suffering from an agitated depression, an episode that left me reeling. I was so young and so unwell. It was partly triggered by stressful life events but what I didn’t know at that time was that my anxiety and depression was part of a wider illness- bipolar disorder.

After several episodes of depression and mania, I was hospitalised at aged 16 at the Priory North London and diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. Bipolar is a mood disorder where you fluctuate between episodes of depression, hypomania (a lesser manic state) or mania. It can run in families and can be triggered by life events. I am now 29, so have lived with this for almost 14 years.

I was hospitalised due to a severe depression that featured psychosis, where your mind loses touch with reality and can cause bad anxiety. I had delusions- false beliefs about the world and a lot of fear. Luckily, I recovered after four months of treatment, left and started taking regular medication which began to help, however, the anxiety seemed to be ever present.

As I had been so ill as a teenager with a whole host of symptoms due to my bipolar, I developed social anxiety and panic attacks. I was desperate to fit in and appear ‘normal’ as most teenagers are. I felt different, I was facing life with a chronic illness. There was so much uncertainty, they couldn’t just scan my brain to see what was going on. Taking medication was trial and error for me, some worked and some didn’t. The same with therapies.

The social anxiety was about feeling judged by other people, because I was judging myself wrongly for what had happened during my episodes. It impacted my self esteem- I felt low about myself and didn’t know why I had been given this illness and why it caused me so much embarrassment and shame at the time. There was a stigma back in 2004, that has lessened today

My social anxiety manifested a few years after I had left hospital. I began to fear attending parties, dates and social events with friends, in case I was judged negatively. As a teenager, there was a lot of stigma from other teenagers about my illness. This made me feel depleted, sad and angry. I didn’t choose my brain chemistry- so why were they spreading false rumours about me and making me feel worthless? It was a difficult time for me. I did also have a lot of love and support.

However, my heart would race and the event eg a birthday party in a club or bar, would trigger an absolute state of panic. What if I looked awful/ wore the wrong clothes? What if everyone was judging me when I got there and thinking badly of me? I often would cancel on friends and not attend, for fear of having to show up, however I felt. I felt so vulnerable and I didn’t want anyone to see it.

Part of the anxiety was because when you have bipolar episodes of mania and depression (particularly mania) it leaves you feeling ashamed of your behaviour. For me there was a certain sense of shame, especially with the manic episodes. However, I knew it wasn’t my true personality and I could not control my brain chemistry at the time it happened. Yet, my subconscious mind continued to trigger panic in social situations.

I was lucky and am still lucky to have a group of very supportive friends (and family) who helped me to get out more, through exposure therapy. My Mum or Dad would take me out in the car, or friends would come to the house and coax me slowly out into the world again. Exposure therapy, moving slowly to expose myself to the feared situations is so helpful to me, even today.

Aged 20, I began my first course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for the anxiety. I worked out with my therapist what the limiting beliefs holding me back were- fear of judgement, fear of being exposed negatively (as my illness made me feel so out of control) and I was asked to keep thought records of my negative thoughts at the time of a panic attack.

For me, panic attacks manifested themselves as feeling clammy, sick, tight chest, overwhelming negative thoughts about a situation and the fight or flight desire to run away and cancel the arrangement, removing myself from the feared trigger. Although the CBT did not stop the anxiety and panic, it gave me some tools at the time to understand it.

Over the years, I have completed three courses of CBT with a psychologist and another therapist, until I gave up on it, because my anxiety was so emotionally rooted and based in the subconscious that the cognitive approach was not working. For me a combination of the following helps.

Firstly, talking therapy about any past traumas (psychodynamic) with my current therapist is so helpful and makes me feel so grounded and safe. Secondly, when very stressed, I find meditation, particularly the Yoga Nidra meditation or apps like Headspace so helpful for breathing. Taking deep breaths can help relieve stress. Thirdly, exposure therapy is key to recovery. I find the more I go out accompanied, the more I feel able to do- it’s a slow process but helpful.

In 2014, after ten years out of hospital, I was hospitalised for a severe manic episode with psychosis. This hospitalisation caused a lot of trauma and anxiety and in hospital, I found art therapy incredibly helpful. Making a picture, collage or painting focused and calmed my mind. Even colouring in a book helped me to filter out the stress of being in hospital and kept my mind calm. I suppose this is a form of mindfulness too and I still love art today.

I very much support the work of No Panic and am so thrilled to write here. Since 2016, I have made a really good recovery from my bipolar and am now stable on medication. My anxiety is still there but I now have a career writing freelance for Metro Online, Happiful Magazine, Glamour and mental health charities such as Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and Time to Change. I have also written my mental health blog www.beurownlight.com, which is about my journey with bipolar and anxiety and those of others. It is currently nominated for a UK Blog Award.

Just know that if you currently experience anxiety and panic attacks, whatever triggers it- there will be something out there to help you- whether its therapy, medication, mindfulness, exercise, meditation, art or exposure to the feared situation in small doses. You are not alone.

For more on No Panic please see: https://www.nopanic.org.uk/

The Anxiety Wave: On waking up with anxiety

anxiety123

In previous posts about my mental health journey, I have mentioned having an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are triggered in the brain and can be very hard to keep under control. Thankfully, most of the time, I can function at optimum health. Yet, sometimes stressors come along and throw me a little off course.

The main anxiety issue I have is usually morning anxiety. This is when you wake up and almost freeze from fear- you feel like you can’t do anything or enjoy the day, panic floods the body. Sometimes, after a few hours this form of terror dissipates. You can distract yourself and it goes – but sometimes it takes a little longer for it to go and it causes exhaustion. This is due to the hormones adrenaline and cortisol which are triggered pre or during a panic attack.

I am still learning to ride the anxiety wave- it can make you feel very tired and far less productive. For me, it often happens after I have had time away from work or a disruption to my routine, the anxious thoughts and feelings will flood back, making life that little bit harder again.

It is not easy nor straightforward dealing with this. I have to be kind to myself and know it will pass. Breathe, and distract my mind. Try and use meditation techniques to keep it under control.

Guest Post by Juno Medical: 9 Things People with Anxiety Disorders Would Rather not Hear You Say

anxiety1

Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and social anxiety disorders. 1 in 12 people suffers from anxiety globally, and women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety.

If you feel overwhelmed by the behaviour of a person with anxiety, try to put yourself in their shoes, and show understanding, not stigma.

For more see www.junomedical.com

 

Guest post: 5 easy yet effective ways to calm yourself down when feeling anxious

By Lystia Putranto and Karina Ramos at www.bookmeditationretreats.com

dontworry

Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged; it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.

– Arthur Somers Roche

Sometimes nothing feels quite as awful than anxiety. In this state of mind, we tend to think of only the worst case scenarios. It robs us of our joy, makes us lose focus and leaves us feeling as if we have no control over our own lives.

Fortunately for us, there’s much we can do to reduce anxiety and its effects on our mind, body, and soul. Here are simple and fuss-free tips to apply that I have found to be effective to help me establish and maintain a calmer peace of mind in situations that previously would send me into a tailspin:

  1. Take Deep Breaths

It seems hard to believe that one of the simplest actions that you can take – taking deep breaths – may just be one of the most effective ways to calm ourselves down when we feel an anxiety attack coming on. Breathing deeply differs from our normal breathing (shallow breathing) as it requires your focus to breathe from your diaphragm as opposed to just breathing from your nose. Moreover, shallow breathing may often feel tense and constricted, whereas deep breathing induces relaxation.

By just taking a minimum of 10 deep breaths whenever you find yourself feeling anxious, you can instantly feel more peaceful and more importantly, it could bring our focus back to the present moment even in moments of panic or extreme anxiety. Through focusing our attention in the present moment, we are able to give our best effort in finding solutions to the issue(s) we worry about. Another great thing about this anxiety-reducing tool is that it is also accessible to you whenever and wherever you need it.

If you’re looking to gain a more lasting effect that you get from deep breathing, I highly recommend that you take up the practice of meditation. Not only will you be able to feel more at ease and calmer, you’re bound to also reap the many other benefits that come with meditation!

 2 Listen to Inspiring Tunes

I’m a true believer in the power of music and great tunes can be a great tool in lifting our spirits whenever we feel anxious or overwhelmed. Create a special playlist of your favorite inspiring (preferably upbeat) tunes and be sure to have them on hand to give you a spirit boost whenever you feel less than stellar. If you’re up for it, why not kick it up a notch and have yourself a dance party of one while you are listening to favorite music! It may sound silly but I personally have found it to be a great and quick way to lift my spirit and shake off those pesky anxieties.

 

  1. Let it Out

When we are plagued with anxiety, one of the best ways to alleviate yourself from that palpable worry is to talk it out with someone you trust. One of the toughest things to deal with when it comes to anxiety is the facade that you are alone and that you are the only one in the world who is going through challenging times. Feeling anxious and feeling like you have to keep it all bottled up is unhealthy and can often feel excruciatingly difficult.

The truth is, all of us have experienced anxiety and worry and this is why it is crucial for us to be able to turn to our spouse, friend, parent or sibling and share our troublesome thoughts. More often than not, you’d find that they too have experienced similar situations and would able to offer solutions to help you or at the very least, lend an emphatic shoulder to lean on.

 

  1. Jot it Down

If for one reason or another you feel uncomfortable sharing your feelings and thoughts to others, an alternative tool you can use is to keep a journal. That way, you can “spill” whatever you are going throughout and/or feeling in private. There’s something soothing and cathartic in writing out your inner most thoughts into paper that often leaves you feeling calmer and more at peace.

As someone who has journaled regularly since her early teen years, it became evident that most of my anxieties were just stories that I created and that my worries were far from being real. In writing our thoughts down consistently, you too may found most things that you have previously felt anxious or worried about in the past never actually end up happening. Our minds like to play tricks on us, making us focus on the worst scenarios of situations as opposed to what’s actually real and this is definitely something worth keeping in mind the next time we find ourselves filled with worry. As Dan Zadra, a renowned author said, “Worry is a misuse of imagination”.

 

  1. Get Physically Active

Science has provided much evidence that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people (those who are not physically active). Exercise may also improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress and feelings of worry. In one study, researchers found that those who do regular vigorous exercise were 25 % less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder.

Whatever type of exercises you prefer, aside from being extremely beneficial to our health and fitness, making sure that you get your regular dose of exercise is a great way to reduce anxiety. Though it sounds counter-intuitive, exercise actually increases our endorphin levels which are our body’s “feel good” chemicals and this, as a result, helps us burn off excess adrenaline that we produce when we are at a heightened state of anxiety.
About Lystia Putranto

Lystia is a personal & professional development blogger who seeks to inspire and to motivate people to create and to live out their best lives. A proponent of meditation, she actively encourages those who seek to become their best selves to integrate meditation as part of their daily routine.