This is fine

Hey there peeps! So as I’ve already established the reason I’m here is to talk about my life in a way that’s constructive, and hopefully gives a takeaway point. What I want to talk about today is a problem that I’ve been facing on and off for the past few years that’s related to anxiety. Keep in mind that this is just my experience and it cannot be broadly applied to everyone who has to deal with anxiety! But maybe you’ll find yourself doing something similar in other situations.

I don’t know any names to refer to this by, so here I’m going to refer to it as stacking. What this means is that I can experience a situation  or thought that brings me anxiety, and instead of going through that anxiety and overcoming it, it sets a new baseline. This means the next time I experience anxiety it gets stacked on top of the last one, which can lead to lots of stress. I’m absolutely certain that other people have experienced something similar at some point in their lives, it’s a ‘the straw that broke the donkey’s back’ kinda situation. Look, I especially made some graphs to illustrate it:

  1. How I’d ideally experience anxiety
    normal

    An event/thought happens which causes anxiety. It could vary in how long it lasts, or how much anxiety it causes, but it’s only temporary.

  2. How I experience anxiety when stacking
    stacking

    An event/thought happens which causes anxiety, and every time another thing happens the anxiety is added on top. This way it’s a lot easier to reach high stress levels.

  3. How I feel when anxious
    aghh

    Regardless of how anxious I feel, I always feel that internal panic and dread.

So this is something I’m actually going through at the moment. On Monday I was feeling pretty good, but now it’s Friday and I’ve accumulated lots of anxiety over the week. My mind has picked at things and proposed many questions to me. Most of them are along the lines of “Hey you know this thing? What if it doesn’t work out?”, “So this thing you have to do, why aren’t you doing it now?”, and “Oh look at this thing you’re doing, surely you’re not good enough”. Clearly there is some overlap with other areas such as self confidence, and it’s tailored to what’s going on in my life at the moment. And that’s why it can be so difficult to deal with, it’s personal. Anxiety makes you question your decisions in the most personal ways possible, and it usually has the biggest effects when you’re going through some other feelings/events at the same time. This is why it’s important to take into consideration what other factors could be contributing at any one time. These can sometimes be obvious, for example you might have a big workload, or have just gone through a breakup, but in other cases it can be a bit harder. And when it’s harder to see if there’s an underlying cause/contributor to anxiety I find that it’s easy to let it sit there and progress into stacking. In order to deal with this the first step it to actually realise that things are building up, and once you’ve realised that, you can start to look into what’s going on in that big tangle of anxiety. I find it helpful to think about the questions my anxious mind is asking me, and work backwards from there. So I’m actually at this stage at the moment, and I’m going to go through my thoughts and aim for a positive outcome:

  • The anxious thought: “You’re never going to get a job in the field, you have no experience and you’re not good enough”. The cause: anxiety around uncertainty after graduating. Can I do something about it? Yes. Action: focus on looking for experience, this is the next step after graduation.
  • The anxious thought: “You don’t have any friends, and nobody wants to talk to you”. The cause: anxiety around the thought of being alone, low self confidence, having gone through a recent break up. Can I do something about it? Yes. Action: reach out and make more friends, talk more to existing friends, focus on doing things that you enjoy you build up your self confidence.
  • The anxious thought: “You’re being irresponsible every time you spend money on yourself, you don’t deserve it and you’re only going to get into money troubles”. The cause: having recently spent some money on myself, having grown up with the idea that money is only for the absolute essentials, not keeping a strict budget. Can I do something about it? Yes. Action: re-evaluate my budget and see what extra money is free to spend.

Just doing this right now has given me some instant relief, and I feel like I’m unstacking. Instead of feeling like I’m under a crushing pile of undoable tasks, I have an action plan to work on and I feel more in control of the situation. Feeling anxious a lot of the time for me stems from worries, so evaluating the anxiety when certain thoughts come across my mind can help me trail back to the underlying worries. Putting them under pressure makes them crack when they don’t hold any ground. I tend to find that my worries are actually quite useful, like above, they can help point me in the right direction. That being said, worrying and feeling anxious still sucks ass. And I know that even though I’ve tackled some of these worries, I will still feel anxious in the future, worried or not. And that’s okay. When that happens, I’m going to try and not criticise myself and give myself a little time to recompose. I find it’s helpful to try and have a positive inner voice (when possible), which gets easier to use with more practice. Next time I feel like someone is staring at me in public, I’m going to consciously think “Oh hello there! Are you looking at me? Because I bet I can look at you harder, I would totally beat you in a staring contest. Or can you not handle my dashingly good looks?”. This helps me to recover from anxiety faster, or in some lucky cases avoid it altogether! It’s hard work though, and it takes a lot of mental effort. But practicing using a positive inner voice makes it a little easier over time. Personally, I like to give my inner voice a lot of sass. Heck, if you wanted you could have Alan Rickman as an inner voice.

 

To summarise: don’t beat yourself up, be kind to yourself, and hone your inner voice.

– H

DogFire.png

Comic by KC Green

Dancing in the rain

Hi guys! So in this post I wanted to talk about anxiety and making friends because it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’ve always considered myself to be a bit more secluded than others ever since the start of high school. And that worked out well for me at the time, I didn’t feel like I needed loads of friends. Being at university forced me to move away from the friends I had made and start living independently. It kind of forced me into making friends (as living with 9 other people would), and now I have another best friend as a result! So far I’ve made friendships when they come along my way, which has gotten me this far, but now I feel the need to seek out people to connect with. This might not seem like a big deal, in fact you might be thinking “good for you, so what?”, but for me this marks a change in my life- from going it alone to outreaching to others.

I feel like anxiety has played a big part in how I’ve made social connections in the past, and it would be an understatement to say that it’s limited who I talk to. Anxiety is very good at getting you to think about things in a certain light, and it’s a master of coming up with any excuse available to talk you out of doing something. For some individuals this revolves around people, for others it crops up in everyday situations. For me, during high school and the start of university it was clearly related to interacting with people. If I talked to anyone my mind would masterfully come up with 20 negative opinions that the other person could be thinking. Over time this essentially convinced me that nobody liked me, and so I didn’t try to make friends and generally avoided talking to people when I didn’t have to. As of the past few weeks I feel like I’m moving away from these thoughts, for now at least, and my slowly growing confidence is making it easier to reach out and form connections. This past week I’ve talked to over 10 new people and spontaneously asked someone to coffee (!!!). That’s more than I’ve done over the past year, and in all honesty it’s felt exhilarating. Right now I feel like a completely different person and it’s so bizarre to me. I always had such an anxiety around talking to people and fearing their judgement of me. Now I’ve been doing it with such ease and it’s a lot easier than I ever expected it to be. And to be able to do it without the anxiety feels absolutely amazing, to put it lightly.

I’m not expecting this to last forever, there’s no guarantee my mental state will stay this way, but there’s also no expectation for me to stay socially anxious forever. For now at least, speaking to people is giving me confidence, and I want to embrace that.  Now that I’ve experienced social interactions with no anxiety, I will be able to sit comfortably with the knowledge that any future anxiety is not forever. But further than this, I want to be able to experience anxiety and become more comfortable with experiencing it (as much as one can be). When feeling anxious, it’s very easy to listen to the voices in your head that tell you something is wrong with you. When I went Brighton for New Year’s, there was some text on the front of a beach hut, and it read:

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.

I think sometimes it is best to wait out the storm that is anxiety, it can be absolutely exhausting. Now that I’ve experienced this new confidence, I think I’ll be able to chill a bit more when talking to people (dancing!). I don’t expect this to be true for everyone- people feel different things at different points of their lives, or in different situations. But that’s okay. And accepting that is a big step. It’s okay to not dance in the rain. The point to aim for is to be comfortable, no matter how much anxiety is happening, it’s okay.

– H