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  • Writer's pictureClaire Wortley

Anxiety: How to take back control now!

Updated: Mar 18

A woman feeling anxious holding her head in her hands.
Feeling anxious.

Having struggled for years with anxiety disorders and panic disorder, I know what it feels like to dread waking up every morning knowing the constant overwhelm and fear would be still be there.

Simple tasks such as showering and eating breakfast were exhausting. Trying to make myself eat when my stomach was churning like a cement mixer was no easy thing. I knew I needed to eat for strength but this caused even more worry so I would try to think of something else, all the while the little voice is telling me why I must eat and if I don't it will not end well.

At times I was able to work and care for my teenage daughter with anxiety buzzing away like a rogue energy source known to have frequent overloads and burnout.

At my worst I was experiencing panic attacks every morning which lasted for 30 minutes and decreased to feeling totally wired for the rest of the day. As time passed and I became exhausted, I started to have thoughts of ending my life. This is not to say that everyone experiencing anxiety will get to this stage so please don't think this is the path you are on.

As you read on there might be times when you may think what I am writing is rubbish and that this blog is of no use to you. If this is so, I ask that you are patient and continue to read on.

Here I am, years down the line, using my experiences to help people like you!

Tip #1 - You have the power

My first tip is to remind you of a fact that anxiety will try to make you forget. Anxiety likes to think it's the boss of us by slowly changing the way we behave and think. Imagine an infection that gets into our system and meets no antibodies or antibiotics leaving it free to run riot and cause chaos. Well, although anxiety is not an infection, it can behave like one when nothing is done to control it.

Reminding yourself that you still have some control, no matter how bad you feel right now, is the awareness needed to make changes.

Before you panic and tell me you can't make any changes because it's all just too much, take a breath, trust me and read Tip 2.

Tip #2 - Small steps

This tip is to remind you that whatever action you decide to take, make it small!

To understand how tricky it can be to change thoughts and actions, we only have to look at eating habits.

How many people have decided that to lose weight they will cut out all sugary and fatty foods only to fail within a week? It must be millions.

You see, I believe that these goals are too big and therefore our efforts are as good as doomed from the start. Goals need to be achievable not supersized and way out of reach.

Remember, keep it small.

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

Tip #3 - Physical check-ins (example of a small step included)

A simple place to start is your physical body. Ask yourself these questions: -

  1. Am I hydrated? When did I last have a drink?

  2. Am I hungry? When did I last eat?

  3. When did I last move?

  4. Am I sleeping enough? Do I have a healthy sleep environment?

Let's look at the above in more detail.

HYDRATION - Do not underestimate the effect a lack of fluids can have on your mind and body. Fluids are vital in regulating your mood, improving your concentration levels, and the quality of your sleep. Even mild dehydration can affect your memory and your reflexes/reaction times.

  • Small Step - start to carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go. In having to remember to carry it or move it around your desk it will act as a prompt to take a sip.

HUNGER - Do I need some nutritious food? I can almost hear you groan when you saw that last question. I know I would've done when I was struggling. Good nutritious food repairs and restores our bodies which in turn helps our mental wellbeing.

I am a fussy/selective and this made eating fruit and veg even harder when I was anxious. However, as I began to feel stronger I started making my own juices to get used to the flavours and now use smoothies to boost my intake.

  • Small Step - Rather than go to town on half a packet of biscuits, try reaching for an apple or some peanuts. If this is too much try reducing how many biscuits you have with your cuppa.

EXERCISE - Now I would love to tell you that I am some super gym bunny who runs 10k on my rest days, but I am not.

Whenever I read about exercise being good for my mental health, I felt deflated. I didn't want to do yoga or join a Zumba class. I wanted the meatier stuff like weight and resistance training but didn't have the confidence to approach the young and unenthusiastic staff at the local gym. This meant I was stuck with the good old treadmill. I would go 3 times a week and plod along until I felt I had done enough. No running, only walking. I was far to uncoordinated to run!

Unfortunately, I didn't feel better after these sessions and it's not surprising really. I was self-conscious about my lack of ability, my size and age and totally uninspired. I was also perimenopausal but didn't know this at the time.

Nowadays, I enjoy my exercise because it suits me. No gyms involved, just a subscription to online workout sessions, some dumbbells and my trusty pooch to walk everyday.

It has taken time to build up to 5 sessions a week. I only do so many because I enjoy it. One thing I will say is that I listen to my body. I don't push to the point of being immobile the next day. I build up gently and if I have an off day, I do what I can.

So what I am trying to inspire in you is that exercise doesn't need to be designer, as in running or maxing out on reps. Make it work for you.

  • SMALL STEP - Infantile this may sound but if you know the song Heads, shoulders, knees and toes try going all the way through it and then again as you stop saying each body part.

  • Put on some music and just move. No structure or routine, shake it, clap it, wave it and enjoy yourself. You may want to keep the curtains closed depending on what you are wiggling!

SLEEP -  Anxiety can turn our brains into mush throughout the day and super charged analysis computers at night. It chooses this time to pick apart everything we have said and done, and any possible mistakes made or who we might have upset so it is not surprising if our sleep quantity and quality isn't up to much.

We need sleep to help our minds and bodies function at their best. For years, I was not getting enough sleep which contributed to poor wellbeing. Now, fiercely protective of my sleep, I take no notice of jibes about being boring or a party-pooper. My wellbeing is my priority!

Try to be consistent with your sleep routine by going to bed and getting up at the same times, even at weekends. Take time to wind down and relax before heading off to bed. Keep your bedroom cool so as not to overheat and block out as much light as possible with blackout curtains or blinds. Noise can be a problem if you are a light sleeper so earplugs may help. DOn't forget to turn that phone on to silent if it must go int the bedroom,

I found audiobooks really helpful especially if I had heard them before. That may sound crazy but if I hadn't heard them before I would make myself stay awake to listen. I also used self-hypnosis and free meditations on YouTube.

  • SMALL STEP - If you hate the idea of going to bed earlier just go 5 minutes earlier for a few nights and slowly build it up to half an hour or whatever time you prefer. If it is getting out of bed that's the problem, ditch the snooze button and sleep up to your alarm. If you want to get up earlier change it gradually so you don't wear yourself out and give up.

Tip #4 - Do what you can now

You have made the decision to make changes, so start now!

It is so easy to talk yourself out of doing things and keep putting things off.

Write down your goals/small steps and start taking back your power and recognising your own strength again.

Do it today!

Basic as these tips may seem don't doubt the effects they can have on your wellbeing.

There were many times when I convinced myself that I needed the top psychiatrist, therapist or medication because I was too broken for simple things to be of any use. I was the first unfixable person. What if I was the only person in the whole world who would never be well and never be happy again?

I searched for years for that magic therapy or medication until I realised that hard though it seemed it was about me recognising that I could help myself. There were no magic fixes but that feeling of being able to 'do' something to aid my recovery, to be 'pro-active' and 'take action' felt empowering and little by little lead to me living a full and happy life today.

Please feel free to share your comments on 'tips to beat anxiety now'.

If you would like to talk with me about anything mentioned today or just want to talk to someone who understands, then book a session with me, Claire at Claire's Chair.

Much Love


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