Unknown anxiety…

We’re 2 weeks into lockdown 2.0… how are you doing/feeling?

Even though this latest lockdown has been given a 4 week cap, it’s hit people a lot harder. Unlike first time around we’ve not got the good weather and long days/evenings, we’ve come out of that seriously long slog… things felt like they were getting back to old normal… and then BOOM… we’re given another massive blow – to put it mildly!! This level of uncertainty and unknowns IS going to create anxieties.

Now I’ve suffered with pretty bad stress and anxiety over the past few years… I know what it feels like, how it can come out in its various forms (physical, psychological and behavioural) and how that has looked and feels for me… and this is different for everybody. What I am seeing and hearing from most people is that they are suffering… but don’t necessarily know it. If you’ve not suffered with it before, knowingly, you are most likely passing it off as other things.         

Anxiety is the feeling you have when you think that something unpleasant is going to happen in the future. Other words such as feeling ‘apprehensive’, ‘uncertain’, ‘nervous’ and ‘on edge’ (everything that Corona is kicking up) also provide a good description of feelings linked to anxiety. Anxiety is completely normal and something that all human beings experience from time to time, when faced with situations that are difficult or threatening. The word ‘anxiety’ is often used to cover a broad range of experiences and is linked with emotions such as fear and worry. In fact, ‘fear’ and ‘anxiety’ are almost interchangeable terms. Anxiety itself can be a helpful emotion, as it can help you to prepare for events ahead as well as improving your performance. However, anxiety can become so severe and intense at times that it becomes debilitating and starts to restrict daily routine and life as a whole… and this is what we all need to watch out for!

Knowledge is power, as the saying goes… and so understanding more about anxiety, what it can look and feel like, what can cause it and how you can cope and manage it… can only be a good thing.  

Here’s just some of the signs and symptoms…  

Physical: muscle tension, chest pain, abdominal discomfort, hot and cold flushes, skin disorders, back pain, increased resting heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure, dizziness, weight change.

Emotional: depression, irritability, anger, boredom, feelings of helplessness.

Mental: irrational thoughts, lack of focus, paralysed state of panic, low self-esteem, overly self-critical.  

Behavioural: changes to eating patterns, social withdrawal, aggression, mood swings, sleep changes.    

IF… anxiety and chronic stress are left untreated / unaddressed, it can have a significant impact on long-term health… leading to depression, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, some cancers, osteoporosis, IBS to name a few… long-term exposure to the ‘fight or flight’ response results in the release of cortisol, a catabolic hormone that suppresses the immune system – really not good!  

Management of anxiety…

Because the reasons and root causes of anxiety and stress can vary so much from person to person; different circumstances, life events, traumas etc. the management has to be individualised to a degree. What works for one person, might not be the best course of action for the next… you need to pick yourself apart and very often do a combination of things to address and manage different aspects. Some of the most common management techniques and therapies include:

  • Exercise – a biggie! Exercise is that escape / switch-off from stressors and endorphins give the best boost. Exercise is as good as antidepressants for mild-moderate anxiety and depression (this is not saying that if you are on medication you can stop taking it and just exercise).
  • Breathing and relaxation exercises and techniques – something that is so simple and can help in an instant as anxiety and stress builds. When my anxiety was at it’s worst I would do the Benson breathing exercise and always listened to a guided mediation before bed or first thing in the morning (and still do this now). I listen to the same ones over and over, and now I can’t get the full way through before I’m away with the fairies.
  • Counselling and talking therapies – opening up to someone impartial about life events and traumas can be so beneficial. Counselling is a way to help you process and deal with difficult things/feelings, understanding how to process them and move forwards, how to deal with them as they come up in future. I’m a big fan and encourager of this, talking and opening up to whoever you feel comfortable with can help so much.
  • Diet, caffeine and alcohol – eat a sensible/balanced diet, fluctuations in blood sugar / snacking can produce the same symptoms as anxiety. As can consuming too much caffeine, and the aftereffects of drinking too much alcohol (100% the alcohol effect gets worse as you get older!).
  • Complementary therapies – massage therapy, reflexology, acupuncture, reiki; all of the above can help to alleviate stress and anxiety, alongside other management methods. I am a massive advocate of complementary therapies. They have helped me greatly, reiki in particular. Reiki and exercise are my must haves in life. I go to my good friend, Jane, weekly, she’s the best! Read more about her services and reiki here.    
  • Medication – depending on how bad your anxiety and stress is, it may be that you have tried various/numerous methods of self-help and your anxiety levels are still high. If this is the case, the best course may be medication, and this is something that you should seek advice from your GP.

Self-help resources and information

Anxiety UK – have produced a comprehensive Understanding Anxiety Guide with information about what anxiety is, understanding symptoms, treatments and various therapies.

Click this link to view and download other free Anxiety UK booklets and guides.

Moodjuice (free site) – is a site designed to offer information, advice and support guides to those experiencing conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, panic and sleep problems. Click here to find out more about Moodjuice.

Moodgym (subscription site – £21 for 12 months) – moodgym is an interactive self-help book which helps you to learn and practise skills which can help to prevent and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. Click here to find out more about Moodgym.

Useful resources and websites

Anxiety UK

Mind

Mind – types of mental health issues

Mental Health Foundation

Samaritans

PANDAS – PND Awareness and Support  

I hope this information; downloads, links for further information and support helps… speak up and reach out if you are struggling, always.

If you’re wanting to get more active, exercise and start PT or classes… get in touch. Follow the links below for more information on classes and sessions I’m currently delivering.

Station 22 classes – currently being delivered online via Zoom

Buggy Bootcamp – an outdoor exercise class for mums/parents at Stubbylee Park in Bacup

Mum-to-Be & Mum & Baby Bootcamp at Station 22 – studio based group exercise classes for pregnant women and new mums


World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day… a subject that is hugely important at the best of times… but in these crazy Covid times it’s more important than ever, critical even… what we’ve all been through the last 6 months is horrendous, unbelievable, and it’s still ongoing and for how long… who knows!? So much uncertainty, change, new norms (that are so NOT NORMAL… thinking about it and writing this blog I find myself hitting my keyboard in anger). I for one, still cannot get my head around it… so many of the actions, decisions, ‘rules’, I do not agree with… but I’ll park my personal feelings there… before I go in on Bojo and what potential restrictions may/may not come into play as of next week… anything but making people’s health, wellbeing, and mental health a priority!! Sorry… I said I would park my thoughts and here I am still hitting my keyboard and going off on one…

That being said… talking, sharing, opening up, off-loading… however you want to label speaking, is so important, the first thing that needs to happen when it comes to any mental health issues and struggles you have going on. The biggest and often hardest thing to do too. But my god when you do, even sharing a little and taking that first step to getting some support, it’s MASSIVE, a huge weight is lifted in an instant; trust me… I know. There are so many people struggling right now, so many people that suffer mental health issues (1 in 4), and it is OK, you are not alone. Campaigns like this are making talking about mental health more common, associated stigmas are being broken down all of the time, more people are speaking up and sharing, and this is a good great thing!  

There are many forms of mental health issues, it may be that you aren’t aware you are suffering OR need some professional support, and just pass it off as something and nothing… playing things down to yourself and others. My personal thought on this, is that if we were all to accept/acknowledge this… that 1 in 4 stat above… well it would be everyone!! Life is tough… everyone experiences some form of trauma, testing times in life (different traumas, multiple times over!!), and the degree that these events affect you varies, when these things come to affect you too… sometimes years after, events trigger other/deeper issues you’ve buried… but the thing is, that nothing can be buried forever. We all have to deal with life events we have been through at some point and learn how to process them, understand what therapies and coping mechanisms work best for you, as an individual. Just writing this is whirling up my own anxieties, something that I have shared in a previous blog and talk openly about to clients, class-goers, friends and family… I talk and share till the cows come home and know how much even just that helps. I’m a massive believer in a holistic approach to health, mental health and well-being and on my own healing journey have had counselling, taken part in a group therapy sessions, had/have regular reiki, amongst other things… and exercise (always for my mind) most days. Yes I have triggers, spikes in anxieties, but I know how to deal with those thoughts and feelings most of the time now and know what works for me (I’ve tried and done A LOT these last few years, absolutely determined to fight back and win where my mind/life has been). I always say you should give things a try before you write something off. And again… the first point of action here, is that YOU have to want to help yourself, be so determined to want to face and deal with things… and this can start with the smallest step (but that is a massive and amazing one too!), and once you’re on this road to recovery/healing… it’s just the greatest thing… I promise you.

Click this link to read more about the types of mental health problems (mind.org)

We all have mental health, just like we all have physical health, and just as we need to be active to stay fit and healthy physically, we need to be active on our mental health too. Regularly check-in on ourselves and do things to stay mentally fit and well. We go to the gym/exercise for our bodies… counselling, well-being therapies and services are the gym/exercise for our minds. There’s lots of ways you can look after and improve your mental health, as said it is an individual thing with what works best for you… but here’s some of the ways you can help yourself:

  • Talk – the first thing to do… share how you’re feeling, things you have been through or are going through; with friends, family, colleagues or someone impartial/unknown via confidential support line. A problem shared is a problem halved, in sharing you help yourself and very often others too. People share their experiences too, and can help with recommending courses of action, support services and so on… a great and big first step.
  • Exercise – a biggie… those endorphins truly are a miraculous thing! The health and mental health benefits of exercise are endless… the more you do, the more you can and want to do. Endorphins (the after-exercise mood and energy boost) are totally addictive.  
  • Go outdoors – being in nature is so calming; walking, exploring or just being still… switch off your mind and switch on your senses… tune in to the sights, sounds, smells, your surroundings. The more you focus on your present, the calmer you feel. Be in the moment and appreciate it all.
  • Eat well / drink plenty – your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health. Drink less alcohol and caffeine and up the agua… often alcohol is something we turn to, to change our mood, but the effect is only temporary and the after affects can make you feel 10 times worse. Caffeine can heighten anxieties too.
  • Try breathing and relaxation methods – there’s lots of guided sessions you can follow on YouTube for meditation and breathing. It’s crazy just how amazing breathing exercises can be to create calm. When stressed you’ll probably find you’re holding in your breathe or breathing into your chest. Take full/deep belly breaths and slow it right down. Do this various/multiple times a day, to give yourself a moment/reset.
  • Healing/complementary therapies and some TLC – having a massage, going for reiki, reflexology and lots of other complementary therapies can help so much (they do me!). Having me-time, a pamper and treatments massively boosts your well-being too; getting your hair/nails done, beauty treatments are always a great pick-me up.    
  • Take a break and do things for you – life can be/feel like non-stop; work, family, friends, it can be full-on and often you forget about you, put everyone else first. Take a break (now holiday’s might be off the cards, but a break can be simply putting your feet up and doing nothing!!). Equally, it can be doing something new; learning a new skill, something you’ve always wanted to do too… something for your self-development/soul.
  • Stay in touch and ask for help – when things get too much we often step back, go quiet and fade away ☹ and this can lead to thoughts that this is for the best as you’re no fun to be around or don’t want be a burden on anyone… and that simply is never the case. Stay in touch… true and good family and friends are everything. They will be strong with and for you throughout, they will help you no-end.

Now I realise this piece is turning into somewhat of a dissertation… 1218 words later… (if only I was this dedicated to writing my dissertation all those years ago!). What started out as a rant at Bojo has rolled well and truly on… but I hope this is a help in some way, to anyone suffering or in need of support in these tough times and all times. There are so many support services available on a local and national level, don’t be afraid to speak up and reach out… know that you are beyond brave in doing that.

Here’s some links to services below:            

Mind Support Lines

Samaritans Support

Anxiety UK

PAPYRUS

Young Minds  

Rammy Men

If you have more suggestions for good support services holla and I’ll add them in… sharing is caring.

Always here with a listening ear

I always say that all of my classes and PT sessions are as much about the social and sharing of experiences in these tough times and general life, as they are the exercise… this is and always will be the case. Open up about anything and everything… you have going on, it’s always amazing to see that community/support that is always present.    

It’s OK to not be OK… there is absolutely no shame in speaking up, only strength and inspiration.

Stay strong, be kind to your mind, yourself and others…

Kate x