Dealing with anxiety – distractions or sitting with the anxiety?

Dealing with anxiety…. that is something i know far too well. Unfortunately, i have had to deal with different types of anxiety for many years of my life.

When i look back on my life, it is only in recent years that i have realised that i suffered from anxiety at a young age. But back then, i never really knew what it was…. i didn’t understand anxiety or why i felt the way i did. I realise now, that alot of the thoughts and feelings i had were due to anxiety. Alot of my anxiety was due to worrying and being a perfectionist back then… the worrying of “what will others think?”, “how will it go?”, worrying about the things i can’t control or all the things that might go wrong. I still have those thoughts and feelings, the anxiety before something new, or anxiety with change or with unexpected/surprise/new situations… but that is a post for another day.

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This post is about how to cope with anxiety:

I am the type of person who relies on distractions to cope with my anxiety.

I go for walks, i clean, i cook, i bake, i listen to podcasts, i go to the gym. I distract myself from my anxiety until it goes down.

And sometimes when i am in the middle of a very bad anxiety attack i have to call someone and talk to my mum or my sister because no other form of distraction works.

Distractions don’t always work…. sometimes i go out for a walk or go to the gym to distract myself from my feelings and thoughts but end up just wanting to cry or lie down on the ground because i still feel awful on the inside/in my mind.

And there are times i try to distract myself with watching YouTube or cleaning or cooking, but i still get the feeling that i just want to crawl out of my skin and get out of my own mind and thoughts.

Othertimes i need to just lie curled in a ball and listen to a podcast and play candy crush or scroll through social media such as instagram, Tumblr or Pinterest to distract myself from my anxiety.

Usually keeping myself busy – especially things like work, cleaning, baking, cooking are helpful for me. I am not the type of person who can just be still and sit with my anxiety.

However… that is the main topic of this point. That sometimes distracting yourself from anxiety isn’t always a good idea. Sometimes you just have to learn to sit with your anxiety and know that it will reach its peak eventually and then it will lessen. The more you run and distract yourself from anxiety, the worse it gets. Sometimes you just have to sit with your anxiety, take deep breaths, maybe sit with someone else or if you have a pet, and just listen to music and take deep breaths. Or even writing down your thoughts can be very helpful.

Distractions are a way to run from your anxiety, and i think facing your anxiety… just like with all problems is the best solution. Sure, distractions work… but they won’t always work. Or there will be times when you can’t distract yourself.

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When i was in eating disorder recovery, one of the things i had to learn was to sit with my anxiety before and after food. 

Before meals there was this constant build up of anxiety and i tried to distract myself with Suduko or Youtube or blogging, but after meals we always had a 30 minute rest time where you had to lie down on a matteress and just rest. And at those times you couldn’t distract yourself from the extreme guilt and anxiety you felt. Instead you just had to take deep breaths. The fact is, that after those 30 minutes the anxiety had begun to lessen somewhat….. not always. Most days the anxiety was non stop because it was 6 meals a day and anxiety before and after each meal. But eventually the anxiety began to lessen and learning to just sit with my anxiety and not have to distract myself or turn to coping mechanisms to deal with the inside feelings, thoughts and panic.

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It is also important to note that when it comes to anxiety regarding food and exercise, there will be times when you can’t distract yourself from the anxiety either. Example, if you are eating out with friends, or if you are on holiday with family, then you can’t just excuse yourself to go for a walk or start cleaning or baking. At those times you just need to sit there and take deep breaths and eventually the anxiety will reach its peak and then it will begin to lessen.

The more you learn to cope and sit with your anxiety, the stronger you will get. You will realise that the anxiety won’t kill you. The anxiety won’t harm you, it is the actions you take to distract/cope with the anxiety that are harmful or dangerous. Also you will begin to realise that you can infact cope with the anxiety, you can sit through it and be ok.

I no longer have anxiety regarding food or exercise, instead it is alot of worrying about the uncontrollable, worrying about things in advance, worrying about the future etc etc

But one of the things i have forgotten over time and stopped doing, is just sitting with my anxiety. Instead i try to distract myself and like i mentioned in the beginning, it doesn’t always work… and i don’t think distracting yourself is the most beneficial over time.

Sure it works sometimes, but i think over time you have to learn to sit with the anxiety and not distract yourself or use harmful mechanisms to cope or escape from your own thoughts. Of course like most things, it is easier said than done.

This is just my thoughts on the subject….. and as mentioned earlier, i have sort of forgotten to just sit with my anxiety and instead rely on distractions. However, i think i am going to try to rely less on distractions and more on just deep breaths, journalling and music to get me through my bouts of anxiety.

I must mention though, that since changing work my anxiety has decreased SO MUCH. I felt incredibly awful – for a bunch of different reasons (i.e illness, antibiotics, stress, anxiety, worry), but can actually say i am doing good now and don’t feel that constant worry and anxiety inside of me. Even if i had alot of nerves, worries and anxiety before starting the job… i have realised that those pre-anxiety nerves and worries/anxieties aren’t always called for. The mind makes up so many negative scenarios and situations and i think of all the things that could go wrong and build up this negative scenario in my mind and things never go as wrong as i think.

Yet another long post – i really should start with YouTube and talking about these subjects. But i would love to hear your opinion on this subject…. if you struggle with anxiety, do you rely on distractions or do you just sit with your anxiety until it is gone?

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I have some previous posts about anxiety here:

Anxiety attacks & help

Dealing with anxiety and panic attacks 

Anxiety and mental health day

Signs of stress/burn out

Mental health posts

Gut bacteria and connection with eating disorders , anxiety, depression

Types of anxiety/my thoughts:

Work related anxiety? 

Summer anxiety

Stepping outside of your comfort zone, trying new things

Change is scary – Feeling both anxious and happy…..

Comparing lifestyles – feeling like you are not doing enough

Overcoming social anxiety as a vegan

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Summer anxiety

Summer is usually a time of “carpe diem” and living life – no stress. 

And for some, summer is a time of anxiety and stress because of body image – not enjoying the warm weather or having to show off skin.

I feel a bit of both for summertime (though not about the body image problems, luckily i no longer struggle with body image or feeling bad about my body image/comparing, or wearing summer clothes.)

For me… summer is my favourite month. I love the sunshine, i love being out in nature, i love going for long walks outside, lying in the sun, having picnics, wearing shorts and tank tops. I love summer. But it also contributes to alot of anxiety for me.

I personally feel this pressure that once the sun is shining, i have to be outside enjoying it… almost feel guilty if i am inside watching netflix and the sun is shining outside. I am pretty sure other people who live in colder climates can relate to this… when you have almost a 6-7 month winter/cold season, it feels strange to be inside watching series when the sun is finally shining.

So, i want to be outside as much as possible, but i also want to work as much as possible. 1) Because i do enjoy working alot, 2) I don’t think i could manage having a completely free summer if i wasn’t going to travel or have some type of work. I would get too restless to just have nothing planned and everyone else was working, and 3) i want to earn alot of money.

So i want to be in the sun as much as possible but also work as much as possible – doesn’t really go together unless you get a job that you can be outside for (which i don’t have… but maybe i should have applied for, haha).

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But then there is also the pressure to be doing lots of things…. to meet friends, have picnics, have barbeques, travel, party, go out and dance and drink… life life. This pressure to do things and have an amazing summer. But the truth is, for the past 2 summers i have just worked and barely met friends – spent alot of time on my own, and this summer will most likely be the same.

And well , i can’t help but compare myself to others…. to people who travel, who spontaneously do things, who always meet friends and do things together. Sure me and my friends have tried to plan activities this summer, but i know that it is easier said than done when some work mornings, some work evenings, some have 1 day free and others have 4 days free.

I personally feel like i should be doing things… living life in summer. But if you don’t work you don’t have money to do things… so first you work, then you do things (or well, that’s my life anyway).

Summer is alot less stressful than during winter and spring when i have school. But there is still anxiety in summer… but it is not the same type of anxiety as in winter/autumn/spring.

In the colder months it is a sort of heavy anxiety, more negative and tired. While in summer it is more of a lighter anxiety and pressure to be doing things, having a great summer and just more of a general life/comparing anxiety compared to in winter when it is stress combined with anxiety.

However… my anxiety goes in phases… i don’t always have anxiety. Sometimes it is worse and sometimes i don’t have it at all. At the moment i constantly feel anxious – but not the heavy/depressed/overstressed anxiety, just an overthinking sort of anxiety and worry.

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So why am i writing this post…. well because others might feel the same or be in the same situation. As mentioned, many can dislike summer because it is either too warm or because of body image problems… but i love summer, i just feel very anxious at the same time, and i wanted tos hare my thoughts and feelings.

It is hard to explain all my thoughts and feelings, and topics like this are much better suited in video format according to me because then you can see me explain and see my body language and such, but for now it will have to do with text format.

If you feel the same way about summer – let me know, or share your thoughts. Maybe we can give each other advice and tips or just help others feel not as alone!!

 

5 Years free from anorexia – Follow up program Mando

I wasn’t sure whether i wanted to write this post or not, whether i should share my thoughts or just let this day slide by like nothing at all…. Because the truth is, it isn’t a huge deal for me. It is not a day i will mark in my calender and remember the date each year, however at the same time it is also an end of a chapter in my life. It is me turning the page of that chapter of my life (I.e treatment for my eating disorder and Mando) and now just focusing completely on my life now.

So…. today was my last visit as a “patient” to the treatment centre Mando Meter, where i was an inpatient or day patient for 1,5 years before being declared healthy in 2012 and since then doing the 5 year follow up program.

I was declared healthy from Mando in august 2012, so my official 5 year follow up was in August 2017 but as i don’t live in Stockholm anymore i haven’t had the chance to visit Mando to sign all the papers and have the final assesment until now.

If you want to know more about my eating disorder journey you can read my previous blog HERE. My recovery story HERE. About Mando HERE.

When i was declared healthy in 2012 i was “healthy” or atleast better, i could go to schoool, live life and eat normally. But each year that passes the healthier and more balanced i get… so personally i would say i was mentally healthy and free in 2013/2014. In 2012 i had just reached my healthy goal weight and was able to live somewhat normally, i.e i wasn’t as controlled by my eating disorder anymore, but i still had some habits and thoughts that may not have been completely healthy. And it wasn’t until i really began analysing my behaviour that i began to work on being completely free, mentally as well.

Of course, just because i recovered from anorexia (with purging and binging tendencies) doesn’t mean life has always been easy. Since 2012 i have still deal with anxiety and panic attacks and have fallen into serious depression two times. However i am working on those and finding ways to cope so i can still live a healthy life and food and body image is not a problem for me. I am not always 100% body positive or happy in my body and i have times when i am extremly stressed and lose my appetite, but i never fall back into old ways. There are times i might get some strange/disordered food thoughts and that is often due to lack of sleep, hormones, stress and loss of appetite. But then i know that i need to destress, sleep and eat something and usually those thoughts disappear again.

The reason this day isn’t such a big deal for me… just feels like going to some type of meeting, is because i have lived my life healthy for so long now. This signing of papers and no longer being a patient at Mando doesn’t make a difference in my life, i am not a different person, i am not healthier today than i was yesterday. It is mostly just for Mandos statistics that their program works and after 5 years i am still healthy and free. I could have stopped the follow up treatment years ago if i wanted but i thought, it is some form of comfort knowing that i can contact them if i were to relapse.

I think that it is amazing that Mando has the follow up treatment as most treatment centres just make the patient gain weight and then they let the patient go and never check up on them – and that is a huge risk for relapse. You need constant support – but also to know that you need to maintain your weight and stay healthy as you will be having check ups and can be admitted again if things go bad. So for me that was a motivation in 2012-2013 to stay healthy.

I feel like there is so much i could write, but at the same time so little….. It is me closing the Mando chapter of my life. Never going to have treatment or check ups for an eating disorder again… done with that part of my life. However i know i can and do use my experience to help others struggling, but my main focus is also working with healthy people or people who don’t have eating disorders .Mostly because i want to move away from that chapter of my life, i don’t want to define myself with an eating disorder….. but i also want to help others with an eating disorder to show that you can find balance, recover and live life even if it feels impossible.

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Recovery is not a straight forward road, there are ups and downs. You learn from mistakes, you may relapse, you may feel like recovery is impossible, you may have so much anxiety and want to run from everything going on in your head and the way you feel about your body. But you can get through those things. You can get through the emotions, the feelings, the fear, the anxiety, the hate…. One of the important parts of eating disorder recovery is to move on from your eating disorder. You can not identify yourself with an eating disoder because you are so much more than that…. you need to find your hobbies, interests, be with people you like, do things you like, focus on creating and living a life you love and that doesn’t involve your eating disorder.

But also knowing that only YOU can recover for yourself. Doesn’t matter how much support or treatment you get – if you don’t want to recover or make active choices yourself nothing will change. You can lie to others but you can not lie to yourself… the truth will catch up to you. And in the end it is your life…. and either you can live it with your disordered habits and behaviours or you can make active choices – no matter how hard they are – to make a change.

You can recover. You can get better. But then YOU have to fight for it. You have to want to change and get better.

I am focusing on life. On being healthy and happy and free.

I don’t want this blog to be an eating disorder blog like my previous blog, however if you have any questions you can comment below and i will make 1-2 dedicated posts answering your questions about eating disorders, Mando etc if you have any!

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Weekend with my family & anxiety

Hello and good afternoon everyone!!! Feels like forever since I’ve written a blog post as all the posts this week have been scheduled, so i barely know what posts have been posted haha!

And it’s a good thing i took the time to schedule posts because this week has been one filled with anxiety and unmotivated towards everything. Barely able to get to school, not wanting to study and just feeling anxious over everything. Basically nlt a good week mentally at all. A constant anxiety and panic feelings made me book tickets to visit my family. This feeling of wanting to get away, but when it comes to anxiety you can’t just travel, the anxiety and thing you are running away from will still be there in your head. However i am hoping that if i just get away a few days, spend time with my dog and a change in routines and I’ll feel better! I hope so anyway!

I have no plans for this weekend, I’ll just see what happens. It’s snow chaos and warning for drivers to not drive if not absolutely necessary as well as stay indoors if you don’t have to leave… so i am guessing there won’t be lots to do . Also it has been around -12 to -14 degrees and i don’t really know how to deal with the cold weather and snow. I definitely feel this weather is impacting my mood/energy.

Anyway, i don’t want this post to be negative…. just to update you all!! Hopefully the next post will be more positive! 🙂

Anxiety and mental health day

Let’s talk anxiety.

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In today’s society talking about mental health problems is still very much taboo… even if it is a little more common and not as taboo and controversial as it once may have been, it is still something that i personally can feel ashamed talking about in real life. Online i am rather open about the fact that i have struggled with eating disorders, depression, panic attacks and anxiety, and still struggle with anxiety. However in real life i don’t talk about it so much… feel ashamed about my struggles.

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Today was a day where i should have taken a mental health day. I woke up with so much anxiety and felt very low, tired, unmotivated and wanted nothing but to continue sleeping and not do anything else. But i knew i had a lecture to go to, i had school work to do and had to plan a group assignment with the others in my group. So i managed to get myself ready and made my way to school without breaking down (Yup, so much anxiety that i wanted to cry while on the bus because i felt so awful and just didn’t want to do anything or have to be around people.) I got to school a little earlier than we had planned to meet, so i bought myself a coffee and sat and did some work on my own and began to feel a little better. Listening to music and just focusing on my work.

Then the planning for the group work went great as well and we got all our planning done and felt good about the assignment. However, then the anxiety kicked in again…. I thought i should maybe head home, skip the lecture as i knew that would be the best for my mental health – to just go home and rest and allow the anxiety to pass before it sends me into panic mode. However, as i was already in school i decided to stay for the lecture…. but the anxiety kept growing, so much that i couldn’t even concentrate or take in any of the information. Infact i just sat there with a clump in my stomach wondering when the pause would be so that i could just grab my things and go……

Finally it was a pause and i just told my friends i had a serious head ache (which i infact did. I.e the anxiety gives me physical pains like stomach pain, head ache and extreme tiredness) and left…..

However it is now when i am sitting at home beginning to feel better realising that 1) i should have just taken the day off everything. I should have just cancelled my plans and let myself rest today and not do anything. But also two….. why is it more acceptable to say that you have a headache and need to leave rather than say, i have so much anxiety i can’t concentrate so i need to leave.

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I remember when i was younger and didn’t really understand anxiety or understand that it gave me physical pain as well so i would just tell my mum i had a stomach ache or head ache, when it infact was anxiety. (This was the age of 10-13 before my eating disorder began, i can look back and realise that i did infact struggle with anxiety but never realised what it was).  I am sure my mum would have let me have mental health days and days off school if i had known it was a mental health day i needed… but back then i remember somedays i would just feel so extremely awful and have so much anxiety and didn’t know what it was, so i would say i had a stomach ache so i could stay home from school. And even now, 10-12 years later it is still kind of strange to say you need a mental health day or that you need to cancel plans because of panic or anxiety attacks. Even if it is a little more accepted.

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When people break their bones or have physical signs of their illness they get “get better soon” wishes, but when you struggle with mental illness the symptoms aren’t always visible. People don’t realise you are struggling and either think you are lazy or just unmotivated or a slacker, when in reality you are struggling everyday and can barely get out of bed, let alone get dressed and feed yourself because of depression or anxiety. But people don’t really accept that as a reason.

Of course, many do use their mental illness as an excuse to not do things i.e they don’t even tr to get better or get help and just continue to use their mental illness as a way to skip out on life and not have to do things. But then there are others who are constantly working, constantly doing things despite struggling and at some point it just catches up with them and hits them hard.

You don’t have to look sick to be suffering or struggling. You don’t have to look like you are struggling to be struggling. And that is what man don’t understand….  You don’t have to look depressed to be depressed. You don’t have to be underweight to have an eating disorder. You don’t have to look like a nervous wreck to struggle with anxiety. You don’t have to look sick to be sick or to need help.

I don’t really know what i want to say with this post… mostly write out my thoughts.

I may not look like i struggle to the people around me. But i do still struggle with alot of anxiety and at times i can’t function normally because of my anxiety. At some times it is better and i don’t have anxiety for several weeks and other times i can’t even get out of bed or leave the house because of the anxiety and panic.

I am learning what triggers my anxiety and what helps me cope. But sometimes i get it for no explainable reason and no clear trigger to the anxiety.

I want it to be less of a taboo subject, i want it to be more acceptable in society to say that you need a day off because of anxiety. Or that you are going through a depressive phase and just need more time out or less things to do for a while. Or to just tell those around you that, i will most likely not answer any messages or not answer any calls because i just need to be alone for a few days and it is nothing personal, i just need space.

Despite being open about my struggles online, i still cancel plans or use the excuse that i have a stomach pain/feel sick/have headache instead of just saying i have too much anxiety/mental health problems…. and it bothers me that i feel the need to do this.