A Talk About Anxiety

03 February 2018


I haven't planned much of how this post will go, but I thought it might be an important one to write about.

I haven't written anything about my anxiety in a really long time. In fact, I think my High School & Depression post was the last one I really wrote on the topic of mental health, and that was all the way back in August! I feel I owe you a little update considering the amount of insane things I've done since then.

So, why have I chosen to write about this now? Well, this post is going live while I'm doing a pretty major thing, that if you talked to me two years ago and told me I was gonna do it one day, I'd have laughed in your face. (And then apologise, because I'm actually a kinda nice person.) IToday, I'm travelling France. By myself. That's actually crazy!

So, my anxiety story begins so long ago that the actual beginnings have become a distant memory, and it's just this thing that I've carried with me for most of my life. Like a child in the backseat constantly asking 'are we there yet', but instead of that, it's just crippling fear that stops you from doing literally anything and has you sitting an exam in school pressing really hard on the paper because your pen ran out 5 minutes ago and you're too scared to put your hand up to tell your teacher, but also you want to show that you at least tried. (This memory is the reason that I take like 10 pens into exams with me now. It was horrible, and yes, I failed that exam.)

I like to think that I've pretty much overcome my anxiety now, though I do still get bad telephone anxiety. Especially at work if I have to call head office for something. It's not the best but the fact I actively choose to make phone calls now to the doctors, or the dentists, or to a company, is a huge improvement from how I used to be. And I'm proud of that.

I've written an abundance of posts in the past about #positivethinking and how that's changed me, and helped me to combat my mental illness. It's still something that I practice, but I know how difficult it is, so I'm not here to preach about that, don't worry. In saying that however, I do want to reflect a little on it's benefits, for me.

I constantly thought in 'what if' scenarios. "What if I make this phone call and...." (there was never an answer to that question, the uncertainty of a phone call was enough to throw me.) "What if I go to this place alone and something happens to me?" the times I've travelled alone have turned out to be the most incredible experiences of my life. "What if I try surfing and I'm really bad at it and I hate it?" well, I tried it, I was really bad at it, but it was a m a z i n g and I'm so glad I did do it! My point is, I kept thinking about anything to put me off the idea of actually doing something, and it always worked because I never experienced life.

Not only that, but once upon a time, I was so heavily anxious at a previous work place that my then manager had me sitting in the office all day shredding documents so that I didn't need to be around people. It's absolutely insane to think that I'm now a supervisor in a store who talks to people all day, and I'm actually really good at it. But most importantly, I enjoy it.

Which leads me full circle back to what I was originally talking about. I never thought I'd one day have the confidence in myself to go solo travelling, and now, at almost 24 years old, I'm going solo travelling in a foreign country. And the progression from heavily anxious paper shredder to solo traveller is a process that's taken me 5 years to get to. Which, in all honesty, is really fast progress, and I'm really proud of myself for it because not all recoveries are that fast. But at least I've proven that it is possible.

Positive thinking is probably one of the most difficult things to learn to do. I used to argue back to my life coach (I had a life coach, which is a post for another time) all those years ago that 'positive thinking' was this stupid, unobtainable and nonsense concept that nobody actually practiced. It is, however, only something that I managed to adopt once I got too tired of how my mindset made me feel, and I somehow found the switch at the back of my mind that was covered in dust and cobwebs and three layers of chewing gum, and I flicked it. Which changed my mind.

I'm not sure what the point of this post is actuallly about, and I'm kind of rambling. I suppose what I want to say is that if you're struggling with anxiety, I want you to know that you can absolutely beat it. I promise it's possible. And if you want to try positive thinking, then these were the few base things I used to start switching my mindset.

1. Accept that some things you can't control.
You know that feeling when you're on a bus or a train and it's delayed and you're now running late? That stress? You're gonna be late for a meeting or for class and it eats away at you? These things happen. There is literally nothing that you can do to get to your destination any quicker. You don't drive the train, or the bus or that whatever. It's not in your control, so focus instead on your breathing or on your surroundings. Look at the birds in the trees! Isn't nature pretty?

2. Compliment a stranger. Might sound strange, but it's so easy to tell somebody to look in the mirror and give yourself 3 compliments, yet so difficult to practice, and you just feel so silly. Instead, push yourself out of your comfort zone and tell that girl with the multicoloured hair that she looks incredible! I gave somebody a compliment on their jacket once while I was at work and immediately her face lit up - I'd actually made her day. I felt good and she felt good. That's because it's much easier to compliement other people than it is to compliment ourselves. Plus, talking to a stranger in this way is good practice for managing your social anxiety!

3. Start taking photos.
This might sound silly, but I started to take photos a lot more often than I used to. Sure, I'm gonna end up deleting them eventually, but I found something so calming about taking a walk home and taking in the nature around me. A quick picture helps capture the moment in my mind, and it's something that I can smile at. For me, there's nothing more relaxing than nature, and water is my weakness.

So this post got away from me a bit, but I really hope that I said something that resonates with you. TLDR I got over my anxiety and I became one of those 'positive thinking' preachers that I used to hate! But if I can overcome anxiety, than I promise that you can, too.

Okay, I'll stop the post here. Have a good day and until next time, be excellent to each other.


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