Chris suffered for many years from anxiety. Read how he has overcome his problems and come out the other side. Chris offers you his top tips on how to combat anxiety.
I caught up with Chris, a 54-year-old man from the North-West of England. Chris suffered from anxiety from a young age and recalls his anxiety problem starting at secondary school. For any of you reading this who are currently at secondary school, I hope his story will encourage you to take a different route. For those of you reading this in a similar boat to Chris, he gives some great examples of how to turn your life around for the better.
Chris, thank you for agreeing to share your story, can you tell me about your life journey so far?
When I was at secondary school I was so shy it was unbelievable, if I spoke to a girl I’d go as red as this table! Eventually, I met a girl and I was seeing her on and off for about nine years and we then got engaged. I was going out a lot, I had mates who liked drinking and we’d go to a lot of gigs, and watch the football together. But I wasn’t giving myself a break. My lifestyle turned on me and I found myself with anxiety and an alcohol problem. I tried to cut down on the drink but once I was out on a night out, I was out, so I couldn’t help but binge. I’d cut down, then I’d start drinking heavily again, then I’d stop. It honestly felt like I was ‘out drinking’ for 25 years.
The panic attacks were getting worse. When I had my first panic attack I thought I was dying. I read into it and I went to visit my GP who diagnosed me with anxiety. I thought I was going to collapse and die. When you are having an anxiety attack that is
What are your anxiety-busting techniques?
1) Tell someone- At one point I was getting panic attacks at work, especially when I was in a meeting situation (a bit like this) and so I was honest and told my manager. He was really sympathetic with me and he said, ‘If you do feel like you are having a panic attack, walk out and leave the room.’ This gave me permission to relax so I wasn’t feeling so trapped. I actually never needed to leave any meeting, but having that permission really helped.
2) Medication- You may need to see a doctor and be given the right medication for your situation.
3) Exercise – The more exercise and fresh air you can get, the better. I went jogging and played squash.
4) Keep busy – Distract yourself with things that you enjoy doing that are different to the problem.
5) Caring for someone or something – I found getting a pet really helpful as it gave me a sense of companionship and purpose.
6) Avoidance. Staying away from the place/thing that increases your anxiety levels for the short term helps. But it is important to then try and face and confront it, little-by-little.
If you suffer from anxiety, why not have a try at some of the ideas below and see how if any of them work for you.
These are my top three anxiety-annihilating tips, I remember it like this; R.E.D.
RELAXATION | EXERCISE | DISTRACTION
Relaxation is a wonderful way to combat stress of all kinds. Why not write a list of ways in which you best relax, my relaxation list includes;
Pilates, reading, long bubble baths, swimming, journaling, listening to music, drinking a big mug of hot chocolate in my PJ’s. Once you have written your list, why not keep it to hand so that when you next find yourself anxious or stressed you are able to remind yourself of what to do. It’s easy to forget when you are in the thick of an anxious time. If you can’t do the relaxing activity right then and there, plan a time when you will do it. I often visualise myself doing a relaxing activity in the thick of stress and say to myself, “I’m looking forward to this evening when I can run a bath and listen to music.”
On a weekly basis, I see clients who find relaxation a really helpful tool to diffuse stress and relieve anxiety.
If you do this once a day for at least a fortnight you should notice a real difference in the way you feel.
Exercise is a massive key to improving your emotional well-being. Why not train for a 5K run, or a Midnight walk? Doing this for charity is even more rewarding for your mental health. If you don’t know where to start, try the NHS ‘Couch to 5K’ programme. If running or walking isn’t your thing, how about weightlifting, swimming, badminton or whatever suits you and your abilities the best.
Why not set yourself a goal now? Make it specific, achievable, and manageable.
If you are intentional in your goal-setting then you can aim to do two runs a week. For the runs in Week 1, you might begin with a brisk 5- minute warm-up walk, then you will alternate 60 seconds of running, with 90 seconds of walking, for a total of 20 minutes.
For the runs in Week 2, you could begin with a brisk 5-minute warm-up walk then you will alternate 90 seconds of running, with 2 minutes of walking, for a total of 20 minutes.
What if you don’t stick to your goals? Something that I find helpful is applying the IF and THEN rule. This is basically your back up plan. So IF I don’t manage to exercise and do the 2K today that I planned to do, THEN I will do it first thing tomorrow morning. The IF and THEN strategy gives you a backup plan to overcome the situations you may find yourself in, including, illness, bad weather or some unexpected news.
Distraction is a really important tool in the management of anxiety levels. Distracting yourself with activities that take your mind off the anxiety, stress, and panic is the key.
Write a list of things you can do to distract yourself when anxiety seems to be overwhelming. Stick it somewhere that you can see it. Some ideas are, phone or text a friend, start an art project, write a poem or song, read a book, listen to music, watch a movie, pray, cook a lovely healthy meal, or bake some healthy treats.