Since leaving my corporate career & starting my own business almost 4 years ago, I have been very open when talking about the challenges I have faced. Not only the hurdles that come with growing an online business but also ones I have faced personally after being medically diagnosed with anxiety & depression.
Whilst many have questioned my choice to do so, it was a conscious decision to be as open, real & vulnerable as I could.
My reason being is during my darkest of days I would often look for those who had or were also experiencing the same challenges.
Why did I do this? Perhaps I was hoping I would find comfort in not feeling ‘alone’ but to also find some inspiration, hope that I could & would make it through to the other side with the life & the business I dreamed for myself.
Sadly, after endless hours of ‘searching’ I never found what I was really looking for, so I took it upon myself to find the answers & hope I was looking for. As I shared my journey in hope to be the person for someone, that I once looked for myself.
As a result, I am often contacted by not only friends, family & past colleagues but also people I have never met seeking advice on how to “get rid” of anxiety & come out the other side the way I have.
Although I have come to terms with & made friends with my inner thoughts & feelings, I can’t say that I have found a ‘cure’, nor am I completely ‘free’ from anxiety & depression. Will I ever find a cure? No, I’m not sure I ever will. I now believe that we, as human beings, all have emotions (these ones included).
Perhaps it’s not so much about trying to “get rid” of these feelings, but instead finding a way to understand our thoughts, feelings & triggers. What if we could discover & use the tools & strategies that work for us as we continue our day to day lives.
As we edge closer to the end of 2019 & the ‘silly season’ is well & truly upon us, I have experienced a ‘spike’ in people making contact with me to discover my “secrets to getting rid of anxiety”.
It’s for this very reason I thought I would write this article. I want to share some of the tools & strategies that have worked & continue to work for me. I hope that you make the decision to give some a go & find the same inner peace & serenity that these tools have given me.
1. Find some time in each day for you!
We are all busy right? We have jobs to go to, businesses to run. Friendships & relationships to maintain, some even have families & households to look after too! For those of you who have kids, there’s school pick-ups, drop offs, homework to check, breakfasts, lunches, dinners to cook & let’s not get started with all the out of school activities your kids are no doubt involved with! Chuck a toddler tantrum in there & you are screwed! - But you don’t have to be.
Finding even just 5 minutes to yourself in a day can seem easy yet can be very challenging to actually do!
When I started putting my own needs BEFORE everyone else’s & finding a few minutes in my day to quieten my mind from the constant “what’s next”, I started to discover a sense of peace & inner stillness I had never experienced before.
Over time, as I fought off the inner thoughts of “I should be doing something” or “I don’t have time for this I should be doing x”, the constant feeling of overwhelm & anxiety that came with that started to ease.
Gone are the days where people have to walk around me on eggshells waiting for my next eruption. Putting my needs first & taking some time out for me, not only meant I was more productive, but I was also a much better person to be around! For that little 5 minutes I was not only that better person to be around, I was a better person for myself. I also learnt so much about ‘Me’.
2. Start each week (or even better day) with a plan!
If you’re like me, you live a busy life! Which means you also have a lot to get done each day.
I found when I experienced high levels of anxiety, it was often because I had a busy week or day coming up. My thoughts would often start swirling around & become cloudy, causing overwhelming feelings because I couldn’t comprehend how I was going to get it all done without getting out of bed at 3am to get started (& yes, there was a time I would do this!).
To help me calm myself down & to avoid a full-blown panic attack, I bought myself a weekly planner from Kiki K so I could get all those thoughts out of my head & onto paper. - Don’t knock it until you try it!
Once I had it all out, I would write roughly how long it would take me to complete each task & then add up the minutes/hours to see if what I was setting myself was actually realistic or if I needed to move things around or better yet start saying ‘NO’ to the things I couldn’t commit to. At first saying ‘No’ was a challenge but it does get easier.
Being the visual person that I am, I found this strategy worked wonders. Instead of constantly thinking about all the things that needed to be done, all I had to worry about was taking each day & task as it came until I could cross it off as ‘completed’.
There is also something so satisfying about seeing your ‘to do list’ become a ‘done’ list.
Not only does this strategy help with anxiety, but it’s also an awesome way to feel satisfied & proud of what you’ve accomplished each day.
3. Spend time with family & friends.
Now this one for me was a bit of a double edge sword to start with. I knew I needed to spend time with the people that I loved, however leaving my house & spending time with them also gave me anxiety!
However, I didn’t let this stop me. I knew it would be an important part of my ‘recovery’ & I also knew that it’s an important aspect of living a healthy & happy life!
(Having more freedom & flexibility to spend time with friends & family was also one of the reasons I chose to start my own business. So, it seems silly to let something like anxiety hold me back from the very thing that I wanted!)
Each week (of course as I was planning), I’d make sure I had at least one day where I spent time with friends/family.
As I became more comfortable & confident with this, the anxiety started to reduce & I didn’t need so much ‘alone’ time to recover. In fact, when it came to having ‘alone’ time it was so much more refreshing, my thoughts shifted from believing it was ‘alone’ time to being ‘me’ time.
Over time I was able to increase the amount of time I spent with family & friends & as of right now, there’s very rarely a day that goes by where I don’t see many of the people, face to face, that I love.
If social anxiety has got you running for your bed covers, my advice is to start small. Spend time with 1 or 2 people that you trust & who you can be open with about your feelings. As you become more comfortable & start enjoying being out & about more, the anxiety you are feeling will start to decrease just like mine did. I promise!
4. Sleep & Meditation
I know that I am being cheeky here & putting two amazing tools together. However, in my life, although they can sometimes be separate, they often go hand & hand.
Like many, I have an overactive mind & although I can feel physically tired, I often feel mentally wired & ‘switched on’.
It doesn’t matter how many sheep I count when going to bed, I just can’t fall asleep!
I found the best way to help quieten my mind & get some sleep is to meditate at night (or if I want to nap through the day).
There are some great sleep meditations on YouTube, or you can download meditations apps too!
5. Talk about it!
Although each of the steps above have played a very big part in my ‘recovery’ & living a healthy & happy life (minus the panic attacks & outbursts of tears), for me this has been perhaps the most important.
I know what it’s like to all of a sudden be feeling things internally that you’ve never felt before.
I know how scary it is to start talking about it & finding the courage to say “I don’t think I’m ok”
I also know how powerful it is to find someone you trust to share your thoughts, feelings, & troubles with.
Although your journey is your journey & the way you experience life is unique to you. I PROMISE you that there are people out there who love you, who will listen to you & who will hold the space for you to move forward.
For me, I started with the professionals. When my inner world turned upside down & I knew I couldn’t do it all on my own anymore, I went to a Dr I trusted & asked her to recommend me to someone who could help.
I was lucky & got the best psychologist first try, however some do not & if you decide to try this path & you’re not ‘connecting’ with the psychologist in front of you, then that’s ok! Keep trying until you find the right person who will help you! There are plenty out there!
If you decide not to go down this path, then I urge you to reach out to your amazing friends/family. Share with them a little bit about what you’re going through & know that they will be there to support you every step of the way!
Above I have shared 5 of the strategies I have personally found useful to understanding more about myself, where the anxiety & depression was coming from & how I could overcome my mental health challenges.
Along with the 5 I have shared, I have an endless list of different things I’ve tried, experienced & still use today to ensure I live a happy, healthy & fulfilled life with the ones I love.
If you’d like to know more about any of the strategies mentioned above, or anything else I have tried or use then please don’t hesitate to reach out to me as I am only too happy to share!
If you have read the article above & you’re feeling stuck in a place of overwhelm, confusion or experiencing any other feelings of sadness then please know that you are not alone & there are so many people waiting to support you on your road to healing.
A couple of places who are ready & waiting for your call are;
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636 (Australia)
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or FREE text 4357 (New Zealand)
Youthline – 0800 376 633 (New Zealand)
Or Google ‘mental health’ & find your local support organisation.