I like to think of anxiety as a bad boyfriend: it lies to you, makes you freak out, and is generally a real dick head.
In the past, I’ve had some fairly crap patches where I’ve had anxiety attacks (shaking, sore stomach, chaotic mind, that kind of fun jazz), and stages where I’ve had mild sense of unease – like there’s something I should be worried about, but I can’t quite remember what it is …
This mental health joy ride seems to be triggered in part by my hormones, with the worst of it happening when I went off the birth control pill.
Thankfully, these days it’s just relegated to feeling a bit “off” the week before Aunt Flow comes knocking.
But it’s still unpleasant, and a couple of weeks ago I decided to to dump anxiety like the bad, lying boyfriend he is.
Thank u, next
I think it’s worth noting that seeing a doctor or counsellor is a good idea if you’re experiencing anxiety.
I didn’t. But that’s because I was in complete denial and terrified of there being “something wrong with me”.
But the thing is, one in four people will experience a period of mental health difficultly in their lifetime.
That’s a quarter of the population.
It is insanely common, it is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is something we should talk about more.
Dr Quinn Medicine Woman
Because my anxiety is both reasonably low-level and strongly linked to my hormones, I decided to see Maree, a Medical Herbalist, for a gentle, natural remedy to help balance my hormones and calm my mind.
She stocked me up with:
- A herbal tincture of St John’s Wort, lemon balm and a myriad of other clever flora and fauna
- A super-powered women’s multivitamin
- And a probiotic.
Herbal remedies tend to take a little longer to really build up in your system, but I can honesty say, my symptoms have already significantly reduced since I’ve been taking the above concoction.
And. Thank. GOD.
Other things that have helped
- Sharing with loves ones. I am so thankful for my husband, beautiful mum, and friends for going through this with me. Life is meant to be lived together, and a problem shared really is a problem halved.
- Cognitive techniques. I’ve been listening to Psychologist Dr Caroline Leaf’s podcast, and she has great practical tips on how to manage and calm your mind.
- Regular exercise. One word: endorphins. Several others: feeling like a bad ass, using up excess energy (that can be easily confused with nervous energy), better sleep, improved self-esteem … shall I continue?
- Reducing sugar and fast food. Hands up if you experience a ‘crash’ after mainlining sweet treats or a big greasy burger? They’re Tasty – but problematic, because you’re throwing yourself onto a food-fuelled emotional rollercoaster, while also trying to get off your anxiety-powered rollercoaster. It’s all too much unnecessary turbulence, babe.
- Meditation. I’m a Christian, so I like the SoulTime app, and meditating on scriptures/rolling them over in your mind (things like, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”). But if you’re not that way inclined, HeadSpace and Calm are very good apps as well.
- B r e a t h e. Being deliberate with taking big deep, calming breaths during the day helps lower cortisol levels and tricks your body into thinking you’re safe, and moves you from ‘fight or flight’ to ‘rest and digest’.
- Mantras. When I’m feeling jittery and on edge, I’ve found repeating mantras like “I am calm”, “I am joyful”, “I am powerful” really helpful. A) Because your brain is smart/dumb and will believe what you tell it. And B) Filling your head with these statements leaves less room for toxic, unhelpful thoughts.
- Being in nature. I love nature and find it really calming in general, but the oxygen that comes from trees is also really helpful when you’re feeling anxious and aren’t getting in enough air #science.
Although I have a psychology degree (I really was in denial – I know the dang DSM for anxiety!), I’m obviously not an expert on mental health.
These are just techniques that worked for me.
To find what works for you, get in touch with your doctor or a counsellor.
If you’re in New Zealand, you can free call or text 1737 anytime to anonymously speak with a professional counsellor.
Speak up, girlfriend (or boyfriend). You don’t need to go through this alone, or forever!
Why am I sharing all this?
To be honest, I didn’t really want to.
I didn’t want people to know “my stuff”, or to think that I’m weak.
But then I remembered that when I was at my most anxious, the most wonderful thing in the world was finding out that it wasn’t just me – that other people had struggled with, and overcome, similar stuff.
It made me feel hopeful and less alone, and it’s my hope that this post can do that for someone else.
Because the truth is, you’re not alone. You’re not broken. You’re having a crap time, and you’re in a bad relationship, but life will get better.
Mental health issues aren’t caused by you being weak.
Generally speaking, they’re caused by a genetic predisposition coming into contact with an environmental stimulus.
Ie. You need both a family history/genetic predisposition, and something to happen in life that triggers this issue within you.
Having one or the other does not mean you will develop mental illness – and having a mental illness does not define you.
It’s just a thing that happens sometimes, and it’s something you can fight to overcome.
Even with chronic conditions, there are generally always steps that can be taken to make things comparatively better than they are currently.
You can and you will get through this.