Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Anxiety; It's Different This Time.

I don't know how many times I have tried to write this post. I keep telling myself that I must be honest with my readers, that I created this blog as a space to talk about the things that we are usually too afraid to share, that my aim in life is to be open and honest about my experiences with mental illness so that I can help others to accept, deal with and move on from their own suffering, but what I didn't realise was just how difficult it would be to write so honestly when you're feeling anxious at the time.
As many of you would know from reading my blog, four years ago I suffered from generalised anxiety and major depression.
Thankfully, with the help of medication, my psychologist and the use of strategies and techniques, since that time I have managed to live a happy and healthy life, and have kept depression and anxiety at bay.
That was until recently.
Like so many other people out there I had been juggling the balls of life managing full time work with a social life, sporting committments, committee meetings, quality time with my husband, running a house and everything in between.
While I knew that I was a little more stressed then I would have liked, I felt as though I was coping by using my breathing techniques, focusing on one day at a time, starting each day with a positive 'today will be better' attitude, and enjoying the simple pleasures in life.
It wasn't until one day at netball when a wave of anxiety washed over me that I realised that I probably hadn't been listening to my body and the warning signs that it was showing me, telling me to slow down.
Thankfully, instead of freaking out, bawling my eyes out, curling up in a ball, and hiding away from everyone, I knew that I just had to remove myself from the situation, take some big deep breaths, calm down my breathing and my mind, and reaffirm to myself that I was going to be okay, I wasn't going to die, this feeling wasn't going to be permanent, and that it would pass.
It made me realise just how much I had learnt about anxiety, and how, when you are armed with the tools to manage the feelings, and the knowledge of what is causing the problems, that you can calm yourself down and continue to live your life.
The presence of anxiety did however, make me quickly realise that I had to reassess what was important to me in my life right now.
The list was simple.
1. My health.
2. My marriage.
3. My home.
4. My family.
5. 'Life is a Circus' Gala Dinner.
Writing this list was a HUGE wake up call for me. While it's sad to admit, in the craziness of life and the commitments that we put our hands up for, I had forgotten what was truly important to me.
Like so many others I had stopped listening to my bodies warning signs that I was tired and needed to say 'no' to things.
I was starting to fall back into my old pattern of saying 'yes' to things that I didn't really want to do, and just trudging on, putting one foot infront of the other, attending meetings, and socialising every night of the week, until I had no energy left in my tank.
As a result I had barely any time to spend with my husband, and when I did I was tired.
Renovations were put on the backburner because we were 'too busy'.
I was rarely seeing my family.
I was essentially just living life in auto pilot instead of taking that step back, and realising that life didn't have to be that way and that what I really wanted didn't make me selfish.
When I reassessed what was important to me, I realise that I had to make some difficult decisions and changes so that I can refocus my energy on the things that I truly cared about.
While I don't believe that you should 'quit' or 'give up' on responsibilities because you are feeling anxious, I do believe that you must take control, reassess and decide what things in your life are worth stressing over.
For me, it meant resigning from my incredibly stressful job, and stepping down from coaching.
It didn't mean that I had failed, it just meant that I had created opportunities for other people to step into these positions, while I took the time to look after myself.
The reason that I am so determined to share my story is because I want others to know that it's okay to take a step back and reprioritise your life if you're feeling overwhelmed.
It's okay to put your hand up and admit that you're going through a tough patch right now.
It may be scary to make the changes that deep down, you know need amending, but you will feel a weight lift off of your shoulders when you do.
Anxiety this time around has been different for me.
My thinking has changed.
To be honest, I don't even like using the word anxiety because of the negative connotations and feelings that are attached to the word.
I like to think of 'anxiety' as my stress levels.
I know, that when I'm living life according to my values,  being mindful of having 'me time', breathing, only saying 'yes' to things that I truly want to do,  spending enough quality time with my husband, feeling part of a team and being respected and appreciated, that that's when I feel in control, happy and at a manageable stress level.
It's when I start ignoring my own values and priorities that my stress levels become unmanagable, and that's when I'm more prone to feelings of anxiety.
I know that I can make the feelings pass by;
  • Taking big deep breaths
  • Distracting my thoughts by thinking about something else, or looking at the beauty in nature 
  • Practising positive affirmations to myself
"I can do this," "I can handle stress," "I am a happy, positive person", "I will be okay".
  • Thinking about all of the positive things in my life
  • Going for walks to get fresh air, exercise and to focus on the things around me
  • Drinking green tea
  • Being open and honest with those around me about how I'm feeling
  • Challenging my thoughts - is what you are thinking fact or fiction? Are these thoughts positive or negative? If negative, I picture a stop sign so that my brain doesn't ruminate on these thoughts.
  • Down time.
My advice for other people would be to make the time to assess what is truly important in your life. If you are feeling overwhelmed, burnt out or stressed, then perhaps it's time to make some changes.
Being mindful of our stress levels is something that we can all be doing on a daily basis to prevent the onset of anxiety.
If however, you do feel anxious, know that this feeling won't last, that you are capable of coping with life's demands, and that it's just your bodies way of telling you that you need to slow down and take some time out for yourself.
Look after yourselves and those around you,
Kirsty xxxx

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