During the exam period, I found it very stressful, now I haven’t been diagnosed with anxiety because I haven’t felt it for long enough and after exam period finished my symptoms of anxiety vanished due to the vast amount of stress being alleviated. However, I did suffer the symptoms and wouldn’t wish them on anyone. My head felt like it was racing with thoughts, my mouth felt dry and I could barely stomach any food. I cried a lot at least once a day and had mood swings which is out of character for me. My mum used to say to me “take a chill pill” but in all honesty, it’s not as easy as that when you have anxiety symptoms you can’t just “chill” there’s always things you need to be doing, or a thought that comes to bother you. During exam period, I felt that no matter how much revision I did I would inevitably fail leaving me feeling hopeless.
I feel that today, despite mental health issues becoming an “epidemic” there is still a stigma attached to mental health disorders making it very difficult to admit to people that you have one despite the one in four statistics. I often feel that anxiety is romanticised as cute and quirky generated by authors who think going for a coffee will somehow magically banish all the symptoms, even though caffeine isn’t the best thing to solve anxiety. When I had the symptoms, I felt like my anxiety was never going to end but speaking from experience if you are suffering with anxiety you will see the light at the end of the tunnel and dig yourself out of the pit which you find yourself in. It won’t be a quick fix and you may feel that anxiety consumes you for days, months, weeks, years even, but you should appreciate the good days when you have a smile on your face and take the days everyday as they come, not think about the weeks that follow. So, here’s my advice on looking after yourself as anxiety can take over leaving you in forgetting about yourself.
1.) Take a break
When I was doing my A levels I can’t remember giving myself a day off because I was so worried. It got to the point where my work began to consume me and I often felt like I was drowning under the weight of my own high expectation and the masses of revision I had given myself. It got to the point where revision became like an addiction, like alcoholics suffer without their vice, I couldn’t go a day without doing work. In reality, people who have a job don’t work for seven days a week. I always had a heavy sense of guilt when I wasn’t revising which caused it to become a compulsion where I would labour over books for 3-4 hours, sometimes more every day. My advice would be stop, just stop, you can, it won’t hurt you too much as long as you keep a balance and don’t go out every night. Just breathe, relax, take every day as it comes and focus on the end goal. If it helps have a night or a couple of nights a week where you do something you love whether this be a sport, a craft, volunteering or a hobby. For me I found that when I was doing something productive that wasn’t work it took my mind of my anxiety and my revision so I would advise you to do the same.
2.) Eat Cake
Now I’m not saying eat it all the time, but eat things you enjoy. I personally have a very sweet tooth and during the stress of the exam period lost half a stone because my bowels just went AWOL. Everything I ate went in one end and came out the other, or I was sick because of the stress (Sorry too much information). Eating things, you like might make you feel better, although only eat bad things in moderation.
3.) Let your emotions out but don’t let them rule you
Personally, I still find it very difficult to express my emotions I am what my mum calls me “an emotional retard”. I always keep things bottled up until I decide I can no longer keep them in. Emotions are meant to be felt, it’s ok to not feel ok all the time, we all have good days and bad days. We’re not robots and not made of iron but flesh and blood, we’re all only human and we must understand that it’s ok to cry. Generally, you tend to feel better after you cry, I know that I found this. Once you show your emotions people will begin to understand how you’re feeling, they won’t think you’re weird or judge you, but know you’re not feeling yourself and need help. People will help you if you let them which brings me on to my next point.
4.) Talk to people
This is probably one of the most important pieces of advice I could give you. Talking to people gave me lots of opportunities to feel better within myself and allowed people to help me. I was designated a safe space where I could go out if I needed some down time, get a drink, colour and talk if I felt like it. If I couldn’t concentrate within lesson I was given a classroom on my own, or time to go down to the safe space. This also allowed me to open up conversation with my peers and made me feel less alone. If you feel you can’t talk to parents/carers, teachers or friends tell your doctor (I will do a blog post on this if you would like one, let me know in the comments). If that fails ring the Samaritans on 116 123 (UK only). I will link the website below for more information.
Remember you are not alone ¼ people suffer with a mental illness at some point throughout their lives, remember you aren’t going mad or cracking up and you will come out of the other side but like I said It takes time and that time is different for everyone. You’re doing great, keep your chin up
5.) Read a book
For me reading helped me hugely as It didn’t let me concentrate on my own whizzing thoughts, it transported me to another world where characters had their own lives and problems that didn’t concern me. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a story just read something whether it be a magazine, short story or group of poems but DO NOT USE FACEBOOK AS READING. This also brings me to my next point.
6.) Stay off social media
Social media puts a lot of pressure on us to live a “perfect life” where we all look perfect and have a perfect career, husband, life-style, families and holidays. Whereas in reality we’re getting divorced because our husband has shagged the neighbour, we found out we were adopted (Not that it’s a bad thing to be adopted, don’t call the NSPCC on me) and the 5* holiday we booked turned out to be a rat-infested caravan that stinks of shit. Ok a little over- dramatic but there we go, social media isn’t real we all know that, but we all seem to become absorbed in the fake people portray. Coming off Facebook was the best thing I ever did, it allowed me to focus on exams and myself and I didn’t miss it either.
7.) Have a bath
Fill it with things that relax you whether it be a scented candle, bubble bath, bath oil and bath bombs. Go mad, make a bath cocktail.
8.) Go for a walk
Walking helps clear your head, I used to go walking quite a lot and visit a little dam where I could just sit, admire the view and just be without worrying about anything.
Stop, take time out, breathe, focus on your breathing count your breaths in, out in out, that’s it. Where is the sensation in your body and are there any feelings of tension not judging it just noticing it? For me meditating really helped me just take a break from my constant thoughts. My mum works for the NHS and could get a free trial for a yearn of an app called headspace which I am using at the minute. It gives you several packs to choose from to help you get through whatever you may be feeling. It is usually quite expensive at £52/6 per year but you can join a site called anxiety.org and get mentoring for £30 which comes with a subscription to headspace. Just so you know I am not sponsored by either site just making you aware of them in case you need to use them. Alternatively, there are free apps on the app store and I’d always recommend doing the free trial.
10.) Make yourself look good
When I was suffering with anxiety I could hardly be bothered about my appearance, now I’m not necessarily a vain person but like to look presentable. When my anxiety was at its worst I would just throw some clothes on not caring how they looked or whether they matched. I wouldn’t even dab makeup on my face because I really didn’t care about myself. I would scrape my hair into a ponytail and when I was feeling particularly adventurous maybe even a plait. On good days, I would put the tiniest bit of tinted moisturiser on and it did make me feel better as they say, “you look good you feel good”. Sometimes on days when I wasn’t feeling my best planning my outfit, straightening my hair and doing my make-up would help and it might help you too.
So, all that’s probably left to say is thank you very much for reading, if you are suffering with any mental health disorder remember you are not alone, live everyday as it comes and pat yourself on the back for getting through today no matter how difficult you find it. There is light at the end of the tunnel and you will begin to feel better. I hope these tips help even if it’s one person who reads this blog, feel free to leave any comments of things you do to help your anxiety and let me know if these tips help you. If you need someone to talk to do not hesitate to contact me because I know how you’re feeling and remember if today hasn’t gone so well tomorrow is a new day. Finally if you’d like me to write anything else about my experience with anxiety let me know in the comments section below, I am more than happy to answer your questions.
Much love and take care of yourself,
The Girl With Purple Dockers.