A few people have asked me recently what I do to try and combat my anxiety. Really it’s a combination of a few different things. There’s no quick fixes and it’s a lot of hard work. Also, what works for me may not work for others. But it could be a starting point.
Let’s point something out. Medication is not for everyone. I find they help me keep an even keel so I can focus my attention on other things. Currently I take 75mg of Venlafaxine a day split over two tablets, one in the morning and one in the evening. I’ve been taking it now since December 2015. My GP thinks I’ll be in it at least until January 2017 and I’m okay with that. Before Venlafaxine I’d been trying several different dosages of citalopram. It had worked for me several times in the past but recently I found it wasn’t working the way I needed it to. Citalopram works well with anxiety which is all well and good, but my latest episode saw depression become more dominant. The venlafaxine takes care of that for me. It doesn’t eradicate all of it. I still suffer from moodswings and the occasional spell of anxiety, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was. I’m more balanced and can try and lead a normal life.
Counselling & Therapy
I’ve been lucky as my workplace arranged counseling sessions for me with a therapist. Six to be precise. I was given the option of face-to-face or over the phone. I chose the phone option as it could be arranged and implemented a lot quicker than personal which would take a couple of weeks to sort out. That and going to an appointment where it would take a three hour round trip on public transport when you’re suffering from anxiety and general agoraphobia didn’t really sound like much fun to me.
I was booked in for six sessions with a guy called Stephan, a week apart and arranged at my convenience. We would talk about the various things that had led to my anxiety crescendo. I had no major trigger points that I was carrying from the past that I had buried deep in me, rather I’d had problems dealing with what I’d experienced over the previous few years. The sessions helped me put into place coping mechanisms and strategies to help me deal with situations.
One of the first techniques Stephan taught me about was tapping. This is based around EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) where you tap along to audio tracks. The tracks are based around positive reinforcement messages and you ‘tap’ along, either certain patterns or on certain parts of your body. It’s about breaking down thought processes and making sure they become more manageable.
I tried two different paths here. The first was using the Break Free Anxiety app. You can download it free from iTunes or Google Play Store. There are a few different click tracks you can listen to. It asks you to try three different types of tapping, a fast paced one with one hand, a slower one with the other and a third using both hands. You tap whenever you hear certain beats or tones. The tracks run for about twelve minutes or so and there’s a few to choose from.
I was also told to search on YouTube for EFT anxiety and look at videos. After looking at several different ones I found one that suited me by a guy called Brad Yates. I checked out the Brad Yates website and found it’s full of the usual motivational spiel. I looked a bit closer at his YouTube channel and found he’s done quite a few different videos around tapping and has a quite relaxed style. You can find his EFT tapping video here.
Another app I checked out was the Headspace app. It’s centred around using guided meditation techniques to help focus you and put you in a more relaxed state. I asked around a few people and found some of them used the app. I downloaded it and had a look around. It’s got a pretty simple but colourful layout. There are ten free sessions to run to help introduce you to the techniques involved and just get you used to the whole thing which was cool to someone like me. There was a link to the Headspace website where you can read up a bit more to what they offer. You can also sign up to their subscription service that offers up a lot more. There’s a huge range of various different sessions covering lots of different subjects. If I’m having an anxiety attack this has been my go to source for relaxation and have found it works for me. I’ve even subscribed now and I’m hoping to review the app fully in a later blog. You can download the app for free from iTunes or Google Play Store.
Your lifestyle choices can help or hinder your progress and it’s something you’ve control over. It’s all about making sensible choices. Try to get into a routine of getting up and going to bed at regular times. If you’re off work on the sick it helps you maintain a routine that’ll make going back to work a little bit easier. If you’re not working it’ll still help by establishing a routine that might be lacking and stop you from hiding away. I’m not saying don’t have a lie in or the occasional late night, I’m just suggesting you don’t make a habit of it.
With food and drink again it’s about having a sensible approach. Don’t eat too much crap food and try to eat a bit healthier. It’s really easy to comfort eat but all that will do is make you feel bad when you start putting the odd lb on, which you will. Things like joining Slimming World might help. It’s completely up to you. Also, alcohol can have a detrimental effect on your mood so it might be worth watching your intake for a bit. If you drink regularly I’d suggest cutting down or cut out alcohol altogether, but that’s just me. I know it can have a bad effect on my moods so I rarely drink now.
Exercise can prove beneficial on your mental health as well as your physical. If you feel up to joining a gym, go for it. If it doesn’t appeal to you think of other things you can do. A brisk walk can help, even if it’s just doing something like getting off the bus a stop or two earlier. Stick some headphones on and go for a wander for half an hour or so. If you’ve got some spare cash to hand try buying a Fitbit or something similar. It’ll help you keep a track of your movement and things like calories you’ve burned. I’ve had a Sony Smartband for a year or so now and it starts becoming addictive when you’re keeping track of how many steps you’ve taken that day and how many you’ll need to hit your daily target. There’s plenty of free apps out there for you to play around with too.
Take Care Of Yourself
It’s going to sound stupid but it really is the best thing you can do to help yourself. At the end of the day nobody is going to look after you all the time. Just being aware of what you’re doing. You’ll be aware of your own limits so don’t try pushing yourself too hard. Make sure you’re as comfortable as you possibly can be in your own skin and your own mind. It’s okay to push yourself a little to take yourself out of your comfort zone but there’s no point in doing it if it makes you feel bad and uncomfortable all the time. Try to be sensible about it. There’s no rush into making yourself feel better, just take things at your own pace and your own speed. You know yourself better than anyone else so be aware of what you’re doing.
At the end of the day, remember these are just pointers. They’re things that worked for me to some degree but they’re not guaranteed to work for everyone. Try things and if they don’t really work or make you feel uncomfortable then don’t so them. We’re all different and we all react differently to things. The aim is to feel better and you won’t get that way by doing things that don’t work for you. Different meds work for different people in different ways, different therapy exercises work in different ways for everyone. If one thing doesn’t work, try something different. Take advice from people you know who’ve gone through something similar, have a chat with your GP or do some reading online. There’s a multitude of options out there, all you need to do is to find the ones that suit you best.