I’ve suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for as long as I’ve been diagnosed with ME/CFS, but before that it wasn’t really something that I had experienced.
The reason I’m writing this post now is because this has been playing on my mind a lot this week. For Uni, I have two presentations that I have to do in a few weeks; one, a 15 minute presentation to do on my own, and the other a 10 minute presentation in pairs.
I can already feel myself getting anxious about these, but not only that, also about the fact that it would not be impossible for me to have a panic attack before, during or after the presentation, which is causing me to feel more anxious and it just goes on. The more anxious I feel, the more likely it is that I will have a panic attack, and because I’m feeling anxious about having the panic attack, it’s increasing the chances that I will have one – does that make sense?
For me, anxiety and panic attacks are a vicious cycle. Once it starts, I find myself getting more and more anxious about a panic attack potentially happening, and despite usually being in control of this, I do find myself in situations where I start to really struggle and I have to get out of that situation as soon as I can.
Well anyway, the idea of this post wasn’t to ramble on about how I may or may not have a panic attack in a few weeks, but to hopefully give a little bit of advice on how to deal with your anxiety. So here we go!
I find that when I’m feeling unorganised and out of touch with everything, I start to feel more anxious, compared to when I have everything under control. For me, my anxiety correlates very much with how much control I have. By control, I mean, are you in control of your health, your Uni work, your social life; is everything organised and going to plan or do you feel like everything is going wrong? If you’re feeling like nothing is going right for you, then chances are, you’re feeling out of depth and out of control.
This is what has happened to me this past week; after a couple of weeks of really not being well, I’ve lost control over a few things, such as my food, fitness, my Uni work and even my tidy bedroom! Very quickly I realised that I had to get these things back under control and organised if I had any hope of dealing with my anxiety about the presentations.
So just take it one step at a time; I find a to-do list helps, perhaps one for each area you need to focus on and just slowly work your way through them, and hopefully you will start to feel a bit more relaxed and in control again.
I can’t stress this enough but if you’re feeling anxious, you NEED to take time out of your day to just breathe. Even if it is just for a couple of minutes when you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, it will just help to put things in perspective and help you to carry on. This is where I use Mindfulness, which you can read more about in this post I wrote about it. I also like to use Calm which also comes as an iPhone app.
Take some time out
This is equally important, and very similar to the previous tip. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious, it’s a really good idea to concentrate on your mental health, and by taking some time out, you can do just that. Perhaps having a long soak in the bath, watching your favourite film or reading a book will help you to relax and help you deal with that anxiety. I personally like to use my dot-to-dot book which really helps me if I’ve got a lot on my mind, as it gives me something completely different to focus on!
Talk to those close to you
Be honest about how your feeling. No one can help you unless they know how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling anxious, tell someone, and perhaps they can help, or at least, be someone that you can turn to when you need to. Bottling things up never helps anyone, and can just make you feel worse, so by talking to someone, you can relieve that pressure and hopefully help your anxiety.
Make some adjustments
This is some advice that I need to take myself, and which I’m planning on doing this week. If you’re feeling anxious about a situation, try and make some sort of adjustments to help your anxiety. For example, I know if I don’t do or say anything about the anxiety I’m getting about these presentations, I’m just heading for a disaster. So this week’s task is to adjust my learning support plan with the learning support team, and talk to my tutors about possibly making some arrangements for these presentations which relieves my anxiety a bit. I’m not entirely sure if there are any adjustments that can be made for these presentations, but just by talking to my tutors about how I’m feeling will allow them to understand and hopefully make some sort of allowance for me. Realistically, they don’t want me to have a panic attack in the middle of the presentation anymore that I do!!
This isn’t always possible, but if it is, I definitely recommend trying to do something because that will make a massive difference. It might just be that you’ve taken too much on, especially if you suffer from a chronic illness, that can happen very easily, so try and make some adjustments and it might just help to take some pressure off you.
So there we go, anxiety is awful, and it never truly goes away if you suffer with it, but there are a few things that may help on a day-to-day basis. I know all of these have helped me in the past when I’ve felt particularly anxious, so I really hope they can help you too!
Please do let me know if you suffer with anxiety and have tried anything I’ve suggested, I’d love to know!
Disclaimer: I do find that anxiety works differently for everybody, and dealing with it can also differ for everybody. This advice is simply what has worked for me in the past, and may not work for everyone.