Living with Anxiety: My Personal Journey and Coping Strategies
Posted in: Story of the week
Read Time: 4 Min Read
For Mental Health Awareness Month, we have invited our Managing Partner, Phillip Wood, to share his experience dealing with anxiety.
Mental health is a topic that affects us all, and we believe in fostering open conversations to reduce the stigma surrounding it. By sharing his story, Phillip aims to provide insights into managing anxiety and inspire others on their own mental health journeys.
Below we explore Phillip Wood's personal account, gain valuable perspectives, and work towards a more compassionate world where mental health is prioritized. Let's make a difference together.
The Unseen Struggle
One of the most insidious aspects of anxiety is its varied manifestations. It's not a one-size-fits-all condition, making it difficult to both identify and manage. My personal struggle was with social anxiety, a seemingly invisible affliction that made even the simplest human interactions overwhelmingly difficult. This is a peculiar conundrum, especially when you're like me - usually outgoing and somewhat confident.
Masking my condition, I often found myself oscillating between a cheerful persona and a silent sufferer, a contrast that made it even more difficult for those around me to comprehend what I was going through. The anxiety, coupled with insomnia, often left me feeling physically drained, manifested through muscle tension, fatigue, headaches, and increased heart rate.
As someone who has struggled with anxiety myself, I know firsthand how debilitating it can be. The constant worry, fear, and nervousness can make it challenging to carry out daily activities, and it can impact your relationships, work, and overall quality of life.
What can make it worse is that there is still a very limited understanding of anxiety and those that suffer from it will feel incredibly apprehensive to talk about it. Which of course only exasperates the anxiety. This was definitely true for me!
One of the most challenging aspects of anxiety is that it can manifest in different ways, making it challenging to identify and manage. For me, I struggled with social anxiety, which made it challenging to interact with new people and even with those I knew well.
I would overthink every interaction and worry about how others perceived me, often avoiding social situations altogether. People around me would find it very hard to understand as I’m often an outgoing and somewhat confident person.
Part of that would be me wearing a mask on my down days to avoid questioning from others and part of that would be because on my good days – I am outgoing and confident! Put that all together and it can be hard for others to understand and hard for me to try and explain.
Managing Anxiety: A Personal Account
Managing my anxiety has been a journey, but I have found some techniques that have helped me manage my symptoms.
For instance, practising relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation has been incredibly helpful for me. These practices help me slow down my thoughts which directly reduces the physical symptoms of anxiety.
When I have a bout of anxiety I can very clearly feel both physical and psychological symptoms. The anxiety affects me through excessive fear, worry and nervousness around situations I would normally handle with ease.
My insomnia normally follows closely behind which leads to me struggling to concentrate and feeling overwhelmed. This can quickly manifest to me than avoiding situations, friends, work colleagues and responsibilities.
For me personally, the physical effects are normally clear through muscle tension, fatigue, headaches and increased heart rate.
A realisation I came to some years ago is that it didn’t seem to be going away. Yes I would have periods where it was not present and I would feel great – but it would come back.
It was at that point I realised I had two options; carry on how things are and try and live with the highs and the lows, or seek help and try to understand it and manage it.
I’m pleased to say I went with the latter option and although I still have periods of time where anxiety is still very much part of who I am, it is less consuming than it was, and I have ways to manage it now.
Getting Adequate Sleep
Getting enough sleep has also been crucial for me. When I don't get enough sleep, my anxiety symptoms are often more severe, and I have a harder time managing my thoughts and feelings.
I try to aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night, which helps me feel more rested and focused during the day.
Exercise has also been a critical part of my anxiety management plan. I was told that when I exercise, my body releases endorphins, which improve my mood and reduce anxiety. I don't have to do anything too intense; walking the dog – or playing golf (badly!) can all help!
Another essential aspect of managing my anxiety has been seeking support. Talking to my friends and family about my anxiety has been incredibly helpful.
They provide emotional support and help me manage my symptoms, whether that's by being a listening ear or by helping me get out of the house to do something.
Explaining to others how I felt and what I was suffering from was probably the hardest part for me. I was nervous people would not understand and worst still judge me for being weak!
I’m pleased to say the reality was entirely different to what my head was telling me. Not only did everyone listen, but they also wanted to know how they could help. I’ve not spoken to anyone who has said differently that has taken this step.
Fighting anxiety alone is somewhat impossible. You need to let people in.
Lastly, practising self-care has been a crucial part of my anxiety management plan. When you suffer from anxiety you can feel like you’re not worthy of this – but it’s arguably the most important part for me now.
I make sure I engage in activities that I enjoy. For me, this includes taking the kids to school, watching their after-school activities, playing football & golf and watching a good film with the kids!
These activities help me relax and take my mind off my worries, giving me a much-needed break from my anxious thoughts.
You're Not Alone
If you're struggling with anxiety, know that you're not alone. It can be challenging to manage, but with the right support and techniques, it's possible to live a fulfilling life despite your symptoms.
Don't be afraid to seek help from a mental health professional and try out different strategies to find what works for you. Remember, managing anxiety is a journey, but it's one that's worth taking!