Managing Anxiety; How it helped me

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I have social anxiety. While people might not notice, it can take over your whole life. Your thought process, actions and feelings. For over 3 years, I didn’t know what caused my Anxiety and what type I had. I simply got told “You have anxiety” 

I first really noticed my anxiety when I started college. I went from going to the same school every day, talking to the same people for 5 years to being thrown into a new place where I knew no one. I’d have to catch the bus, where I knew no one, go to my college class, where I didn’t know where I was going, and learn completely new things. I was way out of my comfort zone. Everything was new and it scared me. 

The first couple of weeks were average, after those first weeks was when my anxiety really got the best of me. I’d wake up feeling faint, out of breath and shaky. I’d have strong feelings of nausea, hot and cold spells and almost as if my heartbeat was beating out of my chest. Most mornings would end me staying home because I couldn’t’ make it out of the door.  

College Councilor created a feeling of Weakness 

After missing a couple of days, my college teacher referred me to one of the college councilors. I’d have a meeting with her every Thursday. She was lovely. She did everything in her power to help me, giving me websites and videos to help me figure myself out. But I found it hard to open up to her.  

I’m naturally shy and quite introverted, so having to go from keeping my feelings to myself to being told to tell someone everything I’m feeling was quite a drastic change. 

While the councilor didn’t try and figure out what was causing my anxiety, she offered to meet me outside of college every day and walk to my class with me, but it made me feel even worse. It made me feel like everyone was staring at me as I walked by. I soon told my councilor that I was fine walking in by myself, because my brain told me that everyone was staring at me. 

My Anxiety took over 

It seemed to keep getting worse. I wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before, I’d get up feeling faint and nauseated. I once again wasn’t able to walk down the stairs without feeling nauseated. My mum tried everything to help me, but she herself didn’t understand what was going on.  

This went on for months. Soon my mum got frustrated, with herself for not knowing what was wrong with me and how to comfort me. One morning ended in a yelling match and I went to college feeling like I had done something wrong, but I couldn’t help but feel how I felt in the mornings. She soon apologized to me while I was at college and she did some research on how I had been feeling. 

What helped me 

Counseling isn’t for everyone. It didn’t really help me, it just made me feel more vulnerable as it felt like everyone felt sorry for me. I decided to figure out what helped me the most in these moments. I could feel myself getting worked up, so I would put my headphones on and play music. I wouldn’t play it too loud as it can quickly become overwhelming.  

In my feelings of nausea, I would do a specific breathing exercise that has worked every time. It’s called Square Breathing. Imagine a square in your mind, breathing in for one side of the square for 4 slow seconds, hold it for 4 slow seconds, then out for 4 slow seconds, then hold that, repeat. I knew everyone says that breathing helps, but I didn’t expect it to help that much. It completely stopped any and all feelings of sickness and nausea. 

My mum started driving me to college as the bus was one of the things that worked me up before getting to college. I would distract myself by reading car number plates, or listing the model of car and the colour. 

Most of the time when I’m feeling anxious, I don’t want to talk to anyone. I can get really irritated and can snap at people. But when my anxiety is less impactful, talking to someone can help me forget about it. I prefer to talk about anything and everything, as long as its not related to my anxiety. Talking over the phone about different subjects really does help me become distracted and less anxious. Messaging doesn’t have the same impact for me as talking over the phone does. 

Feeling anxious at night can really impact your sleep and schedule. What I found helped me was I would watch videos I found relaxing. I would sit up straight and take really deep breaths while watching those videos and by the end of the video, I would be breathing normally and the feeling of anxiety would mostly be gone, though this didn’t work all of the time.  

My cat was a massive help. It was like she could detect when I was feeling anxious. She would just sit on my lap and purr. It was a massive distraction and how could I say no!

Overall, my social anxiety still affects me today. I struggle with talking to strangers, answering the phone, answering the door, but I push myself out of my comfort zone. I force myself to have these interactions so I can better myself and become more comfortable and confident. After all, going out of your comfort zone is uncomfortable, because you have never been there before, and in order to grow, you need to face the world head on. 

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