Ahh, the wonderful world of anxiety.
I’m only a newbie to this place, though I’ve known lots of people who have been here before me. It’s a real shit of a joint. Not the nicest of places to visit at all.
I’ve been lucky enough to never suffer ongoing, serious and debilitating depression or anxiety. Maybe lucky is the wrong word, in fact I’m sure it is. But the truth is, I haven’t. I’ve felt sad, down, nervous, anxious and depressed, but it’s never controlled my life, or taken my power away.
Depression and anxiety disorders are the second leading cause of disability and mortality in Australia, with nearly 3 million people experiencing depression and/or anxiety each year. For those people who find anxiety a daily normalcy, my heart pours only compassion.
However, over the last 3 months since my brother’s accident, I’ve been knocked over a few times by full blown, punch in the guts cases of the mofo that is anxiety.
It’s nasty and hard to explain. When it hits it’s like I’m consumed; there’s a heaviness. I can’t do things I normally find easy. I feel as if there is a metal cage around my chest, which slowly becomes tighter and tighter, forcing the air out of my lungs. It’s there, it’s a physical pain.
Different things seem to trigger it, but generally anything to do with losing control or being away from my brother make it worse. The thought of going back to Melbourne and leaving him is a killer. Even a one night trip to Margaret River had me in quite a state and I almost didn’t go; it almost consumed me.
I literally had to coax myself off the floor, out the door and into the car.
It’s as if… I realise that in the real world there is no rational reason to be feeling the way I am, but at the same time it seems completely realistic that something really awful is going to happen and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. It’s pretty crappy.
I’ve tried a few things to counteract it. This is what has worked for me.
1. SPEND TIME IN THE OCEAN
The healing, grounding qualities of the ocean are a gift. They help to drown out the nervous, uneasy feelings as they arise. The moment my head dips under the water is sheer relief. I’ve always noticed that people who live by the sea seem to be less stressed, more content with their lot. Don’t you agree? Sitting on the sand, listening to the hypnotic crashing of the waves, closing your eyes and smelling the salty air is cleansing, calming and reflective. It seems to put things in perspective. Brings you back to earth.
2. ENERGETIC HEALING
Kinisiology, reiki and chakra clearing have really helped my anxiety, particularly with the removal of the physical pain in my chest. A few kinisiology sessions and it was gone. Completely. My mind is crystal clear the day after a reiki healing and my heart stops beating at a trillion miles an hour. And clearing my chakras (learn more about this here) centres me and balances my energy. A great app for chakra clearing is this one. Give it a go.
Meditiation is the medication people! Jump on this bandwagon folks, it’s a keeper. Yeah I still struggle with meditation; my mind wanders and I become fidgety. But I’m getting it. And the benefits are huge. I’m so much calmer, present and focussed. Winning. I meditate for 10 minutes a day (building up to 20) and sometimes use crystals, guided meditations or visualisations. All good things.
4. AVOID ALCOHOL & SUGAR
For me, both of these things seem to make my anxiety worse or trigger it. It’s the stimulation I think, I became irritated, restless and emotional. Not fun for me or anyone else. So I’ve cut back big time. It’s working.
Sweet Lord, thank you for yoga. Life changer. After a shitty day, I swear that 90 minutes in a yoga class is like 100 hours of therapy. It’s the breathing, balancing, expanding, movement, community, endorphins, ritual, release. I have almost broken down in tears (OK, I have) in that many pigeon poses or back arches; the emotional component is epic. Yoga allows me to breathe love into the pain. It’s acceptance. It’s bliss.
6. CREATE SPACE
Anyone who has suffered anxiety will tell you it’s sometimes like being closed in. So balance this by creating space in your external world. Clean your room. And I mean really clean it. Throw out old clothes you never wear, things you never use. Stuff you don’t need. Removing old, clingy things from your life is release in itself, plus having a tidy, clean and organised space around you makes it easier to feel calm in a stressful situation.
This was my experiment for the past few days – no phone, emails or social media. Overwhelm had slowly crept up on me last week as a mountain of emails, messages, missed phone calls, comments and online stuff built up. Yes, most of it I had brought upon myself (no one would actually give a shit if I didn’t reply straight away, or even at all) but I needed to actually remove the source of the problem and take a real break. Eradicate temptation to become present. How am I really feeling? It’s definitely worked. I’ve slept better, read more, written loads, painted heaps and the anxiety and overwhelm has backed right off.
8. JUST SIT WITH IT
Sometimes we just have to sit with it. Instead of scratching at any opportunity to rid ourselves of the uncomfortable feelings we have from time to time, we must learn to just BE. To just feel anxious and stressed. Or annoyed, confused and scared. To witness how it makes our body feel and our mind race. We must learn to be present enough to really observe ourselves and the way we are feeling, reacting and responding. And know, that it will pass. Often, just acknowledging the awkward feeling and accepting it, helps to release it.
9. TALK ABOUT IT
Finally, tell someone how you are feeling. You don’t need to go into detail, but just acknowledging and discussing it with someone else seems to make the feeling fade faster. Putting it all out there, no matter how intimidating that may seem, can make all the difference. Your vulnerability is also a source of your strength.
When I have mentioned to people that I’ve been feeling this way it’s often met with a ‘yes, I’ve felt like that before’. Anxiety is not uncommon and it doesn’t make you weird or strange to feel this way. Almost half the Australian population will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives. Let’s finally drop the stigma that surrounds mental health, let’s talk about it more.
If you are suffering with severe depression or anxiety or know somebody that is, please seek help at www.beyondblue.org.au
Do you suffer from anxiety? Do you have any other tips to add that work for you? Please share in the comments below.