What has brought me here, to start writing a blog on all things mental health and anxiety/stress management? I am 32 years old and I have had to find my own ways of dealing with stress, worry and insecurity as I move through life. On the outside my life looks enviable; a happy marriage, house and exciting business. That’s not to say that I am not grateful for these epic things and that they are less than they are but inside my mind is spinning with what I don’t have, that I need to be a better person, that I am greedy for more in my life, do my friends actually like me?? Yes, it might sound stupid but these irrational thoughts dwell.
In the past I let my worries take over. The panic would come like waves and would knock me, making it difficult to think clearly and rationally. I would make terrible decisions because I didn’t give myself the space to think about the problem. Ridiculously, many times I would worry about a problem that hadn’t arrived yet. And I still do. I have let negative thoughts fester to the point where I have spent weeks struggling to get out of bed and face the day.
A few years ago, I was in a job I didn’t enjoy and my managers were not supportive. I was put in a tricky situation and blamed for something that wasn’t my fault. Being junior meant that things couldn’t go my way. I started to lack confidence and make mistakes, which then made things worse. I was cautioned at work and put on a disciplinary plan to keep me on track. Humiliating? Much. Worrying? Much. I am a hard worker and diligent – how did I get to this stage? I started dreading going to work. I couldn’t get out of bed. My partner would sensitively and encouragingly implore me to rise and get to work. The weekends became depressing and dark too. My partner would drag me round the park to get me out of the house. Luckily, I escaped the job and moved to a fresh, exciting role, which immediately changed my outlook on things. But it didn’t happen overnight. I read lots of books about how to focus on positivity and mindfulness. I turned to yoga and exercise to wear me out so I could sleep. What I learnt is to take my attention away from myself and focus on other things. And sharing my feelings has been helpful in hearing my thoughts being played back to me. I am lucky to have a supportive partner who won’t stand for my wallowing in darkness and self-pity. He helped me to get through the dark patch and there are still some periods when I won’t want to face the day but I have to tell myself to get up and do some exercise or get out of the house – creating distractions to the bad thoughts. It’s not easy. Learning to cope with these feelings takes time and effort. And here’s the thing; I am still learning!
I read a really amazing blog by Oprah about her solace in writing a gratitude journal. She said that she was running through life, success, fame and fortune and she realised that she wasn’t being truly present and grateful about everything in her life. She’s got a point. What’s the use in doing anything, working hard in a job, raising a family, being in love, unless you can be present and take in these amazing things.
I have always struggled with my appearance, and inevitably end up starting and ending diets and intensive exercise to lose weight. Living in London and being a young female consumer of the media and social media being constantly exposed to sartorial, aesthetic and nutritional advice, I have insecurities about what I look like. I am not alone in the slightest. Don’t get me started on my terrible relationship with food. I have a constant battle of guilt for having that Danish pastry. I can never be grateful for the enjoyment of the buttery pastry goodness. Added to that the nature of my work I am often stressed and drained. I have tried many meditation apps and they simply don’t work. I do some yoga and exercise which help alleviate stress but they don’t combat the negativity and focus on myself. One thing’s for sure, I need to find ways of focusing on the positives. Literally flipping everything around. It’s time to try. If it helped Oprah, it’s worth a go.
I know that out there many people are experiencing much worse negative thoughts than me and the degrees to which they manage them are varied. And far worse, many are going through depression. As Maya told me, the brain is a muscle, so just like exercise I need to keep training it otherwise it will stop working and bettering itself. It’s time to start training it with understanding what’s out there to help aid the mind to a healthier state. I want to learn what techniques and tools can make people, including myself, happier, relaxed and better people.