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I was 22 years old when I was first diagnosed with anxiety, and I can safely say it was one of the scariest times of my life. As a previously healthy and happy person, I found my days were slowly merging into one and I was living my life under a constant cloud of worry, stress and panic attacks.

Anxiety is an extremely difficult condition to get to grips with, even if you are suffering from it. I didn’t realise that I had the condition until after about two months of constant worry – and I mean literally constant. Negative thoughts on a loop, most of them completely irrational but fuelled by genuine worry that I hadn’t addressed and instead let get the best of me.

Given the somewhat broad nature of anxiety as a condition, and the ways in which it can manifest itself, there is no real cure; a doctor can prescribe you Beta blockers which can remedy the physical symptoms, while antidepressants are also sometimes used (although it’s important to note that anxiety can be a side-effect of such medication).

Cognitive behavioural therapy is the most commonly pursued route for treating anxiety, although the cost of a course of therapy is high. There are some fantastic CBT resources online that allow you to assess yourself, however.

In this post, I’m going to list some of the ways I deal with my own anxiety attacks, techniques that I’ve been taught or just happened to have picked up as I struggled to adapt to my condition. It’s important to note that as anxiety is different for everyone, these techniques shouldn’t be taken as a gospel way of ‘curing anxiety’; instead, they are a few methods that have personally helped me manage my condition on a daily basis.

Finding the Root Cause

Anxiety, more than anything, is an extremely confusing condition. Everyone suffers from anxious thoughts and worry, so what’s the difference between simple worry and an anxiety disorder? For sufferers of anxiety, the answer to that question will be obvious – the anxiety attacks, the constant dread, the feelings of inadequacy, loss of confidence. But I think the two are actually quite closely linked.

My anxiety was borne from a few simple negative thoughts that I pushed to the back of my mind and didn’t deal with properly; I’d recently left university and got a new job with a lot of responsibility, moving to a big city away from my old friends and family. It was a scary prospect that I didn’t give much thought to until it was too late.

Unfortunately, I’d convinced myself that this wasn’t a problem and my anxiety instead manifested itself as a completely irrational fear of other people and certain situations, which led to me losing sleep and dreading leaving my apartment.

Finding out the real problem among all those thoughts was difficult but not impossible. One of the things I found really helped was sitting down in a quiet room by myself and noting down absolutely everything that was getting to me. It’s surprising how quickly you realise which thoughts are completely irrational and which ones present a genuine issue.

Acceptance

One of the barriers to finding the root cause of your condition is not accepting that you have a condition. Anxiety, as with most mental health conditions, is something of a taboo condition, the kind of condition you know happens to other people but that you don’t expect to affect you at any point.

Coupled with the feeling that you might be going crazy or just over worrying, admitting to yourself that you have anxiety is a big but ultimately essential step. With the acceptance that you have a condition that you need to work on coping with, dealing with anxiety becomes a much more plausible and tangible task.

Talking It Through

The single step I took that I feel has been of the most benefit to my condition is talking it through with the people close to me. Anxiety can be quite a difficult condition to grasp for those who haven’t suffered but taking the time to explain exactly how you’ve been feeling and what you think has caused these feelings to those close to you can massively help with your confidence and ease your worries – a problem shared is a problem halved, as they say.

Since telling my girlfriend, my family and my workmates about my condition, I’ve found that coping with anxiety has become a lot easier. I’ve got an outlet for which to express my feelings and how I’ve been. I’m even able to share a joke about it now with my friends at work, which has made the condition seem a lot less daunting.

It’s also vital that you get in touch with a doctor. Not all doctors will be as sympathetic as others and some will be keen to prescribe you medication as soon as possible, but you might find that talking to someone who has vast experience in treating with people suffering just like you will give you the hope and inspiration to continue on your path towards recovery.

Positive Thought/Mental Attitude

I have to admit, I can be a very negative and cynical person, especially if I’m feeling stressed. Unfortunately, taking a negative attitude to life doesn’t work when you’re suffering from a condition that thrives off negative emotions.

Since being diagnosed, I’ve been actively working on taking a more positive attitude to life and the people around me. Every morning, I take stock of all the things I have to thankful for in life. If I’m faced with a stressful or negative situation, I take a step back and try and see the positive outcomes in it rather than leaping to a negative conclusion.

Positive reinforcement can also have a positive effect on your mood – just reminding yourself that you’re valued and loved can alter your mindset for the day. By developing a more positive attitude, you’ll soon find that there are positives to be drawn from most situations; this doesn’t mean you necessarily have to walk around with a big grin on your face all day or be overly enthusiastic (I do neither) but just thinking more positively will make you feel a thousand times better.

Breathing Techniques

Despite feeling much better than I did, I still suffer from the occasional panic attack. A panic attack can be truly terrifying, and I don’t want to downplay how scary they are in anyway – but there is a way to deal with them, in my experience.

The first step is to accept that you’re having a panic attack; it’s happening, and you need to ride it out. The next step I take is to close my eyes and focus on my breathing, trying to regulate it rather than taking panicked breaths. A good technique I’ve used is ‘belly breathing’, which involves breathing using your diaphragm rather than your chest.

However, it is quite difficult to suddenly breathe slowly and calmly when you’re panicking. One technique I’ve tried is initially breathing quite quickly and getting the belly breathing technique down, before gradually slowing down to a calming pace. It may not work for everyone, but it’s worth trying if you struggle with getting your breathing regulated.

Positive Music / Movies / TV

One of the greatest loves in my life is metal music, which isn’t typically the kind of music you’d associate with either positivity or being particularly calming. A lot of guides I read while trying to cope with anxiety suggested listening to calming music but really, it’s not the kind of thing I enjoy.

Instead, I searched for positivity in the music (and movies and TV) I already enjoy. This initially started by searching for ‘metal with positive lyrics and themes’ and listening to these bands. From here, I began to explore the music I listened to in the past, music that could be construed as negative, for positive themes and moments. While the lyrics were sometimes downbeat, the occasional riff or drum fill was enough to lift my mood.

The point is, you don’t need to change your entire personality and favourite hobbies to cope with anxiety – after all, they make you happy. Instead, reconsider how you approach them. Look for positivity – if there’s none to be found in the music/movie/TV or whatever, then consider how it makes you feel. If it makes you happy, you’re on the right track.

So there you have it, a few of the ways I’m currently coping with anxiety. While I can’t claim to be a medical expert, or that these techniques are going to work for absolutely everyone, I’d like to think fellow anxiety sufferers can at least find some spark of hope in this now-very long article! Thanks for reading and please leave a comment with some of your own coping techniques!



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