Living with Anxiety
Worrying is something that exists in one form or another in everyone’s lives and will be personal to each individual. To an extent it’s a natural and unavoidable aspect of life. It’s in our human nature to think ahead to what could happen, it can help us feel prepared. But when worry and stress get out of hand it can build into something that feels unmanageable. It can seep into every aspect of daily life and stop you from doing even the most simple of tasks.
Struggling with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety can be an incredibly isolating and debilitating experience that can impact relationships and work life. It can make you feel helpless, especially when you think you are facing it alone. However, depression and anxiety in young people are more common than you might think.
In the UK 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each yearMind.org.uk
Particularly during university I’ve found that the external pressures that come with learning to live independently as an adult along with the pressure to succeed and progress in the field you’re studying can affect even the most ‘have it together’ type people.
75% of young people with a mental health problem are not receiving treatmentChildren’s Commissioners Mental Health Lightning Review
As someone who’s naturally inclined to being an overthinker and a perfectionist I have dealt with anxiety for much of my teenage life. It was however something I considered I had under control until recently. But with the beginning of second year came a fresh wave of fears and stresses I neither expected nor felt prepared to handle. This anxiety could also spiral, turning into panic attacks that would come out of nowhere, kicking the ground out from under me and bringing my day to a grinding halt. And so after a term that felt like it would never end the Christmas break brought some welcome and much needed peace. I felt exhausted and some time spent in the familiar comfort of my home, surrounded by my friends and family, helped me take a step back to breathe and regroup my thoughts. I had a chance to reevaluate what I needed to look after my mental health better. I found that what I needed was some perspective.
It’s so easy to get caught up in constant doubts and worries without asking whether they are useful. If my own self-critique wasn’t being constructive what purpose was it serving? In fact, all it was managing to create for me was more problems. Creeping doubts of whether I’m good enough or doing enough would leave me immobilised from the stress. Reducing each day into an endless list of things that could go wrong had me twisted into a nervous wreck that couldn’t even get out of bed some days. However, whilst my feelings of being overwhelmed did partly come from external pressures a lot of it came from my own internal expectations I was putting on myself.
Because of this, I’ve found that gratitude can really help ground me and stop my anxiety from spiraling.
Whether you suffer from anxiety as severely as me or not it’s so easy to lose sight of the things that really matter and get caught up in daily stresses instead. But when you stop to remind yourself of all the good in your life it puts everything back into perspective. I have a bunch of supportive and loving friends and family and they are the most important things in my life. This helps me realise that even if that assignment or that exam goes wrong they will still be there and at the end of the day that’s all that really matters to me. Grades don’t define my worth and there’s always the opportunity to try again and improve. Sometimes it can feel like there’s a rush to be at a certain level or achieving enough but it takes time to make mistakes and learn from them to be able to grow and improve, so let yourself go at your own pace.
Comparing yourself to others isn’t helpful either. Everyone’s got their own private struggles no matter how perfect their life might seem, so focus instead on appreciating the work you are putting in for yourself. And finally, Breathe. I know it might seem obvious but when things get overwhelming just step back and take a moment. It’s okay to take some time to look after yourself and you shouldn’t feel guilty for it either.
None of these things I’ve mentioned are of course replacements for therapy or counseling which do a world of good and I can’t recommend highly enough if you think you might need it. But hopefully, by writing about my experience with anxiety this can help open up some much needed conversations about mental health, especially in young people, so we can start to normalise these struggles that so many of us think we have to face alone.
If you want to reach out for support here are a few helpful organisations;
- YoungMinds.org.uk – Charity
- Their crisis messenger service – Text YM to 85258
- BetterHelp.org.uk – Online Counselling
- TheMix.org.uk (0808 808 4994) – Support service
- Their crisis messenger service – Text THEMIX to 85258