BREAKDOWN TO BREAKTHROUGH
In year 8, change prompted anxiety levels to rise dramatically- my father had left and pressures at school were becoming overwhelming. I had always been a worrier, but now panic attacks were part of everyday life. I just wanted to give up and this was what I was doing- I lost interest in all the things I absolutely loved and before I knew it, I was trapped in a cycle of seemingly unbeatable anxiety. Each day was a challenge I no longer wanted to face. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to sleep. I didn’t want to study. I didn’t want to exercise. I didn’t want to read. I didn’t even want to talk. I wasn’t living, in fact I was barely surviving. My family watched me disintegrate as I believed that I was nothing, but today I know that I am something. Now, after a huge amount of counselling and support, I am a Christ Follower and I am proud to call Thriving Life Church my home. In November 2016, I was baptised alongside my awesome mum and granny (the three generations). I really enjoy public speaking, campaigning, fundraising, volunteering and writing. 3 weeks ago, I won a Diana Award for my work within the community and I want to be a teacher as I feel so strongly about education. I want to change the world and I believe that there aren’t any barriers- if you want to do something, you will do it. God has changed my life and He can change yours too! There will be battles and sometimes my anxiety creeps up, but I can control it much better now, it is manageable and it certainly won’t stop me, nothing will take me away from my main aim in life- changing the lives of others like the people who have helped me to change mine.
YOU, YES YOU, IT IS GOING TO BE OKAY…
Who is joining me in the fight against anxiety? You see you may judge people saying they are awkward- maybe they don’t want to go into a shop alone, maybe they are afraid to do public speaking, maybe they don’t want to speak up when they are being bullied, maybe they don’t like socialising. Often this is anxiety, don’t judge, support them. I know it is difficult, but you simply have to be patient. We need to tackle this together! So, you are probably wondering how you can fight anxiety, follow these steps, look no further and you will become a master!
ANXIETY ISN’T RARE, YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT PEOPLE ARE REALLY FACING
Everyone, many people in this world are prone to anxiety, but you have two very different options 1) give in to anxiety, and live with it or 2) learn to overcome it and grow from setbacks. By giving in, YOU GAIN NOTHING! For a start, you will continue to suffer and feel unhappy, stressed, down and anxious. What power does anxiety have? Well… it wastes your time, energy and weakens you, both mentally and physically. You help no one, and solve no problems by being anxious. The energy you put into anxiety can be used for something so much more valuable and that is your purpose- chase your dreams and seek who you are.
TAKING THE WHEEL
Take time out- it is impossible to think clearly when you are flooded with fear or anxiety. Yes, you should keep busy, but you need time to physically calm yourself down, breathe and gather yourself. Breathing exercises can truly help- try not to fight the panic- stay where you are and try to be patient with it because eventually you will come out of it- focus on your body. Ask yourself, “am I okay?” “Yep, although I’m shaking slightly, my arms and legs are okay. I feel sweaty, but I know I’m not going to faint.” This will allow your brain to register that you are actually okay. Something which I think is exceptionally important is facing your fears, you need to take responsibility and I know that sounds harsh, but you have to gain control. Whatever you fear, you have to face it. For example, for years my fear was public speaking and now my teachers recognise me as a public speaker; this isn’t because I find it is easy because honestly, I don’t- I have had to work at it! There have been many tears and moments when I have just wanted to give up. You see when the world says no, you have to say next. Tackle your fears and seek your purpose!
FAILURE ISN’T FINAL, STRIVING FOR PERFECTION IS RUINING OUR LIVES
I think one of the most important things is to try and not put extra pressure on yourself by trying to be perfect because nobody is perfect… I always say chase your dreams and yes, I am right, but don’t chase perfection- this is a ridiculous and impossible goal that will swallow you inside as you aim for something that doesn’t only lack fulfilment within you, but destroys you. In today’s society, striving for perfection is one of the biggest traps- it suffocates our hope and makes us feel worthless! Life is full of stresses, yet many of us feel that our lives must be perfect. Of course, setbacks will happen, but they are a learning experience and failure isn’t final, it is simply a setback.
THE GOOD OLD TIMES WILL RETURN
Personally, something I like to do is visualise a happy place- take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm. It could be you enjoying a nice beach holiday or a happy memory of childhood. I know I liked to focus on childhood memories like when my Granda and I went to Cairn Wood- it helped me to distract myself from the immediate anxiety and let the positive feelings soothe me until I felt relaxed enough to take action. I think the most important thing is that you talk about it- sharing fears take away a lot of their scariness. Even if a person can’t do anything practically, they can do a whole lot emotionally. In fact, they can change your entire mindset- before you might have felt completely helpless, not wanting to do anything, but family, friends and teachers can encourage and support you through whatever you are facing. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE!
AS YOUR TEACHER SAYS, “YOU MUST KNOW THE BASICS!!”
Go back to basics- ring your doctor if symptoms get bad! Many people turn to alcohol or drugs to supposedly self- treat anxiety, but this will only make matters worse. Simple everyday things like a good night’s sleep, a wholesome meal and a walk are often the best cures for anxiety. Finally, reward yourself. It is okay to not be okay, don’t beat yourself up, instead it is best if you reward yourself. Why not take yourself on a country walk for some fresh air or buy yourself a nice book?!
REACH OUT, THEY NEED YOU
Now that you have had some advice on self- control, I wanted to show you how you can help someone else. Anxiety is tough and often, people can’t help themselves alone. Anxiety destroys their motivation, courage and effort and therefore, we must be there to support and encourage. SO, how can you help someone with anxiety?
Personally, I think you should begin by learning about the causes of anxiety- there are lots of articles and YouTube videos on this. It will help you understand the person’s perspective and give you some sense of when to offer help. Of course, this can be difficult as there are many different symptoms, but the best thing you can do is to try and understand them. Try to learn about different types of anxiety as they all have different underlying triggers. If they have serious panic attacks, you should know what to do e.g. call an ambulance etc. Remember what anxiety feels like. It is not a fun experience, believe me. You should understand what the anxious person is going through so you can provide comfort in specific ways. They may feel nervous, powerless, weak or tired. You can help them find solutions to their problems e.g. a sleep schedule or time to reflect on how they feel whether it is writing or talking about it.
STOP TALKING (YES, I GET IT, THAT’S HARD FOR MOST HAHA!)
Listen carefully, this is possibly the most beneficial thing you can do. Try your best to clear your mind of your own worries and keep track of the other person’s feelings and thoughts, keep your expressions neutral and ask a lot of open- ended questions- this will help you find out more information, but also make the person feel less under pressure. Practice empathy, I think this is possibly one of the hardest things to do. Focus your attention on the anxious person, as human beings we automatically think of ourselves, but we must not do this in a situation like dealing with an anxious person. Keep in mind shared human values and experience. Remember that we all have a lot of the same pains, fears and worries, this can make it easier to understand another perspective. Please temporarily suspend your own judgements, share relatable experiences, but don’t take over the conversation. The key is to demonstrate that you can relate.
BE ON LOOKOUT
Observe the anxious individual- this is something my family and friends had to learn how to do. They would have looked for the outward signs of anxiety to ensure they could provide help or comfort in times of distress. Such as, I used to start getting really hyper and talking like a washing machine when I was anxious and my family used to settle me down to read a book or something to encourage me to get an early night.
YOU HAVE GOT THIS, I BELIEVE IN YOU