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  • Writer's pictureIllyana M

My Anxious Mind – Mental Health Week 2023

Shining a light on anxiety during Mental Health Week 2023

A banner which shows a woman holding a red ceramic heart with the title My Anxious Mind - Mental Health Week 2023

According to Mind every 6 in 100 people will be diagnose with general anxiety disorder and that in the UK, over 8 million people are experiencing an anxiety disorder at any one time. (Mental Health UK) This year’s Mental Health Awareness week is focusing on anxiety. Now this post will be a bit different than our normal posts on WiTCH, which are normally inpersonal and straight to the point. I decided to do something a bit different this time as this is a topic that is incredibly personal to me so I decided to make the post more personal. I am one of those 6 in 100 people and more often than not make up one of those 8 million people.

I find it quite telling that I am “loud and proud” about my ADHD diagnosis, but this is really the first time I am talking about my anxiety. The two are interlinked, according to an article in ADDitude Magazine about half of adults with ADHD have some type of anxiety disorder. My anxiety never really goes away, on my good days it is more like a familiar heaviness that almost seems like a friend at this point, on my bad days it is overwhelming and utterly consuming, and I spiral into a pit of worry. I do try to make light of the situation, creating and playing the personal and little known game show - Am I restless because of ADHD or am I experiencing anxiety? When I talk about being consumed by a pit of worry I think it can come across as melodramatic, but I feel like I can use this articleas a great example of the day-to-day anxiety I live with. While writing this I have worried that:

  • no one will read this post

  • people will think I am sharing to gain attention.

  • people will less of me for having anxiety.

  • my anxiety isn’t bad enough to write an article like this.

  • my new company will fail.

  • I will fail WiTCH.

  • I won’t do enough to make impactful change.

  • I’m not good enough (not about a particular trait, just in general, overall)

  • people will think I am exaggerating.

Now the problem is this list is actually much longer, but I think the point has been made. A quick note that if sugar, spice and everything nice is what little girls are made of, ADHD, anxiety and masking is what imposter syndrome is made of. Although that is hardly as catchy as the original poem.

So why am I sharing my story instead of just making a generic post with ways to combat anxiety? Because I personally think that talking and sharing is one of the most important things I can do. Whether it is to make a postivie impact for my own mental health or helping create an environment where we aren't so afraid to share mental health struggles my willingess to share can help break down mental health stigmas. Do I expect everyone to be as outspoken about it as I am? Absolutely not, I just want to make sure there is a safe space in this community in case they do want to talk about it. So how do you combat anxiety? While I am not a doctor, and the above is a clear sign I don't have all the answers I do have a few techniques and tips that have worked for me that I can share so we can all embarking on a journey towards fostering a healthier mindset by understanding impact and how to discover coping mechanisms.

1. Understanding Anxiety: The first step to dealing with Anxiety is to learn about Anxiety. Anxiety is a normal human emotion, but when it becomes overwhelming and interferes with daily life is when it becomes a disorder. While I know is sounds rather simple but learning about it, through websites, books and talks can help you recognise when it becomes unhealthy and help you understand symptoms, diagnosis, what treatment is out there and how to go about getting treatment. I have listed a few resources below I personally recomend.

A book I recommend everyone should read in general is Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. It is a collection of observations on anxiety and the world we live in and is a great, accessible way to start learning about anxiety.
The NHS Mental Health Page is a great resource to understand the basic symptoms treatments and NHS Inform has a great anxiety self-help guide which can help you find out if you have symptoms of anxiety, understand more about anxiety and find way to manage or overcome anxiety.
Also, while you should always be careful of resources on social media, Instagram accounts such as @anxiety_wellbeing can be great ways to find small bits of information which can help make the process a little less overwhelming. When I talk about my ADHD diagnosis I credit the start of my journey to social media accounts such as these which can really help as long as you do the research and verify the information.

2. Finding a comfortable and safe network for support: Creating a supportive environment is vital for individuals struggling with anxiety. Encourage open conversations about mental health, destigmatize seeking help, and offer a non-judgmental space for sharing emotions. Whether this is by attending our mental health and wellbeing talks at WiTCH or by creating a coffee date with a few of your closes and supportive friends having other people to talk to is so important.

3. Self-Care and Mindfulness Practices: Self-care is a crucial aspect of managing anxiety. Engage in activities that promote relaxation and well-being, such as exercise, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and maintaining a balanced diet. Prioritize sleep and establish a routine that includes time for self-reflection and rejuvenation. There are a ton of great resources for self care out there. Again I have listed just a few resources that I rate highly.

I would highly recommend The Zensory which is an app available on IOS or Android store for mindful meditation and breathing exercises based in science (which also help prevent burnout at work). I talk about them a lot and I personally use the app for focus and relaxation. It also has the amazing bonus of being a female founded tech wellness company. These women rock!
This Book is a Safe Space is a brand new book by Amy Tran, MA who runs an amazing Instagram account @doodledwellness which covers lots of self-care particularly around mental health and anxiety in general. The first chapter talks about curating your coping skills into a toolbox and how to practice them so when you are anxious you are better prepared.

4. Seeking Professional Help: While self-help strategies can be beneficial, it's essential to recognize when professional intervention is necessary. Mental health professionals, such as therapists or counsellors, can provide guidance and support tailored to individual needs. They can help develop personalized coping mechanisms such as Cognitive Behavioural Techniques which are used to identify and challenge negative thought patterns, and other evidence-based treatments, while offering a safe space to explore and identify the underlying causes of anxiety in order to more effectively treat them. Mind has a great guide to finding a therapist either through the NHS or privately.

By working on the above you are working on the necessary steps to manage anxiety. It is important to point out that dealing with anxiety is not a linear challenge, there may be setbacks and days where anxiety wins despite the tools you have in place and that is ok. I think a lesson that is vital to learn not just for anxiety but mental health in general is it is OK to not be OK and that these bad days will help build resilience. Building resilience is crucial for navigating the challenges anxiety presents and by taking the steps to cultivate a positive support network, practice self-compassion, and develop healthy coping mechanisms you give yourself an arsenal to challenge your anxiety and manage it more effectively in the future.

The journey towards calmness and away from anxiety is unique for everyone, but by taking small steps, we can make a significant impact on our mental health. During Mental Health Week 2023, it is important to remember that anxiety is a common experience, and seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness.

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