If you have suffered from anxiety for some time and tried different things, but maybe started to feel like nothing is working, you’re definitely not alone. In this interview my ex-client, Jane* (not her real name) shares her story about how crippling anxiety was ruining her life and how she overcame it, by incorporating simple but powerful tools into her everyday life. I hope that her honest account can inspire you to believe that you too can find the tools you need to be free from anxiety for good.
How long did you suffer from anxiety?
Since childhood, I have always been unconfident, a worrier and nervous, but it wasn’t until my twenties I recognised I suffered from anxiety.
What was it like when your anxiety was at its worst?
At its worst, horrible.
Throughout the years my anxiety has come and gone. Even though it was terrifying when I first started to experience the symptoms of anxiety in my twenties, I would say I have suffered more recently in my forties.
The anxiety felt like it had evolved into something bigger and something that I couldn’t control or understand. Even on the days I was feeling better, it was on my mind – I thought about it 24/7.
During an attack and for the days after, it affected me badly. When I was younger I would know when I was about to have a panic or anxiety attack, as my face would go numb, but this was different. Without warning it would come on regardless of the time, situation or location – I even had one on a relaxing spa day!
Along with the physical symptoms of having an anxiety attack (heart racing, numbness, overheating, feeling sick, worry) came the days of constant dread, unhappiness, worry and feeling down.
It affected me every day, in particular on the run up to an event – as this is where the overthinking part would kick in.
Anxiety at its worst felt like it was all consuming.
Did you believe it was possible for you to recover?
No, but I thought it was possible I could control it. I thought it was embedded in me and it was something would have to live with.
What tools did you use and how did they help you?
I was at a stage I would try anything that would help me. These are the tools that worked for me. They are easy to do and very effective.
5-minute worry time
At the same time every morning, I spend 5 minutes writing down my worries, no matter how big or small.
By scheduling a time to worry, stops me worrying about things all day. If I start to think about something I put it to the side in my mind then write it down at the time I’ve allocated. This frees up my mind to enjoy my day more and also helps me tackle those worries as it’s written down.
Self-affirmations and being kinder to myself
I pick a positive statement about myself and recite it throughout the day. It gives me a chance to be nicer to myself and break the bad habit of my negative thinking being my own worst critic. It also makes me feel more confident, empowered and allows me to hush the self-doubt. I did struggle with thinking differently at the start but over time I’ve started to believe it.
Writing events, thoughts and feelings has helped me gain clarity and understand myself better. I am the type of person who would store a lot of stuff in my mind but this way I can get it down on paper.
After I’ve woken up I meditate for 10 minutes every morning – just after my 5-minute worry time. It calms my mind, helps me think clearer, makes me feel more at ease and generally happier.
For me, yoga is not just good for my body it’s good for my mind. I lay out my mat, switch off the outside world and focus on my practice whether I’m in class or the house on my own.
What’s your life like now and how does it differ from before?
Before I was broken, lost, sad and feeling very down. I felt anxiety had taken over my life and there was no way out. I was in a really bad way.
But taking the time out to focus and understand myself has been a transformation in ways that I didn’t think would be possible. But it has been. I am confident and know I am good at what I do – which makes me better at what I do.
For me, work fueled my anxiety. I had been in the same place for 16 years so with no confidence and the comfort of familiarity I remained in a place which made me unhappy. By dealing with my anxiety gave me the confidence to look for something new. I now have a new job, doing something I am good at and want to do.
My relationships with people have improved. Not that they would know this but I used to worry about what they thought of me, even when they were standing right in front of me which meant I wasn’t present or listening which would make me worry even more.
I still worry about things, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t, but not to the extent as I used to. Even if a worry comes into my head I have the time and tools to deal with it.
Using the tools and building my confidence has transformed my life for the better. I can’t remember the last time I was anxious, had a sleepless night worrying or a panic attack.
If you would like to develop your own tools to help you overcome anxiety, be sure to download Coping with Anxiety – a Holistic Toolkit to bring back Calm, which will be out next week.
If you’re interested in trying meditation, download my free guided meditation – finding you inner peace HERE