Mental Illness Awareness Week: How to deal with anxiety and stress

Since it is Mental Illness Awareness Week in the UK and many people have already taken action to educate others about mental health, I thought it might be a good idea to make this a topic on my blog as well. However, I will mainly refer to anxiety disorders since I’ve been diagnosed with it myself and therefore know quite a lot about it. Nevertheless, this post might be helpful for people who don’t have anxiety as well since I’ll be giving you tips that can be useful for anyone who has to deal with stress in general.

But what exactly is an anxiety disorder?

The thing is, it’s really hard to explain because there are various forms of it and everyone experiences it differently. Apart from that, a lot of people don’t really show their anxiety, so you can’t know when they feel extremely uncomfortable and panicky in a situation which makes it even more difficult for others to understand.

The symptoms can vary too but most people experience nausea, a racing heart, sweating or hot and cold flashes, dizziness, chest pain, numbness, shortness of breath,  the feeling that they’re going crazy etc.

Zoe Sugg, a British youtuber you may know, recently talked about it in an interview with Glamour UK and I think she encapsulated it really well, so I’m just gonna quote her to give you a better description:

“I would describe anxiety as a little part of your brain that refuses to let you do particular things with ease because of the way it’s programmed. I also like to say that a person with anxiety is like a car on the street whose alarm gets set off by a little leaf that’s fallen from a tree, whereas the people who don’t experience anxiety are the cars that the only time their alarm goes off is if someone is breaking into it. It can really debilitate and control the way people live their lives.”

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Tips on dealing with anxiety:

1. Checklists 

For everyone, whether you suffer from anxiety or not, one of the worst things is to wake up in the morning on a very busy day and immediately think about all the tasks you have to complete, the problems you have to solve and the challenges you have to master. So the best thing to do is to make To-Do-List with everything that needs to be done on that day, so that you can work it off step by step and cross out the tasks you’ve completed. That way, you can structure your day a bit better, see how you make progress and have a list of the things you’ve accomplished when you’re finished.

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2. Sleep

This one can be quite tricky because anxiety very often causes insomnia, but if possible, try to get at least 8 hours of sleep, you’ll feel a lot more relaxed in the morning and be able to deal with stressful situations much easier.

3. Playlist

Create a playlist of songs that make you feel calm and listen to it whenever you feel stressed. I personally like listening to rather slow music, preferable James Bay or Ed Sheeran, but just choose any tracks that make you feel better. If you need some inspiration, here’s a list of songs I made on Spotify.

4. Sticky notes/ reminders

When having anxiety, you often feel like you’re unable to cope with certain situations or not strong enough to do the things you want to do, so it might be good to remind yourself that you are in fact braver than you believe from time to time. One way of doing that is for example to leave post-its around your flat or make reminders with encouraging quotes on your phone.

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5. When having a really bad day

If it’s one of those days where nothing goes the way you want it to go, this is what you do: get in the shower, turn on your favourite song on maximum volume, sing along, use your favourite shower gel, put on your most comfy shirt, get a cup of tea, light some candles or turn on your fairy lights, wrap yourself in a blanket, watch some episodes of your favourite tv show or youtube videos, read and go to bed early. Most of the times, you’ll feel a lot better in the morning.

6. Make a book of things that make you happy

Something that can really help with calming down when you’re having an anxiety or panic attack is to distract yourself by thinking of anything that makes you happy. Since concentrating on anything else than your panic can be very difficult in this state, I recently had the idea to buy a little notebook and fill it with photos of people and places I love as well as with quotes, lyrics and texts that make me feel better to make it easier for me to focus on something else. I don’t know whether this will work for everyone but it has already helped me a lot in several situations, so it’s probably worth to give it a try.

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7. Don’t let your anxiety take control over your life

If you’re suffering from anxiety, things that others don’t even worry about can be very difficult. Nevertheless, you can’t let your fear of those things stop you from doing them because that way, the dread will only become bigger and bigger. You can only lessen fear if you face it and make the experience that something isn’t as bad as you expected it to be, so try to say yes to things and see them as a challenge for yourself, even if you feel uncomfortable or scared to do them. All the same, you surely shouldn’t ask too much of yourself and if you feel like you can’t do certain things, then that is perfectly fine.

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To end this post, I would simply like to remind you of the fact that, if you have anxiety or any other mental illness, you are never alone in this. There are always people you can talk to and who will understand you. And never forget: You are more than your illness and strong enough to live with it, even if it can be hard sometimes. 

Do you have any more advice on how to cope with anxiety or stress you want to share? If you’ve got any questions or need someone to talk to, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me on tumblr, I’ll be happy to help you if I can. xx

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