Anxiety and I have been singing together for many years, although I was not officially ‘diagnosed’ until January 2014. I can’t say that I am queen at managing my anxiety, but I still know that some things work effectively for me, if I persist with them over time. Also there are some run-of-the-mill generic workings that can be helpful during an episode.
I still have episodes, so this post is more of a reminder of the strategies that work, have worked, could possibly work… and a call out for things that work for you in managing anxiety.
Many of these points come from the time with my mum, recovering form my psychotic episode. Identifying the new ways my anxiety was presenting and how to effectively manage it was an important part of being able to move back home.
1. Basic self-care
Sleep, eat, wash myself, strengthening exercises. Enough said.
I am still unable to do this highly important management aspect. But this is equally as important as basic self-care for me. Exerting all my energy so that I am too tired to think, but mostly the repetitiveness of running/swimming/cycling or even walking, coupled with the competitive nature of team sports = calm.
Without exercise, I am a mess. I am by no means a sporty, or overt fitness freak, but I do get in to my exercise for one sole purpose: to control my anxiety. I am truly struggling without my golden trio – running, netball and yoga. I was not even able to attend my gentle post-natal exercise class this week due to ongoing hip pain (which I am trying to sort out but need to put Master X into care so that I can attend).
Exerting energy and focusing my thoughts are paramount. Full stop.
Even with a screaming baby in the background (or maybe because of the screaming baby), time-out is paramount to surviving an episode. Firstly I need to recognise that the emotion is building and I do this by tuning into the breath and how my body is feeling. Rising heart rate, churning stomach, short breaths, racing brain = impending episode.
Time to time-out.
I have a list of time-out activities – leisure activities, or shorter stunts like listening to music, playing a game, reading a chapter, watching ten minutes of a television episode. It really depends on the state of my mind and what I can handle. I can rarely do more engaging activities like sewing or guitar, and usually need something solid to focus my mind on. Daytime soapies are great for this purpose (thanks Netflix).
4. Identify an episode
This was one of the hardest elements for me to do, and actually took me a while to deduce what an episode actually looks like for me. Although I am getting better at controlling my anxiety, I still have some way to go to retraining my brain to form new, healthier pathways. I deduced that I experience levels of anxiety, and that it if I can identify the building of my emotions early, that I can try to head off an episode. This has worked and continues to work because it is redirecting my brain to think at a time when my brain is not really thinking, but rather, cycling.