Sorry, logic cannot take your call right now, please try again later.
As I stand in the shower in the Superman position, you would think I was preparing for a job interview, not a birthday dinner with my best friends. I remind myself over and over again that it will be fun. I remind myself that last time I went, I had fun. I remind myself that all evidence points to it being fun. However, I’m not listening right now. Anxiety is listening, and anxiety wants to stay home.
I’m drying my hair when the first hot flush starts. I know it’s induced by the heat of the hairdryer, but I panic. My hands go cold, my chest tightens. I fan myself down. It’s a hot day, nothing to worry about. I breathe deep and try to ignore the screaming in my head.
It’s taken me years to learn when to listen and when to ignore these screams. To determine when a deep breath, a hand to hold or well-executed exit plan will satisfy these intruding thoughts and when it’s best to just take a step back and stay in my comfort zone. The biggest hurdle was learning that the latter is not the same as giving in my social anxiety, letting it win or control my life. It’s a necessity. A life tool I have gifted myself with in order to fight bigger and more ruthless demons.
As I scroll through Instagram, there is quote upon quote about not giving up, challenging ourselves, and pushing through our struggles, one such quote reads;
‘No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up, and never give up’ – Regina Brett.
Whilst this is a good sentiment for working hard and not giving up on your dream, if you’re anything like me, following advice like this will often lead you to one place only – feeling inadequate. There’s no “one size fits all” guide for those who are suffering with their mental health and when your mind seems to be working against you, advice like this can be the worst thing to hear. Some days, getting up, dressing up and showing up has felt impossible to me. But giving up is not an option. I cannot choose to stop fighting this battle inside my head. Some days, not showing up is the only thing that will get me through the day – and that is okay.
After living with anxiety for the better part of a decade, I’ve come to the realisation that I will not find a magical cure. Although my mental illness does not define me, it’s there and it’s real, and ignoring it will only make things worse. As someone who is most comfortable when in control, the snowball effect of anxiety can be terrifying. The loss of control over your own mind can eventually lead you to having anxiety over having anxiety, an impossibly frustrating and hard place to recover from. In a battle to regain control, I’ve developed my very own self-care regime that helps me to enjoy the good days as well as having the tools to tackle the bad. My regime has one simple rule….
Anytime my mind REFUSES to let me participate in life, I practice one self-care ‘treatment’. This stops me wallowing and feeling guilty about cancelling plans or missing an opportunity, as I’m still being proactive, just in a different way. But what exactly classifies as self-care?
“Self-care is anything you can do for yourself to reduce anxiety, promote self-worth and get back to feeling like you”
Unfortunately buying a new pair of shoes doesn’t quite cut the mustard, and finding what works for you can take time and experience. But here’s what I think: self-care is anything you can do for yourself to reduce anxiety, promote self-worth and get back to feeling like YOU. For me, it’s a bath, a long walk, taking time to read and write, cook, do yoga, and sometimes, it’s simply taking medication. It can be as minor as making a cup of tea and a list of things you are thankful for, or as extravagant as getting in your car and driving to the nearest beach. Whatever it is, it should be for you and you only. Leave your phone behind and go by yourself if possible.
Doing this on a bad day puts me back in the driver’s seat, with control over my anxiety. Taking the time to reflect and decide what I’m going to do that day instead of my original plan ensures I don’t give up on the day altogether. It’s all too easy to completely throw in the towel and go back to bed, only to have the same situation play out again and again for weeks on end. Learning to take the time to reflect on what I’m going to do for myself enables me to determine when I really do need to take time out and when I can simply take 10 deep breaths, listen to my favourite song and get on with the rest of my day. When following this protocol, you’re never defeated by your anxiety; you are simply choosing how to live with it.
Whether leaving your comfort zone means travelling the world, applying for a new job, meeting a new friend for coffee or leaving the house to go get milk, battling against your own mind is exhausting, so if that’s all you’ve done today, that is enough.
Besides, the shop will always be open again tomorrow.
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