10 Empowering Practices to BOSS Your Anxiety
HAPPY MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK MY DARLINGS! Hope you’re all treating yourselves and your lovely barmy brains with kindness and love and helping to break down the taboos and stigmas surrounding mental health illnesses everywhere.
Me? Well, truth be told I’M HAVING A RIGHT OLD TIME OF IT. I have felt pretty gosh darn low for no obvious reason for the last few weeks. I’ve been super tearful and emotional, have felt a complete lack of confidence and to top it all off I’ve had a few deliciously intense panic attacks which have left me very shaken and wobblesome. SO YA KNOW, after thinking it through and trying my bally best to be rational and pragmatic, I’ve decided to go back into therapy for a bit. My life has changed so dramatically (literally more dramatic than Dame Judi playing Hamlet whilst in full RuPaul drag get-up whilst listening to 80’s Power ballads) in the last year, that whilst I’m convinced the changes are good things, I haven’t really processed or digested them. So Imma go have a chat to someone about my brain and my feelings once a week for a while and see if it helps.
Choosing to go back into therapy, finding a therapist who sounds like she might be for me and being brave enough to speak to her on THE PHONE (I KNOW!) was very empowering and made me feel I was getting one up over on the Anxiety Goblin who so often reins supreme in my once. I started thinking about what else I find powerful in my battles against it, and this is what I came up with.
1 . Distract Your Brain
Spoken before about this, but I read a great quote about anxiety by Jodi Picoult which I really feel sums it up- “Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.”So, to break it down, if your brain is bored, it will worry. Because it needs SOMETHING to do and worrying and feeding anxious thoughts and behaviour is a very easy and accessible thing to do. THEREFORE you need to feed it with delicious, nutritious distractions that keep your brain busy in the right way.
However, if it feels like this is easier said than done- fam, I get you. I love reading because it feels like the quickest way to transport my brain to somewhere totally different, but at the moment, it’s impossible. FOR LOVE NOR MONEY I canNOT get my brain to focus on a book. So, something that’s working for me at the mo, is to do ARROWWORD puzzles. They’re a bit like crosswords but slightly easier (I am not about that cryptic clue life) and I can whip them out of my bag wherever I am and quickly bash through a few puzzles. Brain busy, worry thwarted, boss lady status achieved.You can buy these puzzle books in any newsagent for a coupla quid. Alternatives that also can work- Sudoku, podcasts, or any of these fun little mind games.
2. Laugh at it
Now, one of the BEST EVER ways I’ve ever seen anxiety written about is in Harry Potter. If you’re not a fan of the series, firstly have a word with yourself and secondly, this is the bit I mean: Harry and the gang learn to fight off a creature called a Boggart. The Boggart is a shape shifter and reads the mind of its opponent, instantly transforming into the thing you fear most (still think my boggart would be an audition panel asking me to perform a ballet solo tbh). The way to beat it, is to imagine it in a ridiculous form which then makes you laugh- the spell is quite literally “Riddikulus”.
So for example, the chap who sees a gigantic spider, he imagines it with no legs, which makes it into a giant hairy beachball, the gal who sees a mummy imagines all the bandages unravelling and it tripping over them, and I perform a flawless Margot Fonteyn style routine which makes the panel weep with love for me (then I realise they are wearing no pants hahahahahah LMAO Lolasaurus Rex ROFLcopter etc).
By taking something frightening and laughing at it, you instantly undermine the fear. If you laugh at fear, it instantly doesn’t feel as threatening. Laughter is an incredibly effective way of taking back power against fear, and anxiety is fear in disguise. Fear is scared of laughter, because it cannot control you if its status is threatened and you take away the authority that fear commands. Plus, laughter makes you inhale air, and we all know breathing is a babe when it comes to keeping that panic on the down-low.Seriously though, if you’re on the verge of a panic attack, and you’re with people you trust, teach them to try to make you laugh in that moment. Or if you’re on your own, keep a couple of YouTube videos that you KNOW make you grin within easy reach. Who knew Delboy falling through a bar would help me conquer my anxiety eh?
3 . Compliment Lists
In the back of your notebook or diary make an effort to write down a list of all the nice things people say about you, the compliments you receive, and the things you like about yourself. I MEAN IT BC YOU ARE AMAZING (there you go, there’s your first one). Then, whenever you’re struggling with low confidence or shattered self-esteem, you have a list to read back on and remember that people love you, you are liked and respected, and you have achieved wonderful things and are a total HUN OF HUN HALL.
Anxiety loves to gnaw and chip away at your self-esteem, so that every day you like yourself a bit less, therefore making you less inclined to help yourself. Because why would you put effort into help someone you didn’t like? If you don’t like yourself, you don’t help yourself, and if you don’t help yourself, then the anxiety has won and is already doing a lap of victory around the stadium whilst confetti cannons fire. Don’t let it- have some confidence boosting artillery ready to fire at it!
4 . Read Helpful Things
Whilst I understand that exposing yourself to articles or books about anxiety, panic attacks and other mental health conditions can for some be a trigger, I find that by reading good writing about things that I’m going through and things others find helpful in their battles, help me to feel like I’m not some maverick lone wolf, fighting alone against some huge insurmountable force. That actually I have a WHOLE MASSIVE ARMY OF BABES who are fighting it alongside me. Kind of like, in Lord of the Rings- the Battle of Helms Deep. The Anxiety and Mental Illnesses are the huge army of Orcs and Uruk Hai, and me and other article writers, honest tweeters, book writers are Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli and the rest of those fine bearded babes.
I love the emails from The Blurt Foundation , the writing on The Worry Warrior , the Self-Care Series from Buzzfeed, the mental health content from The Pool and always always always ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig.
5 . Groom Yo Self
This kind of harks back to the whole psyche that goes hand in hand with treating yourself with kindness, help and love. If I don’t feel just a little bit groomed, I find it really hard to feel good about myself and therefore, like I deserve any of those things. Like, I don’t mean a full face every day, or having daily blow-drys or anything, but being a just a little bit pulled together. When I feel ragged round the edges, I don’t feel like the best version of myself on the outside, so there’s no hope in hell of me feeling the best version of me on the INSIDE.
So for me, chucking on some nail varnish, wearing perfume, moisturising my skin, taking my makeup off properly, washing my hair, wearing clean clothes that I feel good in and something that brings me joy (a JAZZY pair of earrings, glittery socks, or a slick of red lippy) makes me feel empowered against my brain. LIKE LOOK HOW SASSY AND CLEAN I AM HOW YOU GONNA GET ME NOW BITCH. BYE FELICIA *insert fire emoji*.
6 . Do Something You’re Good At
When the self-esteem starts to crumble, it often leaves you flailing, feeling like a useless waste of space at work or in your relationships. Well, THIS IS A FALSE FEELING, it’s your anxiety flexing its power once again!
To grab that power back, do something you’re good at. Like, for me, I know I am good at singing and doing it makes me feel good. It might be cooking something, or drawing something, or analysing a piece of literature, completing some hard sums, giving yourself some sickkk nail art, or building some flat pack furniture, or playing a sport, or styling hair or DOING YOUR GODDAM ARROWWORDS PUZZLE IN UNDER 5 MINUTES- it can be anything- just as long as you’re good at it.
Everyone is good at something (YES EVEN YOU) so go show your anxiety that actually, you are talented and it’s part of the very core of who you are, and just because your brain is feeling a bit woah, bit wheyyy, that won’t change.
7. Be Honest
If you are consumed with anxiety, and all the miniscule-but-seemingly-world-crashing-down-around-you-type symptoms and side effects, that is exhausting enough. If you are then putting a huge amount of effort and energy into trying to hide it, well kid, I just don’t think you’ll cope for very long. Hiding your anxiety and the things it does to you tantamount to giving it status. If it’s something to hide and feel ashamed about, well then it MUST be a huge big scary thing that cannot possibly be handled or overcome. And there we go again letting our anxiety OWN us.
The key to this, is owning IT before it has a chance to own you. If you can be honest about wha gwan in your noggin, you instantly reduce the power that anxiety has on you. And LEMME TELL YA, people are great. They are supportive, understanding and helpful. If you have plans with pals and yet on the day it just all seems too much to deal with- tell them. Be honest and say, “Listen my chums- basically getting out the door is too hard for me today. I need to just not be in the world for a bit. I’m sorry to cancel, and I will reschedule when I am feeling more myself.’ and only if they’re a massive douchecanoe will they be annoyed with you- and if they are a douchecanoe, why do you even wanna be friends with them anyway.
Own that shit before that shit owns you-you will empower yourself, and it will become just part of you that you deal with, NOT your defining feature.
8 . Know How to Comfort Yourself
So, you’ve checked out of the world for a bit and are in your safe space and able to breathe and be alone. Sure. What you’re in danger of NOW is spiraling into a yummy little whirlpool of guilt, self-loathing and DOOM. So, you need to take responsibility and know how to look after yourself. I have a little kit of stuff that I turn to when I need wrapping up in a proverbial blanket. It consists of:
– A Harry Potter colouring book and Crayola pencils (that’s right- Motherfucking Crayola. The good shit. Mumma knows how to treat her self.)
– A big jumper that my boyfriend’s nan knitted and a soft, stretchy, black jersey jumpsuit
– A Spotify playlist of songs that my Dad used to play when I was little
– A Lush fragrance that reminds me of a happy time in my life
– The Emperor’s New Groove (aka the funniest and most underrated Disney film of all time, don’t worry about it)
– A few carefully selected books from my childhood- ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’, ‘The BFG’ and Enid Blyton’s ‘St Clare’s’ Series’
– Dreamy soft white bed linen (that I have stolen from my parents bc I can’t afford that sweet sweet threadcount)
– Harry Potter Audiobooks
All of those things are a safe space for me, that help me to feel grounded and connected to myself, so even if I only have one to hand (i.e at work) I can still give myself a sliver of calm comfort when it feels like everything is crumbling down around me. Looking after yourself and providing safe, comfort = EMPOWERED AGAINST THAT ANXIETY. It will nibble around your safe space going ‘LET ME IN’ but be strong- that Anxiety Goblin is NOT allowed to share my Crayolas.
9 . Good Things Word Vomit
When I’m on the verge of a panic attack somewhere where I realllllly don’t want to have one, i.e on the tube, sometimes I take out my phone and hold it in my shaky mitts and start typing. I type any happy, good, wonderful, joyful thing I can think of as quickly as I can in a big, long (often misspelled) list. Typing them helps them to become more real (rather than just thinking them) and it gives my hands something physical to do. My latest list (copied and pasted from the memos on my phone) reads like this:
strawebyry laces, geese, coloured front doors, peproni pizza, houseplnats, marble, rainbows, the smel of rain after iits been raining, sonnets, the sound of an orchestra starting up befire a show, SEX, owls, piglets , haribo frieds eggs, when yo go t o bed and know you will be alseep soon, new bedding, socks, letters, langueges, hot coffee, mums meatballs, holdying ryans hand, hvaing clean skin after makup, roald dahl books, butterscotch
‘geese’. Dunno about you but I am still thankful for geese. LOL hahahah geese wtf I am mental. Anyway, yeah, I find this really helps me to fight off the panic. Consider it your lance as you joust with that goblin. FUCK OFF GOBLIN DON’T YOU KNOW THERE’S GEESE IN THE WORLD MATE?!
10 . Be brave and take the steps you need
Biggie. Summoning the courage to take steps that have a lasting effect in the fight against the mean, irrational bits of your brain is the single most empowering thing you can do. And you can do it, I promise, even if it feels like you can’t. You can ask for help, you can see your doctor, you can go on medication, you can see a therapist, you can learn about CBT, you can do whatever you need to make yourself better. You already have that power, you just need to twat your anxiety goblin out of the way for long enough to access it.
I have suspected for months, years even, that I’d find yoga helpful. But have I found the courage to just do it? NO SIRREEEE. The goblin says I’m too fat for yoga, everyone would laugh at how I don’t know how to do it, everyone will be intimidating, I’m not physically strong or supple enough etc etc etc.
AND YET! This is the week that I’ve DONE IT! I’ve enrolled in a yoga class this week. I’m terrified, but I’m on the list and I’m going to go. And that feels like a big victory over my anxiety to me so YAH BOO SUCKS TO BE YOU ANXIETY YOU MASSIVE BELLEND.
So there you have it. Some ways in which to feel empowered when it feels like you’re the weakest and most vulnerable creature imaginable.
Can’t wait to hear stories of how you cast your boggarts aside and make your own misspelled lists of joy. Oh and p.s if anyone wants to just have a mass screening of The Emperor’s New Groove sometime, hit me up.
LOVE YOU BYE XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX