Since I finished my masters I’ve been feeling pretty discombobulated. As a creature who likes routine, and sleep, the last few weeks have sent my head spinning. Not only has the structure of studying come to an end, but I’ve also moved house (apparently one of the most stressful things you can do), and been hit by a wave of exhaustion and the impact of suddenly have time to think about all the things that trigger my anxiety. It’s an emotional tsunami.
Watershed moments have never been easy for me. My first very serious bout of anxiety, aged 12, was when I made the transition from primary school to secondary school. The more I’ve learnt about myself the more I’ve come to realise that times of change are when I have to be most aware of myself and how I feel. It’s tricky at a time which isn’t necessarily conducive to stepping back and taking a breath, but there are a few things that I find help tide me over until I can have a proper rest and recalibrate.
1. Rest – it always feels easier said than done when there are a million things to do, but proper rest always makes a difference. At emotionally intense times I make an effort to prioritise sleep, it makes so much difference to how I feel and perform.
2. Eat well and stay hydrated – when you feel overwhelmed it’s easy to reach for processed comfort foods which can spike your blood sugar. I try to keep it in my mind that veggies, wholegrains and protein will make me feel much better, although I’m not too hard on myself if I also reach for a bar of chocolate. I also know that if I’m dehydrated I have far less clarity, which means my thoughts become more cloudy and it’s easier for me to become confused and overwhelmed.
3. Move, mindfully – I’ll be talking more about this over the coming months, but movement can make a world of difference. However, when I’m really stressed out I avoid anything too intense as it can push up my flight hormones (a real sticking point for me) and stick to gentle, reflective workouts like walking, yoga and gentle running.
4. Talk to someone – when I keep things to myself I am prone to ruminating and catastrophising, so I talk. Whether it’s speaking to a therapist or to a trusted friend, getting it out there helps.
5. Be kind to yourself – when you’re finding life hard it can be easy to judge yourself harshly. Try to take a moment to reflect on why you’re feeling how you feel and let yourself off if you’re not perfect. It takes practice, but little acts of kindness towards yourself make the world of difference.
None of these tips are meant to be a fix all, or to replace proper support from a medical professional, they're based on my own experiences and what works for me. You might be different.
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*image: Anna Rachel Photography*