Anxiety has a way of getting up close and personal during the busiest of times. And let’s face it, the holiday season is ripe for the picking. With all the latest Christmas ads launching in the UK this week, including John Lewis’ Christmas ad, the pressure can start to rise be it from a financial perspective, or the pressure to host the best Christmas.
Here is a recap of such an incident that hit me hard in 2018. How the feeling that something was seriously up with my health but the reality was that I was experiencing anxiety.
Back to this place and time in 2018.
Most of my shopping had been done, plans had been made for the big cook off, I had a lovely champagne tea organised with two close writer friends to celebrate my birthday and of course, Christmas was a major success. All was going on track with UIO, too.
I was poised to deliver a blog and plans were progressing on some exciting work to do with our website and the Wait Awhile campaign (this was back with the planning!)
Somewhere in the folds of my mind, I must have been unsettled because little by little the symptoms of anxiety began to needle me—a prick here and there, all the regular stuff such as feeling tight and restricted on the oxygen flow that runs deep within. Try as I did to ignore it tossing and turning throughout the night, I sort of caved in upon rising Thursday morning.
Instead of leaping out of the bed and counting my blessings, I lay staring at the ceiling thinking what is wrong with me? I felt so tight muscular wise but also tight inside as if I was going to smother. All sorts of out of the periphery answers streamed into my head and caused the weight of my worries to get even heavier.
At last I dragged myself out of the bed and two hours later turned up at my training session rather weary. You see on the drive there, things got worse. Every time I coughed I felt a pain right behind my left breastbone but I persisted.
It was only after admitting the symptoms to my wonderful personal trainer, Laura Miles, that I begin to face my reality. Though what I was feeling felt like all sorts of other very serious conditions, it was anxiety, even if I didn’t think it had a right to be lurking around. Enough said personally.
The point is as we approach the end of the year, we are bound to feel more stressed than ever. And though this is meant to be a festive, fun and relaxing time of the year, in reality it can be quite the opposite. The body goes into the fight or flight mode—you know the one in which released hormones activate the nervous system to cope with a dangerous/threatening situation.
Sadly nowadays, we often find ourselves highly stressed, in fight or flight, unnecessarily, which can lead to panic attacks and so on. Our latest podcast episode Series 3: Episode 6 – On Social Anxiety which compliments another two podcasts around Mental Health Series 1: Episode 6 – Your Mind Inside Out and Series 2: Episode 2 – On Undiagnosed Mental Illness offer excellent advice and hot tips on how to manage stress. Great listens gearing up for the holiday season and during it also.
In the meantime, here are some tips on keeping anxiety at bay.
1) Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Admittedly, I jammed too much in for one day. Had I spread the joy over a couple of days, I might have spared myself some anxiety.
2) Limit drinking (avoid drinking for teen girls). Not a big drinker at all, but I like my champers, particularly during a special occasion. Surely a glass of champagne and a glass of wine in the evening couldn’t have contributed to the issue. It can and likely did as when the body is already stressed, alcohol, as a toxin can fuel the situation.
3) Breathe deeply. Shallow breathing has become a way of life, which is unsustainable, and it was only when Laura suggested some breathing exercises to takes breaths from my diaphragm that I started to feel my oxygen flow naturally again.
4) Turn off the chatterbox that is on continuous loop. When she says you need to go to the emergency room (A&E) for this and that, revert to point three, lying flat on your back and touching your stomach to feel your breath, if at all possible.
5) Catch a breath of fresh air. Go for a walk, a run if you fancy, that is if you are not on crutches. That can put you at a disadvantage for high impact activity but by all means, get outside if you can and again revert to point three if the sun is out and the grass is dry.
6) Eat whole foods and avoid foods that you cannot tolerate. I know, it’s cold and sometimes it’s easier but remember diet is so important.
But having a calm, out of fight or flight mode, holiday has to be worth it to both your body and your mind. It is to mine.
Take a listen to our latest podcast episode. Claire Eastham has some brilliant tips on social anxiety, remembering that it isn’t your fault, how she lives a normal life, even with anxiety disorder. She has some great tips on belly breathing, as well as a You Tube video too.
We’d love to know what you think of this episode and others!