How I Deal With Anxiety
You would think my first post after getting married would be all about the wedding but I wanted to be honest. Yes, the wedding was amazing - magical even. I will be doing a roundup of a few elements of the day but something felt more important to speak about.
I've always been an anxious person. I'm 'the worrier' or the one who gets told she's too sensitive constantly and for a long time I felt as if I was living in a slightly different world to other people. One that was tougher and filled with a touch more grief than I could sometimes handle.
In my late twenties I started reading books that really helped, namely The Highly Sensitive Person, and Quiet. Gradually I began to change my viewpoint of the world and develop a bit of detachment from how my mind was sometimes. It wasn't until I was at a wedding in my early thirties when I had my first full-on panic attack. It was one of those beautiful days when everything was flowing freely and generously, dinner, dancing, drinks and lots of friends around me. I felt a panic building in the days coming up to it and when it hit me I had to leave immediately.
It was embarrassing, devastating and exhausting and I spent the following three days at home sobbing, barely able to leave my room, hating myself. I look back on the day and wish I could have enjoyed it. It doesn't make sense saying it out loud but I had to listen to my body even if it seemed unreasonable. The reason I am bringing this up now is that a week after our wedding on the way home I felt all those same feelings as we packed up and left our (far too) mini-moon from Lisbon. The flight home was claustrophobic and my mind was at me in that torturous way that it's so impossible to explain to anyone and naturally difficult for them to understand. I remembered a recent podcast I had listened to where Caroline Foran, an author of an a book on dealing with anxiety, was describing her anxiety to Ryan Tubridy and she said that too much had happened in such a short space of time and she crashed.
I realised I had taken on way to much and the stress of the wedding, moving house and all that goes with it was tumbling through my mind. I always seem to experience things in a delayed way and it's only after I have said yes to the 3rd project and am about to start that I realise I've taken on too much and my mind just can't handle it effectively.
I've beaten myself up about this for years but having spent the morning in the company of the team from Alex and Ani helping them launch a bracelet that will donate 10% of sales to Pieta house I do feel it's more helpful to accept that this is just the way god made me.
Honestly, in my experience, it does get a little easier when you can name it and also develop a few things that buffer intensity of the experience a little.
These are my personal tips:
Please note mental health is an area I am not in any way qualified to speak upon, I am merely sharing my own personal story of how I deal with my own experiences and feelings.
I was deeply uncomfortable speaking about this for a long time. I genuinely thought there was something wrong with me. I couldn't relate to my friend's experiences of life and things they would be excited about filled me with terror. Once I started reading the books I was drawn to I began to make connections and although it's scary to look at things I am so glad I did. Ironically it was Zoella who first spoke about experiencing panic attacks and I was blown away. To see someone so young and so successful admitting that she experienced them was like opening the curtains in a dark room. I had this terrible preconception that people existing online, doing what I wanted and now do, lived perfect lives. I had believed that I wouldn't be able to achieve any level of success or even a place in that world, with this facet to my personality I was so uncomfortable with. Genuinely she helped me accept myself so much more. I feel if you are drawn to anything, whether it's a corner of the internet or a bookshop or a magazine that falls on your lap follow your instincts.
Avoiding Sugar and Minimising Caffeine
I now follow a vegan diet with as little processed sugar as possible. It's not that I don't love the sweet stuff. I adore it but I can't bear the way it makes me feel afterwards. Years ago I remember milling into cookies, chocolate and ice cream and although I'd feel sick if I had too much, I don't remember feeling low after it. As I've become more self-aware and peeled back the layers I find I just can't tolerate things the way I used to. Cook for yourself as much as possible would be my advice. Not to put any extra pressure on you at all, as no one needs that, but if you are very sensitive I believe eating well will nourish you so much more.
Developing Some Form of Spirituality
Personally I have found that developing some sense of belief in a higher power, or a design beneath destruction, helps and comforts me in those moments when all that feels possible is crying. I know there is no logic to this on a literal level but believing in fate and to a degree, angels, and luck is what gets me out of bed on tough days. Also reminding myself that this too shall pass over and over is important when I feel stuck.
Have something that comforts you with you all the time
I brought this possibly crazy looking Harmonic Protector from a US website that claims it reinforces your body’s natural aura, while also helping you cope with energy overload and stress. The gemstones in the pendant were chosen to enhance the body’s own auric field and you can say it's snake oil all you want but I genuinely draw comfort from having it in my bag or on me. Whether it's a pebble from a beach where you took a lovely walk, or a special piece of Jewelery, I definitely find having something to hold onto makes me feel more secure.
Developing Routine and Setting Realistic Goals
Like a lot of people I have things I want to achieve and ways in which I wish my life would unfold and sadly I can now admit that the goals lists I wrote in my early twenties were extremely unrealistic. We are taught to reach for the stars and I think that's a wonderful thing but personally I have found that setting simple targets such as getting to bed early, and waking up early, drinking more water and avoiding excess sugar, though not the things great novels will be written about, genuinely make me feel more in control of my life.
Learn How to Say No
This is the hardest thing I have had to learn. I don't know why I found it so difficult, it still challenges me occasionally, but I know I am improving. A book called The Art of Extreme Self Care really only made sense when I had read it about five times. I couldn't understand why Oprah raved about it and said 'everyone' should read it but then some points finally absorbed. There's a lot in this that also helped my next point. Saying No to things that don't suit, are inconvenient, you don't want to do, and are making you unhappy, is a vital skill. My advice would be to find a medium that suits you best. I can do this easier over email and don't put myself under pressure to do it face to face. Baby steps!
Waiting for others to pamper you is a lovely idea but in my experience it's best reserved to Romcoms which are great for tuning out but not ideal to set life standards to. There is a very old Irish adage that it's wonderful for women in particular to 'put everyone first' and whilst it might make for a nice sermon I think we all know we cannot afford to live like that. Coming into marriage I felt a niggle in my mind. I was worried that there would be some level of compromise that would be uncomfortable. Whether it was having to ease off the career I have worked So hard to build, or the idea that I would suddenly 'disappear' behind my husband's success, I was terrified that marriage would mean some sort of major sacrifice. I spoke with a councillor in-depth about this and really cleaned up my fears. Most of them weren't in any way logical. We worked together to form new positive beliefs and on my wedding day there was no panic. We've a long way ahead but I feel much more secure than I thought I would. I also know that even though I am married I can prioritise myself and thankfully make sure most of my needs are met, as against waiting for him to magically understand.
This is quite a personal post but I hope it might be of some comfort to anyone experiencing anything similar.
Lots of love,
Photos- Brid O'Donovan.