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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Life Lessons with Livvy Part 3: Steps to Dealing with & Overcoming Anxiety

Hello there you beautiful beings of the blog-o-sphere!

Today, I'm going to talk to you about anxiety, and more importantly, the ways in which we can deal with and overcome our anxiety.

On a daily basis, how many times do you get that sudden rush of butterflies, that moment of second guessing yourself, that feeling of extreme doubt in everything you are about to do or say? How many times a day do you feel uncomfortable in your own skin or overly stressed or anxious? How many times have you told yourself 'NO' when you should or could have told yourself 'YES'? The amount of times I have done or experienced these things are countless, and I am trying to change this. SO as I go on this 'journey' as they say, I thought I would bring you along with me and hopefully it may help you as well in some small way.

For me personally I have been a 'NO' person my entire life; by that I mean, whenever there is an opportunity or a challenge or a new adventure that crops up, I will always worry and think of all the reasons why I can't do that thing instead of being excited and thinking of all of the reasons why I can and why I should. A hint of pessimism in my personality? Yes, admittedly so; however most of it boils down to the fact that I struggle with anxiety. For as long as I can remember every thought that has crossed my mind has contained worry after worry after worry. With most people, feelings of worry and fear are associated with events such as starting a new school, making new friends, moving house, starting a new job, going to university, leaving home etc...but for me it is on another scale. I would be petrified to even get on the London tube and would avoid meeting up with people to avoid having to travel on it or go near the underground. I would worry for days beforehand about travelling somewhere new and it would keep me up at night. I would get anxious in unfamiliar situations, particularly social situations and although deep inside I wanted to be sociable and go out and see new places, there was always that part of me and those negative self doubting thoughts in the back of my mind that would be triggered and in order to protect myself I would instinctively go into 'hermit mode' and decline any offers to socialise as the feelings that came with participating in those events were too much to handle. As a result I saw less people, made less friends and became more isolated which in turn made everything that much worse. By never stepping out of my comfort zone and always remaining in my own little security blanket bubble, I never challenged my anxiety and it never got any better. As the saying goes "Great things never came from comfort zones". I have missed out on so many experiences and friendships due to my anxiety and low self esteem and it got to a point where it was affecting my friendships and family relationships as I just became a rather dull and distant person to be around. Over the past few years I have come to terms with it more and have started tackling these issues head on and dealing with the thoughts and feelings instead of suppressing or avoiding them. Life is far too short to sit in a corner and never test the waters. I was simply existing rather than living for far too long and it got to a point where I might as well have been in a coma- I know it sounds a little morbid but really it is the truth. I don't want to confine myself to one corner forever, I want to branch out and push myself and really make the most of the life that I have and say 'YES' to the opportunities that come my way. 

Many of you reading this blog post may be struggling with feelings of anxiety, low self esteem or depression, and I know that depending on who you are, the level to which this affects you may be mild, moderate or extreme. I am here to tell you that no matter how bad it may be, it can and it will get better. By tomorrow? Most likely no. By next week? Probably not. By next month? Maybe. But the point is that in the long run you can change things and make a difference to your wellbeing and your lifestyle. Every day may not be rainbows and sunflowers but honestly no one's days are all like that. Life comes with twists and turns and that is the whole point of it. You experience every emotion under the sun but eventually the good days overweigh the bad ones and the happy moments overweigh the sad times. 

THINK about it. What is the absolute worst that can happen by saying 'YES' once in a while instead of your usual safe 'NO'. Would you rather look back on life regretting all of the things you missed out on, or push yourself that little extra every so often and fight through the thoughts and fears and take the time to make your life that little bit better. Trust me, you don't want to look back thinking 'what if', you want to look back and tell your grandkids of all the adventures you went on and all of the risks you took. Now I'm not saying conquer everything in the universe and do the most terrifying thing in the planet, because of course there are some things that you do not need to put yourself through; but if you are letting your own mind stop you from doing things like getting on a train, visiting friends, going out to parties, getting a job, finding someone etc then maybe its time to step outside of your comfort zone and step by step you will find it easier to do these things. Now there will of course be occasions when you do get overly anxious or nervous about something, but if you keep the thought in mind that ultimately 'YOU WILL BE OKAY', that you are going to get through this and you will not die from these feelings you are having, you can at least feel a little more optimistic approaching the situation and try it out. Even if you do have to leave that party, or go back home or reschedule, at least you can say you tried and that you gave it your best shot. You deserve to give yourself the best chance at life. 

One factor that many people struggling with negativity or anxiety have difficulty with, is comparison. We compare ourselves to others who do not seemingly struggle, we become envious of those around us that ooze confidence and positivity and we sit there wishing we were them and that we could live like that. But as the saying goes, 'comparison is the thief of joy' and how true it is. The minute we stop comparing ourselves to others and realise that who we are is okay, life will become a whole lot easier. There are SO many others who struggle and it is easy for us to forget this and to think we are all alone. We need to remember that we are not alone and we never will be.  It is all too easy to think "I wish I was that confident" or "I wish I never had to fear or worry about anything like that person", but really how are those individuals any different to us? In reality what do we really have to worry about? Everyone worries, everyone gets scared, everyone has doubts and moments of anxiety, but there are ways to deal with these things. There are unhealthy ways and there are positive beneficial ways. It is up to us to choose the healthy route! It is never impossible to overcome the issues you are struggling with; through learning and using the healthy coping mechanisms and tools that are available to us, we can either tackle these issues and go about our lives or at worst we can learn to deal with them and embrace the fact that sometimes we will get a little more scared and anxious or sad than others and just accept that this is okay and nothing to be ashamed of. 

As the (extremely irritating and overused) abbreviation goes, You Only Live Once and so you should do everything in your power to make it count. You have one life (or you are an immortal/supernatural in which case HOW and give me some of whatever you are having), you have the chance to change things for yourself and to improve your existence. Rid your life of toxic energy, toxic thoughts and toxic people. Get the hell away from the negativity and do what you can to absorb the positive energy that life brings. Cherish the little things, the small moments and cling to the people that lift you up instead of dragging you down. If you put positive energy out there in the universe, it will come back to you in one form or another. If you smile at someone, chances are they will smile back, but if you look miserable and grumpy, chances are they will dismiss you or be grumpy and miserable back. You may not have a say in your anxiety or depression but you do have control over the way you choose to act upon the emotions and thoughts you have.

Take steps to break down those walls you have spent years building for yourself, contact the people or services you need to in order to get that extra bit of help (there is NOTHING wrong with getting professional help and reaching out- in fact it is very brave and in the long run it could be hugely beneficial). Every time a moment crops up when you would usually respond with a 'NO' on autopilot, take a second to stop and think and then with a boost of courage, reply with those three letters 'Y.E.S'. If at the end of the day you really cannot go through with the thing you agreed to then that is fine, but at least give it a go, take a step in the right direction and start opening up the doors to more opportunities. Stop limiting yourself and knocking yourself down, because nothing bad is going to happen from saying 'YES' to things. One important thing to remember though, is that is okay to have bad days and to simply let yourself be anxious or sad or negative. It is okay to indulge in those emotions from time to time, but then the next day you have to pick yourself up and get back on your feet. You cannot let those feelings linger or it will smother you and ultimately lead to you feeling worse again. In life we all have the power and the ability to change many things. It is up to us to take that power and use it to start living. We CAN and we WILL overcome this. 

Thanks for reading!

- Olivia Charlotte Alice

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