“Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems” (Sadness, Inside Out, 2015)
It’s never easy or enjoyable to write about things that affect you, especially if like me, you’re an intensely private person. It is however, sometimes necessary. As I have hinted at before in previous blog posts, I’m not the most easy-going humanoid to have ever graced the planet. I have always been a worrier, but there are periods when this becomes greatly intensified. Living in a state of constant anxiety, being so highly charged, is a vulnerable place to be. Like an exposed cliff, you leave yourself open to erosion. I think in Ireland, there is still a kind of hush hush attitude existing around mental health issues. Whilst pockets of conversation have opened up about depression, anxiety remains somewhat hidden in the shadows. In my opinion there is a wide misconception about anxiety, with many people believing it is synonymous with fear or worry. Coming from someone who gets extremely anxious, believe me, it greatly supersedes worry. I often find it cathartic to read papers pertaining to anxiety and found one definition particularly enlightening. Alan Hunt defines fear as “a realistic anxiety, an immediate response to fear or danger, and anxiety as a non-immediate apprehension”. This illuminates why sometimes the trigger(s) for anxiety may be unclear. I think the stereotypical British “stiff upper lip” mentality exists in Ireland too, albeit in a less eloquent format! How many times have you reciprocated a question of how you’re doing with the blasé “Era sure I’m grand” response, when often this couldn’t be further from the truth. I have to give a chuckle when I hear (often but not always) an elderly person talk about a person with depression or anxiety saying, “Poor man his nerves are at him”. This seems so misguided and highlights that as a culture we supress more difficult issues, such as mental health with broad sweeping statements.
With this underlying tension regarding such issues, it makes the subject difficult to broach. When I, on occasion, manage to put my stubbornness aside for five minutes and muster the courage to talk to someone about feeling anxious, I find it difficult to articulate the emotion. Talking about it makes me more anxious, but equally not talking about it makes me feel like I’m going insane. It’s exceedingly tough to try and vocalise your convoluted thought processes to someone else when often you yourself can’t untangle the web. Overthinking really is a bitch (excuse the language, this blogpost is rated 12A). The other issue that talking to someone else creates is a fear on their behalf. Whilst I understand that they are wary of saying anything that will further exacerbate your anxiety, “I don’t know what to say to you” is the statement I fear above all else. I’m not looking for sympathy or some miraculous solution, simply reassurance; a reminder that life and emotions are transient. Although this anxiety, a constant noise in my head, will probably never fully disappear, it is comforting to be reminded that calmer periods follow a storm.
October has been one extremely testing month for me, which is what inspired this blogpost. Primarily, college seemed to get exceedingly difficult out of nowhere. Essay tittles seemed to amplify in complexity and deadlines all fell together. Compounding this was the pressure of the weight of these marks, a treadmill of thought stressing that these marks help to determine what degree I get: DON’T FUCK IT UP, AMY! replaying in my head 24/7. There was little to no time for breaks and I felt completely frazzled, my brain stretched to its absolute limits. Feeling overworked is certainly a trigger that heightens my anxiety. It surfaces a fear of underwhelming myself or other people. Although I managed to get all my assignments in on time, this did not serve to quell my anxious mind, as the knowledge that this is only the beginning of the workload began to creep in. Stress in college is only one of the things that heighten my anxiety. Other things may include: conflict, making mistakes, or certain social situations. A lack of sleep has made the situation considerably worse this month. Whilst I have not yet found a method of coping with anxiety, I have found some things that help diminish the feelings of panic. I include them here for the benefit of my fellow nervous nellies:
- When you’re in a state of panic, try this: Look around you and find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear and two things you can smell. This is called grounding and certainly helps me when I’m at my worst.
- Lavender is your friend. Use and abuse it.
- Download the Calm app. It’s free and includes a variety of really calming nature sounds, like the beach and the rain. You don’t need internet to use it, which means it’s readily available whenever you need it. It also includes a guided mediation, which isn’t really my cup of tea but it may suit some people.
- Whilst my cynicism and stubbornness prevents me from engaging with those preachy self-help/change your life type books, I have always been a fan of TedTalks. They seem more normal, more realistic and often help me gain a little perceptive. Below are three of my favourites: Hibernate, Adapt or Migrate (Summer Beretsky); Be The Warrior, Not The Worrier (Angela Ceberano) ; The Power of Introverts (Susan Cain)
- Music serves as an instant de-stressor. I have spoken before about my affinity for Keaton Henson, in particular his orchestral album Romantic Works. Specifically the piece “Elevator Song” helps soothe me. Another calming song I play on a loop is “Those Days” by KAASI. Conversely, I find motivational music helps me get out of an anxiety slump where I can often feel useless. I have mentioned their work before, but Public Service Broadcasting really does the job here! My top uplifting tunes from them are: "London Can Take It" , "Spitfire" and "Everest"
I hope this post hasn’t been too rambly, or self-indulgent! I understand that so many people feel this way, which is partly my reason for writing this. Thank you for giving it a read. Until next time,