Taking a Mental Health Day: Retriggering the Anxiety Cycle by Eleanor

‘Sometimes you’ve got to face the darkness to step into the Light again’– James Arthur ‘Sermon’

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(image: rockonruby.co.uk)
I just want to start this post by saying that I am doing alright- I just have moments of bad anxiety or panic when triggered by specific issues. This week, I have been feeling more anxious than normal and when this happens I often have to take a step back, take a mental health day to rest and relax and recover.

As many of you know, I have social anxiety and this manifests in various ways. At the moment, I have issues with body image as I have put on a lot of weight over the past 5 years- partly due to medication and partly to lifestyle (I love sugar and don’t move as much). However, this means that in some situations,  my anxiety gets a bit heightened.

Early mornings are also the worst time for me in terms of anxiety so I try and do things later in the day now.

So what do my mental health days look like?

Sometimes they can involve:

– Sleeping or resting if needed for a few hours
– Watching something funny- today I watched the Windsors Royal Wedding special
– Speaking to a friend
– Eat something healthy that I love (and sometimes eating chocolate.. which I am trying to stop)
– Taking space and time from work to breathe. As I am self employed, I make my own hours so I know this isn’t the same for everyone.

Listening to relaxing music, taking a bath, doing something mindful eg colouring or going for a walk if I feel able are also good.

I am looking forward to a more restful weekend and taking care of my mental health. Once I’ve had a mental health day I usually feel better, more rested, calmer and centred.

Overwhelm is hard but it doesnt have to rule everything.

I’d love to hear about what you do when overwhelm sets in, to help ease the tension?

Love,

Eleanor x 

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Guest Post: 5 Steps to control Anxiety and help Panic attacks by Katie Rose

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(image: Kate Rose/ internet)

My name is Kate and just over 2 years ago I had my first panic attack. It was without a doubt, the scariest moment in my life and to think I’m at the point where now I can somewhat control my anxiety, feels like a miracle. Anxiety is not something that you can “just get over” which I’ve often heard those who don’t suffer from it, say. (So don’t worry if you’re struggling!) Though I’m a lot more stable now, I still experience mild anxiety every now and again. This post will tell you how I managed to tame my anxiety and help prevent my panic attacks.

#1 Stop Drinking Alcohol

Whether you agree alcohol is the reason for your panic attacks or not, it’s a proven cause to why people suffer from anxiety. Sadly for me, alcohol is the number one cause of why I would experience panic attacks and get myself into such an unstable state. As a result, I will no longer drink even a drop of alcohol and since, I haven’t experienced a panic attack. This is not the same for everyone- some people don’t drink but still experience high panic. It’s not that I don’t want to drink alcohol or that I don’t enjoy myself when I am drinking because I really do. However, the aftermath of it all just isn’t worth it.

In spite of that, it doesn’t mean I haven’t felt anxious since stopping drinking because I have and it’s still an ongoing battle. I’ve quite simply stopped having major panic attacks.

What Happens When I Drink Alcohol?

When I drink alcohol I end up going to bed with a racing mind (how on earth I end up sleeping I have no idea) and wake up in the early hours of the morning with major heart palpitations and breathlessness. It makes me feel like I’m about to die. Due to being tired from waking up early, I always feel extremely frustrated that my body has woken me up. No doubt that makes my anxiety worse and stops me from relaxing and calming down. So, what do I do?

Solution: Talk To Someone

Instead of going on my phone and surfing the internet to try and distract myself, I’m lucky enough to be able to wake my dad and sit and talk to him. I find that it helps me get back to sleep so much quicker than staring at a bright screen which actually makes me feel more awake. After all, it’s unlikely you want to be awake at 4 AM watching YouTube or scrolling through Instagram, instead of sleeping. By closing my eyes, yet having someone there to talk to, I’m able to slowly drift off back to sleep and thankfully not wake up again until the morning. It takes me an hour or two  to fall back asleep but compared to trying to cope alone, it’s a lot shorter. Try it – it might just work for you.

Don’t have someone at home to talk to? Perhaps you live alone and I assume for sufferers in an empty home it will feel a million times worse. Maybe it is time to take out your phone but instead of staring at the screen, call someone, even if its a helpline. That way you can lie with your eyes closed making you more likely to fall asleep and still be able to talk to someone for help.

 

#2 Breathe Using Your Stomach

It may sound slightly strange but after having the ambulance out to me on several occasions, I’ve learn that it’s my breathing that plays a huge part in being able to calm down or not. Breathing quickly and inhaling small amounts of air at a time can cause you to hyperventilate. Stop. Sit back and assess your situation. Think about how you’re breathing:

Are you breathing quickly? Are you breathing in through your nose? When I’m feeling breathless, instead of trying to take lots of little breaths that cause my chest and shoulders to move quickly, I take big, deeper breaths that’ll push my stomach out.

By concentrating on feeling my stomach move, I can focus my attention elsewhere from my racing heart and help me calm down. Use the below ‘calm breathing’ technique from Anxieties for more help:

 

  • Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs. (You should feel your stomach push out slightly before your chest starts feeling full of air.)
  • Hold your breath to the count of “three.”
  • Exhale slowly, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders and stomach.

 

Remember: Listen to your body and analyse what you’re doing. Are your teeth clenched? How are you sitting? Give your body a little shake to relax yourself and even close your eyes if you wish and practice your breathing.

(image: Kate Rose/ internet)

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#3 Thought Journal

I think one of the main things that has helped me to conquer my anxiety was analysing the potential cause and the feelings I had, during the panic attacks. Sometimes it was going to bed with too much on my mind, sometimes eating too late. Even from doing absolutely nothing and other times from being rushed off my feet. It’s hard when there are so many different factors that can trigger panic attacks but trying to figure out what that cause is can help you to overcome your negative feelings.

Write them down. Making a note of the time you had your panic attack, what you were doing before, perhaps the foods you ate that day and so on, will help you to figure out if there is a pattern. Over time I began to learn that the main cause of mine was from alcohol and going to bed when I still had things to do. Ensuring I made time for cleaning my room, making my dinner for work and sorting my outfit for the following day, meant I could go to bed without worrying. I wouldn’t feel rushed and I gave myself peace of mind to improve my sleep which is so important for coping with anxiety.

#4 Do Some Exercise

One of the key factors in helping me beat my anxiety was a lifestyle change that involved getting active and eating healthy. By going to a fitness class or doing a home workout, I was able to relieve all of my built up stress and found trying to get to sleep or relax, a lot easier. I started by going the gym 2-3 days a week and currently go 3-4 times a week. I also realised that since getting a FitBit back in July 2017, it’s helped push past my panic attacks even further, by distracting me from feeling anxious with fun fitness challenges with my friends and family. What’s great with having a FitBit is, even if you don’t have friends or family who have one, there’s a whole community you can get involved with.

Not Interested In Exercise?

If you’re not into doing full-on fitness classes, why not aim to do a certain number of steps a day? My goal is 8,000 and find that whilst working 7AM to 4PM Monday to Friday, this is pretty achievable as long as I go for a stroll at dinner and again in the evenings. Doing this every day is keeping both me and my brain active and it’s these small changes that have helped me to channel my anxious thoughts, elsewhere. Here are some more tips on exercising to beat anxiety.

#5 Don’t Feel Ashamed

No matter how hard it is, you must not feel like a failure. Anxiety can affect anyone and everyone and when you least expect it. Before my panic attacks I was out partying all of the time, drinking copious amounts of alcohol and not having a care in the world. As unfortunate as they were, having panic attacks helped to show me that my body needed to be taken care of. Yet, for the troubles I have gone through, I wish I knew that sooner. I realised that during the time my anxiety was at its worst, I had an extremely negative approach to everything and often found myself using negative words a lot.

Solution: Take a time out to evaluate your attitude. As much as you may think you’re world is coming to an end, I found changing my mindset to try and think of even the worst times in a positive way, made me channel a stronger side to myself. This has been a major contributor to helping me get over my panic attacks. Replace words and phrases like “bad”, “I can’t”, “never” and “not now”, with “good”, “I can”, “always” and “yes”. You never know what good could come from it.

Alternatively, The Calm Clinic suggest something similar to a thoughts journal: a positivity journal. Fill it with positive things that have happened to you that day. Aim for at least 10 things so that no matter how bad the day may seem, you always have 10 great things to reflect back on.

Here’s their example:

Examples of good entries:

 

  • The barista gave me my coffee for free today because I was nice to her.
  • My boss complimented me on the project I finished.
  • I received a phone call from an old friend just because she wanted to catch up.

 

Examples of the types of entries you should avoid:

 

  • I woke up.
  • My mum didn’t call me which is good because I didn’t want to hear from her.
  • I didn’t screw anything up too badly.

 

Remember: If this seems too much of a chore to do, stop. Put the pen down and try something else instead, like yoga, listening to music or an audio book or reading a book yourself. If you feel pressure to write in the journal, it may make your anxiety worse. Yet by trying different methods of coping with anxiety you can find what works for you.

Why Medication Isn’t Always Right For You

I ended up being consumed by my anxiety and fears and feeling like the only way to get through it was to take medication. The doctors weren’t keen on prescribing me with any tablets at the time and I didn’t really want to take them anyway. Though, after a while I felt it all became too much. Me and my boyfriend went to Holland & Barrett to buy some calming pills.

I don’t want to promote the tablets I took in this post because I only used them once or twice. I think that trying to control my anxiety without medicine was a better solution for me and although was a challenge, made me feel strong and as though I was capable of anything. For others, taking medicine may work best for them and it really is down to the individual.

No matter how you deal with anxiety, just remember not to give up. I felt like my world was collapsing and I was so scared. Though with perseverance and time, I can now say I’m coping well with my anxiety, though the battle is still on.

This article is by Katie Rose, Lifestyle Blogger at ok Kate

ok Kate is a lifestyle blog about my life as a “normal”, young adult and the steps I’m taking to try and change my life from being boring and rather basic, to make the most of the world around me.

Life Mental Health Update and the Liebster Award!

Its been a really interesting week for me. I firstly decided after not getting the right NHS therapeutic support that I had to take life into my hands in two ways. Firstly, I needed to see if I could get funding for private therapy to help my anxiety and panic attacks about work. I was able to and then I have booked an appointment to see a recommended psycho-dynamic counsellor. I am hoping that my counselling sessions will help the anxiety and fear around certain things.

Secondly, I decided that if I want to live my dreams and have a life that is fulfilling and true to myself, I have to pursue them. Obviously I have to make my dream achievable too so I have been applying for jobs that feel right for me. My dream has been to be a teacher and I hope to get there one day. I have been interviewing for various positions in schools and hopefully the right one for me will come up soon. I will leave it to God and the universe to decide and do all I can.

So, its been quite a whirlwind for me this week and definitely being pushed a little outside my comfort zone, putting my heart and dreams on the line. However, I am really proud of myself for doing this. I have wanted to seek therapeutic help for years and while its a shame I can’t get it for free on the NHS, I hope it helps me to change my life. My family are a great support for me with this. I am starting this week and will see what happens.

So I have been going to job interviews and its really scary being asked so many questions and waiting for feedback. I know though that I can do it and make myself and my family proud (I hope anyway!)

As well as the above, I am very excited to be going to see Aladdin the musical at the theatre with my boyfriend for our anniversary. He is a wonderful support to me and I love disney!

Lastly, a blog friend, the Happiness Hunter https://thehappinesshunt.wordpress.com   has nominated me for the Liebster Award which celebrates new blogs. My blog has been going almost 2 years but I feel so thrilled to receive the award. Thank you so much! Due to time constraints I can’t nominate other blogs for the award but dedicate it to all my blog followers who are battling mental health stigma and writing so amazingly.  

Go and visit the above blog too, its wonderful! Thanks again 🙂

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Nobody’s Perfect: An Update on life with Anxiety

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I have put off writing for several weeks just because its so hard to make sense of everything going on in my brain, in terms of my anxiety disorder.

I have had so many good things in the past few weeks but I am also battling anxiety around work. I love my job but past events relating to employment have made me afraid subconsciously. I very much need to unpack these fears with a therapist- I have been on the therapy waiting list for a year and a half. In a few weeks, I will be seeing my new psychiatrist (roughly the 12th/13th one in 13 years due to high staff turnaround!)  and I hope that he will escalate my therapy. I desperately need help with this as I get morning panic attacks around these fears. Despite using self help methods like meditation, these fears can be all consuming and stop me from going into work.

It is incredibly difficult for me to write about this because its so personal and because I love what I do. However, I have been struggling and I hope by writing that yes, I do get panic attacks about my fears, I can also make others feel less alone.

I did get some respite from these fears and work have been very supportive of me. I was able to go with my friend for a week on holiday to Madeira, a Portugese island off the main land near North Africa. Its a beautiful island, filled with terracotta roofed houses, turquoise seas, dolphins, whales and  turtles, friendly people, bright sunshine and palm trees. We went on a boat trip and got to see some spotted dolphins and relaxed in and by our hotel swimming pools. Not to mention the love for Cristiano Ronaldo on the island, as he is from there and the airport is named after him! It was a really restful and fun trip. I wasn’t anxious all week- as it seems to get triggered by specific fears and situations.

I just hope to get back to full health again and get some extra support around the fears that are fuelling my panic.

I tend to beat myself up about having an anxiety disorder and feeling ‘incapable’ of doing certain things. I am learning self love and to be calmer and to just see my anxiety as a hurdle to be overcome. I may be a perfectionist who hates letting others down
– but I am learning, like the Jessie J song, that Nobodys Perfect. 

‘Breaking Mad’: The Anxiety Journey (again)

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I have called this blog post ‘Breaking Mad’ after the title of a new book on anxiety I am reading – called ‘Breaking Mad: How to Conquer Anxiety’ . Its by a former anxiety sufferer and psychiatrist/ psychologist and I am hoping can give me some advice as to how to handle my morning panic when it tends to overwhelm.

I have really struggled this week and past month with panic and feeling overwhelmed. As this has been going on for years on and off, my panic disorder is not new- but I have to change the way I relate to it and the way I react to it. My instinct is to hide and down tools to stop the panic overtaking, but actually it has more of an effect that way and makes me wake up each morning consecutively anxious!

Distraction techniques, exposure therapy and meditation are key ways to get through that I have found of use. However, I need to find a mechanism that can really help. I have had various talking therapies in the past including CBT, which were not as helpful as I thought they would be. I am open to more therapy though.

Blogging of course is therapeutic and I hope one day to be blogging and telling you I am mastering living with my panic attacks and conquering them again. I know I can do it- it will be the longest journey- but long journeys start with one small, simple step.

That step is getting more support and also finding ways through the panic without taking shortcuts so I temporarily feel better.  This book could help, or it is just some advice that won’t work for me. Yet its worth a try!

I have to take some of the pressure off myself too and give myself time to really recover and thrive again. This weekend I will try to practise a lot of relaxation and positive thinking, particularly in the mornings.

Anxiety Gremlins: Panic, Exhaustion and everything in between

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This post is probably the most honest one I have written (and as you all know I am pretty open about my mental health struggles).

I am completely and utterly exhausted, tired and fed up. I have been experiencing daily morning panic for 5 days, where leaving the house to go to work feels incredibly overwhelming.

This has happened to me before and I have got through it with exposure therapy and excellent support networks and medical team. I am incredibly lucky also that I work with supportive colleagues/ teams in my job, who go above and beyond to make sure I can be OK.

I am vulnerable to certain life stressors which can trigger my panic attacks and in particular morning anxiety. Due to the adrenaline and cortisol that is triggered during the panic, I feel like I have run a marathon but equally don’t want to sleep too much during the day so I am at home resting, recovering and recuperating. This may mean watching Love Island religiously, but I digress….

I feel like I am constantly on an emotional tread mill. The anxiety gremlins keep rearing their heads. This week has been particularly challenging due to the fact I have had panic attacks every morning. For me, my attacks are more emotional- I don’t tend to get palpitations or hyperventilate, I freeze like in fight or flight and then avoid. The avoidance temporarily stops symptoms but….

Avoidance is the worst thing you can do when you have an anxiety disorder. The worst. And yet we do it to feel ‘safe’ when really the feared event or trigger is not fearful at all.

I know that with support, I can get through this and feel much better. I have been recommended to the charity No Panic by a friend and yesterday I did the Yoga Nidra relxation meditation which calms the mind and body . I will keep trying to conquer the fears triggering my panic disorder- I have tried so much in the past but will have to keep going. I have been on the NHS waiting list for therapy for over a year. So I am having to do a lot of self help methods in the mean time.

Thank you everyone who has offered advice and support. Off to rest but will be back soon.

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Guest Post by Adar: Relationship Abuse and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

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Adar talks about the relationship abuse and PTSD they have suffered and how they are near recovery, with a combination of therapies including EMDR treatment. 

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and I have been in each other’s lives for past 10 years. Yet, up until 3 years ago, it was my secret…that I had no name for.

I am very close to my recovery (yes, recovery), which is why I feel I can write this blog now, to highlight the following:

A. I was 18 when my abusive relationship started, he was also 18, and yes…he was Jewish, and known within a circle of Jewish people (I am Jewish). Abuse can happen to anyone, at any age, of any race.

B. PTSD: Because I have it now, doesn’t mean I will have it forever. I am getting the help I need to treat it, and my PTSD isn’t triggered 99.9 percent of the time. Be kind to everyone you meet, as that person may be going through a secret struggle.

C. There are varying degrees of PTSD, yes some people are affected enough to not leave the house. I am fortunate enough this isn’t my case, but a lot of people can get out, everyone’s triggers are different, and everyone reacts differently when triggered.

D. My message to anyone with PTSD: please please please get help, or please put a close one in touch with help. The treatments work, you can get the treatments on the NHS (and maybe even through your work), and via Private facilities. I have put two links below to two very helpful websites:

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Post-traumatic-stress-disorder/Pages/Treatment.aspx

http://www.ptsduk.org/

So, here is my story:

I was in an abusive relationship from the age of 18 for 3 years. If you google abuse, you will find five types; I experienced four- emotional, physical, religious, sexual…and I assume if my relationship had entered into marriage…financial.

When it comes to expressing my feelings about what happened to me, I became the master at making people think that everything was ok. But behind closed doors, I was in shock, mentally and physically… for years.

Friends that were around at time, had no idea what was happening to me, and neither did my own parents. In the aftermath, I buried everything, out of protection for the people around me, and because I was still trying process what had happened me. Physically, I was already showing signs of my mental state; being diagnosed with a lung condition because acid had mysteriously tipped into my lungs (looking back, potentially caused by the fight or flight, cortisol/stress, or something similar).

During all of this, I somehow managed to completed 2 degree’s (to a high standard), completed a summer on Camp as a leader in America, and Produced a year-long theatre production ….however, I was secretly drowning, and I couldn’t find a way to swim back to shore.

Fast forward, and 3 years ago, I started having panic attacks (4 years after I was well clear of the danger). At first these happened during the day, then started happening during my sleep. At times, this also came with an inability to speak, which there no physical explanation was for. It culminated in a trip to A & E, as my brain basically broke down. Before all of this, I had never had a panic attack, and I was not an anxious person.

A few months later, I was formally diagnosed with PTSD by my consultant, and after a wait, because of a bipolar 2 disorder diagnosis at the same time, I started EMDR treatment.

EMDR is AMAZING. FULL. STOP. It works by processing traumatic images that are stuck on one side of the brain, which couldn’t process themselves. When triggered, these images are like reliving the trauma (the image pops back up in your head). My therapist grades my disturbance on a scale of 1-10, and then uses my eye movements to process the images (by waving her fingers in front of my eyes). The idea is that the disturbance level decreases each time/ over time. It seems to be working for me; my therapist went over the list of problems I came to her with 2 months ago, and we checked a lot off the list! J

My therapist has also cleared up something important for me, which I want to pass on. I walked around trying to understand why I froze…why I just froze. My therapist said:

‘When things we cannot process at the time are happening to us, there is a survival instinct that makes us freeze…. After years of trying to figure it out, why someone so strong natured…just froze… now I understand. I hope that thought helps someone else out there, still trying to understand. We were trying to survive.’

With all the help I have been given, and the support of everyone close to me, I have managed to find a way to forgive my abuser, not for his sake, but for mine. I was carrying around a lot of hate and anger, and it was taking me down, from the inside. I am not suggesting this will work for everyone, but it has for me. I can move on now knowing that karma will one day kick in…and God is watching everything.

To conclude, yes, sometimes I feel like a ticking time bomb, and yes, I have to be vigilant of potential triggers right now, (I carry a bottle of cinnamon with me, in case I feel overwhelmed: using a sense to distract the brain), and I think I will always struggle to tell my friends what really happened (but they have been amazing), but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I didn’t think I’d be able to say this 3 months ago, but bring on my knight in shining armour…ok ok…. maybe just a date, with a nice boy…in Nandos restaurant and a life full of my fulfilling dreams. Bring.it.on.

‘Back from the edge, back from the dead

Back before demons took control of my head

Back to the start, back to my heart

Back to the [girl] who would reach for the stars’

– James Arthur