A while back I wrote a column on how I live with a stress and anxiety disorder. It appeared in print and online on the Leader's website and I was absolutely astounded by the reaction to it.
So many people contacted me about it. Many of them just got in touch to say well done on sharing my story. However many, many more contacted me to say they were feeling the exact same way. They told me that although it's hard, it was actually refreshing to realise that they weren't the only ones. My article prompted people to go and seek help and if one person feels better since reading it, I'm absolutely thrilled.
This week, instead of telling you all about what my two mad kids got up to, I decided to sit down with a dear friend of mine and ask her advice; advice she wants to share with other mums and dads who may also be suffering with anxiety. Indeed, you don't have to be a parent to suffer from it!
My friend Laura Ryder is a mammy of two, a six month old and an almost three year old, and a counselling psychotherapist. She gets stressed and she gets anxious but through her profession, she has some great techniques on how to deal with it, simple things that we can all put in to practise on a daily basis.
“The goal really is to recognise and name feelings and what has caused them, and ultimately manage them,” explained Laura.
So here are her top tips on how to deal with anxiety ...
Anything will do. If you can carve out quality time for yourself, please do it. It’ll make you more relaxed, which in turn will make you less vulnerable to anxiety. I can’t seem to carve out anything that resembles me time at the moment more than making myself a cappuccino every day though. In the past feeling like my me time wasn’t good enough made me more anxious, so try not to fall into that trap!
Bringing your attention to what’s happening in the moment is all the rage these days. You can do loads of things mindfully, but I find the easiest one is breathe. When anxiety threatens to overwhelm, just concentrate on breathing lovely deep breaths. (FYI, this can also work when your little people have been pushing your buttons all afternoon).
Set aside time to be anxious
It’s hard to go cold turkey on anxiety. Try giving yourself a set time period — half an hour maybe — to be anxious each day.
When you begin to feel anxious outside of the set time, mentally reschedule it. Within the set time don’t hold back, really go to town on feeling anxious.
Pare down the to do list
I love my to do list, but it works against me when I overestimate what I can get done on any given day. If you’re the same, try cutting the number of things on it by half.
You’ll get through your list and get that lovely little lift completing the list brings.
Try also putting relaxing on your to do list. If it’s there you have to do it!
Write it down
Or say it out loud, or tell it to a tree; whatever you fancy that gets how you’re feeling out of your head.
Catch the thought
Constant worrying is like a rolling snowball; it gets bigger and bigger and flattens everything in its path.
Trying to catch a worry early is hard, but with practice is gets easier. When you find your mind going there, stop it by shouting “STOP” (effective, but it can lead to your children/the neighbours looking at you a bit funny) or snapping an elastic band or hair tie that you keep on your wrist for that very reason.
Challenge the thought
I find it helps if you pretend to be your best friend here. What would they say to the negative, anxious thoughts? What are the other possibilities? Try to externalise your anxiety for a minute – take it out and have a look at it from all angles, and try to think of some other options to avoid taking your anxious thought as gospel.
It’s just a phase
Your anxiety is not the whole story. You might be in the middle of it right now, but that doesn’t have to mean it’s forever. It might be a sentence, it might be a chapter, but the rest of your story has yet to be written and it doesn’t have to include anxiety.
*You can contact me on email@example.com; Twitter - @_itsjustaphase_; Instagram - @itsjustaphaseblog, or you’ll find more of my musings at www.itsjustaphase.ie.