GUEST POST: Living with Anxiety
Welcome to the third installment in my new segment where I talk to a range of people from different backgrounds and abilities!
My latest post is from Sarah at 'http://sarahbockhart.com/'. Sarah is a Personal Trainer and Sports Massage Therapist from Essex and shares her knowledge on her blog. Sarah mentioned to myself that she struggles with Anxiety and was recently diagnosed with GAD. Anxiety effects so many people, however is still often something that people still feel embarrassed to admit to having, or feel stupid when it takes over. I decided to ask Sarah some questions regarding what she thinks.... Click to hear what she had to day!
1. How did you feel when someone told you that you had GAD? Was it a shock? It was more of a relief that someone professional acknowledged that how I feel and the reaction I have to certain things is diagnose and recognizable. When you’re constantly telling yourself “why do I feel like this?”, “What’s my problem?”, “No one else is bothered, get over it” …you don’t really feel “normal” and even that in itself can end up making a person feel anxious. I’ve worked with a lot of people suffering from mental illness becaue exercise is a great treatment. However, when it was ME sitting asking for help with anxiety it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to admit. I guess because I am confident and outgoing, I teach fitness classes, I meet strangers every day…I didn’t think anybody would believe how I felt. Relating it to something I understand helps. Not all overweight, sedentary people have heart problems. I’ve helped marathon running vegans through cardiac rehabilitation. You don’t have to be shy and nervous to suffer from anxiety. 2. How do you cope when you feel yourself getting anxious? Up until now I didn’t realize that I was making myself cope. I’m in very much a mindset of, if you avoid something, it’s won, and I can’t go through life as a grown adult avoiding things just because they make me feel a bit on edge. There’s a lot of internal dialogue. If you’ve never read “the chimp paradox” I would recommend it because that is EXACTLY how a lot of anxiety works. It explains the theory of an emotionally driven, over-sensitive inner chimp who will fly off the handle and freak out (think your knee-jerk reaction when you’re cut up by another driver and you can’t control your temper). You can consciously use your inner human to talk sense into it and calms it down. Which is what I do. I was referred to Colchester health in mind who have sent me some brilliant work to do where I write down what I’m worrying about, determine if it’s a real worry or hypothetical and then decide if I can fix it right then and there or whether I need to set a time to sit down later and consciously worry about it. By delaying when I worry I can let my chimp get over it and when I go back to it I normally wonder why I was worried at all. 3. Does working full time while suffering from GAD have challenges? What are they? I’m self-employed so I have moments where I ask myself a lot of “what if’s” about my success. I worry I don’t motivate people enough or that I will forget to write an appointment down. This is where deciding to ‘worry later’ works so well. My biggest challenge this year was the launch of my new class Totally Shredded. I had 100 people booked in to the first class and I had nausea, butterflies, heart palpitations the whole day. The night of the class I wanted to lock my doors and not leave the house. I couldn’t just not turn up though, not after the hard work I’d put into organising it. I knew it would be ok so I wrote to-do lists and left with plenty of time spare so I could take my time and breathe. It went better than I expected. 4. What advice would you give to someone else who has recently been diagnosed with Anxiety? Get help with it. Don’t just assume you’re a “worrier”. Worrying is draining and there are ways to take control of it even if you really think there isn’t. If there is a clear trigger, try to address the issue. Mine was definitely work related when I was working as a leisure and fitness manager. The moment I decided I wasn’t going to carry on in that job I felt a HUGE weight lift from my shoulders. Going freelance with my classes, massage and online personal training was the best decision I could make. Take your time Go at your pace and work on it your way. You will relapse and have a moment of anxiety but you’ll get it together again and can carry on. 5. I know people close to me who have anxiety... what advice would you give to someone who knows someone with GAD (What to say/not say, behavior etc)? My answers are for me personally, as I don’t know how others with GAD feel about certain things or what sets them off. It’s a good idea to discuss with the individual or see if your behavior effects theirs. If you act anxious, I will feel more anxious. Here’s an example. Once someone was giving me a lift to the train station that I live a 5-min drive away from. We had 30 minutes to get there. I got in the car and had to quickly run back inside to grab something I had forgotten. When I sat back in the car the driver was getting quite het up saying “how are you going to get on the train in time? you might have to queue for your tickets! and if I can’t park nearby it will take time to walk there” etc etc. I had to politely say to them “Look, you’re not catching this train. I will worry about whether I miss it or not but right now I still have 25 minutes to wait for it to even approach it’s platform. Please don’t worry about it, I will be fine” Because I could feel myself getting more and more wound up and I knew I had nothing to worry about because we were leaving in such good time. Please don’t make light of how I feel even if it is totally irrational and silly. If I’ve told someone an example of something I get anxious about and they then mention it in a sarcastic jokey tone it upsets me because I feel like they’re disregarding how I feel. Be patient and empathetic, what may not bother you might be giving me a physical reaction. I personally only tell someone so that if they’re ever with me in a certain situation they then know why I’m reacting like I am. They don’t need to do or say anything, it just makes me feel better knowing I don’t have to be anxious about how anxious I come across! An example is driving in a busy area that I’m unfamiliar with. My heart races, I go very hot, I turn the music down and lean forward in my seat and everything seems to move at about double the speed. All I normally say is “Bear with me, I get flustered when I drive in areas like this” Don’t give me something to be anxious about before I’m anxious Keeping in with the driving scenario, if my passenger started saying “oooh we’re coming up to a busy area, quick get the music off, Sarah’s got to concentrate ha ha” I’d then be freaking out before I even got to the congested area. That may have been the day I dealt with it and you’ve just ruined that so try not to build the tension before I do. 6. Anxiety is something that is heard of a lot these days, however some people can feel embarrassed when they begin to feel anxious. What do you think of this? I think many people worry about how they will react and come across. The last time I flew in a plane I cried. I’ve been abroad before, I know it’s safe, the pilot and crew wouldn’t do the job if it wasn’t. The sheer panic and stress that overcomes you though is overwhelming. Now I will probably worry about reacting like this again the next time I fly because I don’t want other people to feel upset because of me and I certainly don’t want to come across as weak and vulnerable. 7. If someone thinks they might suffer from GAD, what should they do to get the right help? I went to my GP. He knows my background in fitness and rehabilitation and knew I used to refer people to Colchester Health in mind myself. He couldn’t tell me to exercise because I already do that but exercise REALLY helps burn that nervous energy. There is medication available, and at the time I did feel so low that I wanted to take tablets to make myself feel “fixed” but unfortunately it isn’t an immediate fix and can take months to kick in. Ask if your GP can refer you to a service for mental health, talking, CBT, worry diaries, it all helps. So does speaking to your family and friends about it because you watch a handful of them admit they are ALSO suffering from GAD but never told you! 8. What can people do to make Anxiety something that isn't seen as being weird and something that is more openly discussed? I’ve never worried about saying to someone “No I won’t eat that because I suffer from IBS” so therefore I shouldn’t worry about saying something is bothering my anxiety, right? However, I think the biggest problem is, to admit you’re anxious, you must show you’re vulnerable which is very difficult for people. It is for me anyway. If there were a way to take that aspect away it would make it much easier for people to openly discuss it. No one wants to be judged or seen as weak. I guess speaking about it and raising awareness that it isn’t a weakness just like my IBS isn’t a sign of weakness would make a difference. 9. Has being diagnosed with GAD influenced your life in any way? Have you made any changes because of it? The only thing I’ve changed since being told I suffer from GAD is how I now handle it when it kicks in. I don’t lay in bed letting thoughts run through my mind and keep me awake. I write them down to worry about in the morning and when the morning comes I realize I don’t need to waste my time worrying about them. This is why getting help is so important. 10. Finally, is there anything you want to add to help people who might be in a similar situation?Go to your GP or whoever can help you. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) will really help so either look it up online or go to a therapist. Try not to mask it with medication, that isn’t a cure. It’s exhausting but stay strong and persevere because, just like the more you work out the fitter you can become, the more you work on your worry the less it will bother you.
A Massive thank you to Sarah for letting me cover this here on my blog and being so open! Anxiety affects so many people, please if you need help, take Sarah's advice and get the help you need if you feel Anxiety is taking over! Feel free to leave comments below if you wish to discuss anything! Please feel free to leave comments below and make sure you check Sarah out over at her blog. I have also left her Twitter so you can go follow her right now! :)
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