There are certain triggers living with a mental illness that can throw you. You could be in a positive mental mood and suddenly something can bring the negative thoughts forward. We are human and these things can happen, recovery is a journey and doesn’t happen over night. Here are some tips to help with some common triggers with anxiety:
Supermarkets are my biggest trigger and can often lead to panic attacks. I don’t like the idea of all those people in one place, I also find food shopping overwhelming as there are so many brands or types of food nowadays I can’t keep up.
Tip: Try and ask a friend or family member to come with you if you need to do a big shop. Their presence can help you keep calm. If they are unavailable try and go to the shops with a list of exactly what you need – this will make sure to avoid extra time feeling lost. Another alternative is to do an online shop one week so you have a list of what you will need exactly and can use that when in the supermarket.
When my depression and anxiety started I spent most of my energy trying to hide it from everyone. I hated going to social events as I knew I would have to put on a smile because I didn’t want people to know I was struggling. I then would go and feel worse.
Tip: you don’t always have to go to the social events. You can say no if you don’t feel up to it. If they are your real friends they will wait until you are ready and care about your mental health.
Bonus tip: if you do want to go to the social event that’s completely okay too. Just don’t put too must pressure on yourself- wear what’s comfortable, if you are drinking I would recommend just a few glasses otherwise the lack of control can make you feel weepy and just feel free to tell people you are going through a hard time at the moment. Again if they are true friends they will listen if you want to talk or give you a hug if you don’t feel like talking.
I constantly worry about money, I just don’t show it because I know I’m the reason most of the time I don’t have any. I spend more than I make or often buy things I shouldn’t.
Tip: Try and sit down and go through your monthly spending – put down your priority direct debits (rent, bills, phone, etc.) and see what you are left with and make a budget for fun things. Even if this involves just a small coffee for a monthly treat – you are still making time for yourself. If you stick to a budget you are more than likely to be less self-hating about having no money. Also try and eat out less – this is what takes most of my money as I hate the feeling of being left out, but if you can’t afford it it’s better to say no. Or be honest with your friends and explain your financial situation, often their’s is the same.
Phone interviews can be particular worrying because I hate talking on the phone. You can often overthink everything and I hate not being able to see facial expressions.
Tip: I tend to get dressed as if I’m going out for an interview, make a cup of tea/coffee and set up a little area and positive space. Then when the person calls I put it on speaker so it’s like I’m sitting having a conversation and I’m in my space so I’m feeling a bit more comfortable.
I hate confrontations. I always have and particularly as an adult at work it’s a horrible sick feeling. I often can’t get my words right or start crying because of frustration.
Tip: Allow yourself 5 minutes. If you are at work, at home, having a social media argument – any type of confrontation – if you can, try and get out of the situation for 5 minutes to breathe and calm down. We often say horrible things when we are angry, so sometimes it’s best to calm down so we can say what we want without having to get too nasty. I know that this is better said than done, if there is no time to calm down or remove yourself from the situation try and take a step backwards. Take deep breaths counting down from 10. Breathing can always help when we are feeling frustrated and can calm down us down.
Bonus Tip: Remember that not everyone is going to like you or like what you say. Everyone has an opinion – we have to pick our battles and some people just aren’t worth your time or energy.
Leaving the house
It sounds so simple but for people living with a mental illness it can be the biggest challenge they face. Home can be a safe space, away from the negativity and we can sometimes become too attached to this idea and fear the outside world.
Tip: If you struggle to leave the house start by opening your windows and sitting by them, getting some fresh air. Then, slowly and in your own time, you can start transitioning this to standing outside in your garden, going for short walks around the garden and then around the block – working towards being able to leave the house to attend an event or go to work. I would also make a list of the things you enjoy about the outside world – autumn leaves, J.K. Rowling, etc. This will help you focus on the positives of leaving the house.
The idea of loads of people in one sweaty space, often angry with the British Transport system (especially in the North…. it’s terrible) and commuting to and from work. I struggle with crowds of people anyway but public transport is so unpredictable I find it hard to plan for when I reach places and stress about being late or lost.
Tip: Plan a Route B – if you are planning to get the train, try and have a look at a possible bus route or tram route that could work also. Least that way you can tell yourself you have another option. Also I tend to take relaxing music/playlists on my phone or if you are a superhuman who can read on the train a nice relaxing book. Something that can distract you. Main tip – try and travel with others at first to build confidence and have that support.
Phone low battery
I know this sounds like a first-world problem but I always get nervous if my battery goes low whilst out and about. Especially if I would like to use it on my journey home.
Tip: You can purchase cases nowadays that charge your phone whilst out and about – I recently invested in one and it has changed my life.
Yes. Exams are awful. I remember the summer of 2009: GCSE season. The nerves were horrendous and I felt like I had the world on my shoulders.
Tip: Try and wake up in a positive way – have a coffee/tea/drink you like (non-alcoholic), watch a programme that makes you laugh or listen to some music you normally enjoy. Put on some comfy socks or something that makes you feel safe. Make a list of the positive things about you other than how good you are at GCSE Maths, i.e. friendly, empathetic, funny, etc. – because these things are more important than any grade. Believe me, I have gotten all my jobs from my personality and listening skills than my GCSE results.
Ahh, adulthood. Making sure you register for council tax, don’t set the house on fire, check your car oil every 3 months….. the list is endless. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with responsibilities as you grow older – especially as school didn’t teach us anything about it.
Tip: Use one day/evening a week to get some ‘life admin’ done. Make a list during the week and when it comes to the evening you know what you need to do and get the boring and stressful stuff done and sorted so you know it’s done and dusted for another month. Google is your best friend and can give you tips of life admin and websites you can use to help.
Meeting new people
This is one thing I over-think, when we run the ECBC events I tend to spend the day after overthinking everything ‘Was I welcoming enough?’ ‘Did I make people feel comfortable?’ etc. etc. it goes on.
Tip: Remember everyone tends to be in the same boat, you are not always the only person who doesn’t know anyone. If you do know someone – try and be welcoming to those who may not and include them in conversation. Have a few things up your sleeve that you could talk about – yes being British you could talk about the weather, food, what you’re doing that weekend, work, ranting about work – most people are happy to listen and probably thankful you are doing the talking.
Making mistakes at work
This is my worst trigger and something that I still work on every day. Making mistakes at work can make me suddenly very defensive – mainly because I know I had done something wrong and feel like accepting it is failure, but it’s not.
Tip: Don’t try and cover up your mistakes. Be honest. Often employers prefer this and respect you for owning up to your mistake. You are human – it is impossible for us to never make a mistake, especially at work when we are usually stressed and juggling more workloads than we are paid for.
Do you have any more tips for anxious situations? Have you experienced anxiety and could benefit from meeting up with ECBC? Feel free to add a comment below.