Friday, 6 December 2013

Anxiety Diaries | Self Care

I can often sense when I'm headed for anxiety city, yet there have been so many times where I've ignored the signs instead of implementing damage control. It's important to look after yourself and listen to your body and mind, especially when it comes to anxiety. Based on my experiences with anxiety, panic attacks and low mood, these are my top tips for looking after yourself when you can sense anxiety is about to come knocking. 

Sleep, sleep, sleep

When I can sense anxiety creeping up on me, by tuning into how my body feels and the thoughts occupying my mind throughout the day, I know it's time to make sure I get enough sleep. I usually go to bed around midnight and get up at 7.30am, but if I'm feeling all over the place with anxiety my body craves a longer dose of rest. I try to be in bed at least half an hour earlier than usual, if not an hour, and I also take a short nap in the afternoons if I'm home. While it might not always be possible to squeeze in a siesta, adding an extra hour to your nightly sleep quota can make a significant difference to steadying your mood and calming your body. 

Eat well

Admittedly I don't have the best diet in the world. I'm a total sugar fiend and LOVE all things chocolate coated and I also love salt, so not the best combination! I have a tendancy to eat small meals and snack in between, but when I can sense anxiety bubbling away beneath the surface eating junk makes me feel even worse. Psychologically it feels good to take care of your health by making an effort to eat well, so I try to swap unhealthy snacks like biscuits and crisps for healthier choices. 

Almonds, Brazil nuts, satsumas, bananas (sliced and served with Nutella if I really need a choc fix!), apples, raisins, celery sticks with peanut butter, wholemeal toast, Babybel cheese, crispbread with cream cheese; there are lots of snack options available that require minimum effort, perfect for times where I'm suffering from a creeping anxiety induced lack of motivation. I also make it my aim to prepare at least one healthy meal a day, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. A jacket potato with cheese or baked beans and a mixed salad on the side is one of my favourite choices, as it's warming and filling. The ultimate comfort food!

Get outside

The last thing I want to do when I can feel panic, anxiety and low mood descending is to leave the house for a walk, but once I'm up and about I instantly feel better. Leaving your house allows you to gain a little distance from your thoughts; your worries aren't going anywhere, so don't worry about 'forgetting' them for a while! I'm lucky to live close by to some lovely parks, so I usually head out for a stroll around one of them. I like snapping pictures on my phone as I go, as it gives me something external to think about and focus on. Plus, walking is exercise and your body and mind love the benefits of exercise. I always feel a little better about myself after taking a walk, and pounding the pavement helps expel some of that anxious energy otherwise causing the jitters. If I can't face a walk around the park I'll start with a walk to my local corner shop for a newspaper or magazine, and that usually gives me the boost I need to venture further. 

Write it out

I attended a guided meditation session at the beginning of the year that involved walking with wolf animal totems. I was skeptical at first as I'd never participated in an 'active' meditation before, one that involved movement and 'acting', but it was an amazing experience and I found it a wonderful way to tap into my intuition. This was when I'd had been signed off sick from work and was in the grip of panic attacks and daily anxiety. Towards the end of the workshop we wrote down any messages we had received from our animal totem, and I instinctively touched pen to paper and wrote 'write yourself free'. It's only now, looking back on that day, that I've realised the truth of what I wrote. I really have written myself free in many ways. 

Through penning this Anxiety Diaries series, sharing my thoughts and working through my feelings and fears, I've started to get to grips with anxiety and am no longer letting it totally run my life. I'm proud to say I've come a long way over the past year and I'm feeling very positive about the present, and the future!

You don't have to write blog posts about anxiety, of course, but writing in some form or another can feel very therapeutic and freeing. It could be a word repeated over and over, a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph. It could be a poem, an unedited stream of consciousness, a letter, a postcard, a quick scribble on a post-it note. Writing helps me unload and work through whatever it is I'm feeling uneasy about, before it begins to feel overwhelming and suffocating. I often ask myself questions when writing: 'why am I feeling wobbly? What am I really upset about?' in order to try to get to the root of the problem in its early stages. It's amazing what a difference writing has made to my anxiety journey. 

Set small goals

I mean teeny tiny goals! When I'm caught up in an approaching anxiety web I find it extremely hard to motivate myself to do anything that needs doing. Deadlines loom ever closer, uni work piles up, blog posts go unwritten and all I can feel is a strange mixture of panic and inertia. Urgh, it sucks! To combat this I've started doing two things: reassuring myself that this mood won't last forever, and setting myself very small goals every day. Things as simple as 'hoover my room', 'read two pages of a textbook', 'write the first paragraph of a blog post', 'read three pages of the book I'm currently reading'. I attach deadlines too, to really help add solid structure to my day. Reading might be given ten minutes, note taking fifteen, hoovering and cleaning twenty. Once finish a task I congratulate myself on finishing and refuse to get mad at myself for not accomplishing what I'd usually accomplish in a better mood. You've got to be your own cheerleader when the going gets tough!


I used to feel that I didn't know 'enough' about meditation to practice it 'properly' but now I go right ahead and meditate in my own way and it really helps calm the nerves and soothe the soul. All you really need is your breath and you're set for a meditation session. I tend to meditate in the morning, sitting cross legged on my bedroom floor with my back resting against the bed. I start off by shaking out my arms before resting my hands palms up on my knees, eyes closed. I take a slow and steady breath in through the nose for the count of eight, then out through the mouth for a count of eight, repeating around five or six times. 

Once I feel settled and comfortable I start a meditation technique I learned during CBT sessions, which focuses on tuning in to the world around you in order to gain distance from pesky non-stop anxious thoughts. I begin trying to identify as many sounds as I can hear, which might sound a bit frantic but actually it's very relaxing! I don't pass judgement on anything, so there's no 'that sound is SO annoying!' I simply register the noise and move on to the next. 

A list in the morning might consist of 'the radiator humming; a car driving past the house; a baby crying; leaves rustling in the wind; a window rattling; a front door closing; a faint hum of a TV; a wind chime'. I settle right into it and am always amazed at the amount of sounds I can detect beneath the noisiest ones! It's a great way of gaining distance from anxious thoughts and it brings my heart rate right down. I finish the meditation with another round of slow and steady breaths. 

After a single meditation session my mood improves and steadies, and I feel far calmer and better able to embrace the day ahead. I can only imagine the benefits that come with daily meditation, my current anxiety busting goal! It's a work in progress, but I'm getting there! Meditation is for anyone and everyone, so don't be afraid to give it a go. 

Be kind

Perhaps the most importance self care step of all: be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Remind yourself that you won't feel like this forever and that you're allowed to take things one step at a time. Remind yourself of all of your fantastic qualities and achievements. Remind yourself that today is not the end of the world, and you will be OK tomorrow. Give yourself credit for trying to implement self care steps and heap on the praise when you do something to help look after yourself. Heap on the praise when the teeny tiniest thing on your to-do list gets done, and give yourself permission to step back from your inner critic with a firm 'Hush! I'm not listening to you today!' Think about how you'd speak to a friend in the same position, and be gentle with yourself. Do what you can to boost your mood but don't beat yourself up if you spend the day in bed watching movies on Netflix while eating your way through a bumper bag of popcorn (just me?!) Things will get better. 

What are your self care tips for fighting anxiety? I'd love to pick up some more strategies so do let me know if you've got something that helps!

Baci e abbracci, 
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  1. This post is amazing! Really enjoyed reading and definitely picked up a few tips and advice. Thank you!


    1. Thanks Bethan! Really glad it helped :) xx

  2. My anxiety has been kinda out of control this month and I realize I'm probably not sleeping enough or eating the right things. It seems like eating junk food will make me feel better at the time, but you're right; it does kind of make things worse. I need to try to do better with that, and I need to try meditation. Thanks for the tips! :)

    1. You're so right, at the time it seems like junk food is the way to go as it's so effortless and often really yummy, but I always end up feeling sluggish and uncomfortable if I eat too much of it. Good luck with meditation, I can't recommend it enough!xx

  3. I agree with everything you've said - sleep, eating well, meditation, everything! And setting small goals as well, I've never thought of that but I'll definitely be trying it next time I have a bad day.

    One of the most helpful things I've learnt, especially if you have a busy day ahead and you've woke up anxious, is to save up your worries until the end of the day. So if you start to worry about something, register it and remember it, but let it go for the time being. Then in the evening, set aside half an hour to go through all of the worries you've had. I usually find that I've forgotten most of them and they don't matter anymore! x


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