I’ve always been an anxious person as long as I can remember. Even as a kid at primary school, I’d barely sleep the night before the start of a new term. Not for any specific concern (as I loved school) but seemingly just because… I do think that there is a link between this life long anxiety and the diagnosis of fibromyalgia in my 30s which came right after a concentrated period of debilitating anxiety across several years. On the flip side, anxiety is also a common symptom of fibromyalgia, so the two conditions are often inextricably linked.
I’ve become a bit better at dealing with anxiety over the years but it’s always present in my day to day life to a greater or lesser extent. I find spring and summer much more difficult from an anxiety perspective though. Partly as I suspect that I have “Reverse SAD” (which I will write about in a future post) but also because these seasons see the anniversaries of various painful life events which often trigger my anxiety.
So today I thought I’d write about some of the self-care things that help me through my most difficult months of the year:
1 – Being Outdoors
I love being outdoors and on the whole, I find that nature is my number one tool for helping with anxiety. But in the summer months I have to pick my location carefully or being outdoors can serve only to heighten the anxiety. Whilst I love my local park on a winter’s morning when there’s barely a soul about, it morphs into my idea of utter hell the minute the sun comes out, bringing with it noisy crowds and my anxiety levels soar. However, going further afield to places that I know will be tranquil and uncrowded even on sunny weekend days is a definite help. An hour spent walking in nature observing flora and fauna is my very best medicine when anxiety rears its ugly head.
2 – Feathered Friends
I find something so soothing about watching birds go about their daily business whether in my garden or when I am out and about. I’ve installed a bird feeder and have enjoyed simply sitting with a hot drink watching the activities of the birds as they build nests, feed and drink in the garden. Over time, personalities emerge amongst the garden dwellers – the cheeky robin who defends the mealworms from the sparrows but beats a hasty retreat if a starling comes along and the blackbirds unleashing their fury if a magpie approaches their nest. I’ve found that nature’s soap opera is a great way to slow down the mind.
3 – Puzzles
Under normal circumstances, I love to read but when I am feeling especially anxious, I find it impossible to process or even read pages of written text as anxiety seems to worsen fibro-fog. So I often turn to a humble puzzle book and pencil and will sit for hours doing sudoku or wordsearch puzzles. This occupies my mind enough to slow the merry-go-round of anxious thoughts and I also find that holding something tangible calms me too.
4 –Mindfulness Meditation
I’ve been a member of Anxiety UK since last year and part of their current membership offering is a year’s access to the Headspace app. I’d tried meditation several times in the past, mainly using MP3s that I’d downloaded, but I’d soon get bored of the recordings and never managed to build a sustainable mediation habit.
But with access to the Headspace app, I have stuck with it as it’s so easy to access meditations on my phone but also as there is fresh content every day. I still often find it hard to quieten my monkey mind and focus on the here and now but I definitely notice a difference in how I feel if I don’t meditate in a day. Perhaps the most valuable thing I’ve learnt from meditation is that a thought is just a thought and I don’t have to engage with it and that’s a sentiment which certainly helps when in the throes of anxiety.
Other things that I find helpful for anxiety:
I’ve never managed to find one single thing that helps to calm me down sufficiently, so I have to use a combination of all of the above to keep me on an even keel.
I’d love to know what others do when anxiety strikes so please do share any ideas in the comments below 🙂