I’ve been a little stressed out recently, my anxiety has been through the roof, I have ups and downs and good days and bad days, so I thought I’d write a little about what I do to cheer myself up and stay calm. My hormones can be pretty out of control right now, which is to be expected, but sometimes I find leaving the house a scary and daunting prospect, even though I don’t know what I’m scared of. I can get this sudden fear of the unknown, like a sixth sense warning me that something bad will happen if I leave the safety of my home or try something different for the first time. Of course, it’s not a sixth sense, my CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) therapist described it as my body’s survival mechanism going into overdrive. That my ‘flight or fight response’ is heightened due to my emotional distress. I feel constantly on edge, like a black cloud is following me. I feel physically nauseous and breathless at the least little change in my environment. Basically, I protect myself (and my baby) by shutting myself off, not partaking in social situations and not taking ‘risks’. By ‘risks’ I don’t mean skydiving or anything, it could be something as simple at taking a walk to the park depending on what mood I’m in.
I was recently listening to a beautiful song by Macklemore and Ed Sheeran called Growing Up and the line “Cause your momma’s the toughest person I know/I wanna raise you to be like her” got me thinking, my biggest fear is that she’ll grow up to feel this way too, that I’ll stop her from trying new things and she’ll miss opportunities because of my over-protectiveness. This thought triggered a sort of turning point for me. I’m not saying it ‘cured’ me (far from it) but it gave me the biggest kick up the bum, the biggest wake-up call not to allow my fears to control me so they don’t impact her life. I’ve started to concentrate on the things that make me happy no matter how small they are and focus on how they make me feel and try to embrace this feeling when that black cloud starts to mosey on up behind me. I am by no means an expert on anxiety and coping techniques, these are just a few little things that (sometimes) work for me…
Writing Things Down
Writing posts like this, whether you decide to publish or not, can be incredibly therapeutic. Sometimes my mind can become over jumbled with emotions and negative voices, it’s hard to pick out the rational thoughts amongst the noise. Scribbling down thoughts, in paragraphs, mind maps or a letter to yourself can offer a sense of clarity. You can reflect on the written word, assess your physical and emotional responses; Where they justified? How could you have handled that situation differently? When I look back on certain situations I often make them worse than they actually were, my negative thoughts warp the memory to make my fear seem justified, it’s good to see it in black and white sometimes.
Reading or Listening to Music
I find rereading an old favourite (like The Time Traveler’s Wife or Harry Potter) or listening to a beloved album (usually a movie score, a piece by Craig Armstrong or Hozier) can be really comforting in moments of panic. To just take a few minutes to stop everything and concentrate on something completely different helps my anxiety level itself out slightly before it reaches panic stations.
Recently I picked up Calm by Michael Acton Smith, a beautifully illustrated mindfulness ‘bible’ if you will, that you can pick up at any point to take a second to breathe and rebalance. It has tips on different calming scents, essential oils, colouring pages, reflective diary pages and breathing techniques which you can adapt and use in whatever way works best for you. Just having it around and being able to glance at its idyllic sky blue front cover helps me to stay relaxed. There’s also an accompanying App but I’ve yet to download it.
Taking Time to Pamper Yourself
Some of my favourite beauty products I use to pamper myself are shown above. I think everyone has a scent that they connect with being calm. For some it might be lavender, freshly cut grass or the sea air, for me it has to be rose. Of course, there has been years and years of scientific research carried out about aromatherapy and its effects on anxiety, depression and even dementia, but I am obviously no expert in this field, although I do find it fascinating. Rose scented products and of course, the flower themselves, when not too overpowering, helps me to feel more serene. Do you have a scent that makes you feel this way?
Spending Time with my Pets
Going for a walk on a sunny day or even just snuggling on the couch with my two fur babies helps to melt all the tense, on edge feelings away. Knowing that their love is unconditional and without judgement, helps me to appreciate the small things in life no matter how much I think I’m starting to lose it. On top of that, they’re just so bloody hilarious. Alfie’s mischievous and soppy nature and Molly’s sassiness never fail to put a smile on my face, even on my worst days.
I understand that what works for me might not work for others. Some find CBT extremely helpful and worthwhile, unfortunately this wasn’t the case for me, but at least I tried.
What helps you to find that moment of calm?
What memory, possession or activity helps you when you’re feeling overwhelmed or out of control? Do you have any techniques or tips you’d like to share?