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Why I Hate When Publications Say You Can 'Beat' or 'Overcome' Anxiety

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Because I’ve been writing about stress, anxiety and overthinking for the past two years, nearly every day I receive a new trending anxiety article via text or Facebook messenger from a smart, well-read friend or family member. The piece usually gives advice on how you can “beat,” “overcome,” “conquer” and “escape” anxiety.

I always stand at my computer and groan. This is perceived as what will garner clicks. Whether the writer chose the title or not, this is often how anxiety articles are framed and sold.

The problem is: what gets clicks wends its way into hearts and minds. This framing will not help people who actually have anxiety. In fact, it only exacerbates the problem. In my experience, those of us who have anxiety are always looking for answers. We Google until our fingers are numb. We read every book we can find. We covertly study. We slyly interview. We believe that if we work hard enough, we will find a way to beat, escape or conquer anxiety.

Alas, all of this trying and searching is only adding to our anxiety. It is part of the problem, not the solution. There is no path “out of” anxiety. If you have an anxiety disorder, then anxiety will likely be some part of your entire life. Does this mean you can’t be happy? No. You can find many ways to feel safe and comfortable with who you are, anxiety and all. Here’s a good place to start. But the false promise these headlines are selling in order to get your click — that you can no longer feel the pressure of anxiety if you just read what someone else did to work on theirs — is a lie. And it needs to stop.

We all need to stand up to clickbait anxiety titles, but this critique is really aimed at my fellow writers. Ask yourself, “Do I really mean what I’m saying when I write “beat anxiety?” Or am I just wanting a dopamine hit from getting a bunch of clicks?” If it’s the latter, then perhaps you too need to ride the wave and adjust your expectations.

What I want people with anxiety to know: you’re not alone in feeling confused. There are many tactics to try, but since no two anxieties are the same, what worked for others won’t always work for you. Keep experimenting and you will find calmer, happier shores. And good luck on that wave!

Follow this journey on Beautiful Voyager

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Unsplash photo via Steinar Engeland

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Top 10 Things You Do Because of Your Anxiety

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1. You always cancel plans, even if you really want to go.

It could be as little as going on a shopping date with your friends or your mum, and you will be out for just a few hours, but you seem to have canceled it more times than you can remember by making up some lame excuse. In reality, it’s because of your anxiety. I have missed out on countless things because of my anxiety. It definitely stops me from doing what a “normal” 20-year-old should be doing at this age. Before the event, I build myself up for whatever it is by thinking of every single possibility that could happen. Some are far too extreme (which I know) but I still convince myself otherwise. So, by the time the day comes around, I have made up a huge scenario in my head, like how when I get there I am gonna have a major panic attack in front of everyone and make a fool of myself, resulting in me “keeling” over and pretty much dying right there. No wonder I cancel all the time.

2. You feel extremely guilty when you have to cancel on people.

This could be anything — a date, going out for a meal, going to a party, going shopping, going for an interview. It could be literally anything. You beat yourself up about it until you feel ashamed and guilty, especially if it is a regular occurrence. My boyfriend is a lot more outgoing than me; on weekends, when he’s off work, he likes us to go on adventures and spend time together but sometimes (seems to be becoming a lot more regular) I don’t feel like going out and just want to stay at home. This makes me feel really guilty, and like I am holding him back. He assures me it’s OK and that he understands, but I can’t help but beat myself up about it.

3. You constantly doubt yourself every day, and your head is filled with “what ifs.”

Thinking of the worst case scenario in every situation seems like second nature to me. As a person who struggles with health-related anxiety, I know about “what ifs” all too well. I constantly think my headaches are something more serious, which causes more headaches; it’s a vicious cycle which seems to never end. I have been back and forth to my doctors four times about them, and each time they have “reassured” me it’s nothing more than tension due to my anxiety, my mind just doesn’t accept it.

4. You obsess over conversations you have had that day.

This is one of my favorites. It could be literally any conversation you have had with a friend, work colleague, your boss, or even a bus driver. You go over it in your head in detail and convince yourself you sounded or looked stupid when in reality you didn’t. You think about what you should have said or beat yourself up over it, thinking things like, “Why did I say hi like that, they’re gonna think I’m weird.” You think about it until you cringe. We need to stop being so critical of ourselves.

5. You struggle to hold down a job or stay in education.

I think this is personally one of my main struggles. I am now on job number five, I am starting university for the second time around and I am only 20 years old. Each time you “quit” it gets harder and harder to pick yourself back up again, but I am determined to better myself. Since the age of 12 I have wanted to be a nurse, but of course anxiety got in the way of that. I am now working towards helping others who struggle with mental illness, which is one of the reasons why I write – I have a huge heart and love helping others.

6. Things easily get on top of you.

Sound familiar? Oh yes, I have a minor breakdown if my bedroom’s untidy, and I feel like the littlest things suffocate me. I can only deal with things bit and bit, otherwise I feel like everything is crashing down on me.

7. You get agitated easily and have a short temper.

Following on, once things get on top of you (however minor it may be) you easily “snap.” It is usually on those who you love, which leaves you feeling guilty. It feels like it is all one big cycle and there is no way getting out. So, if you didn’t feel bad enough about canceling on people all the time, thinking “what if” in every situation, going over awkward conversations and being jobless, you are now in a mood and snapping on those who you love. Gotta love anxiety.

8. You’re either extremely exhausted or completely wide awake.

… Or both. Personally though, if I am being completely honest, I hardly ever struggle to get to sleep. I am the polar opposite — I struggle to stay awake all day without a nap. I spend most of my day tired and looking forward to bedtime. The only time I struggle to sleep or stay asleep is when I have something major on my mind like an interview, the first day at a new job, an exam or an appointment at the doctors the next day. For anyone who struggles to sleep though, I recommend an app called “Calm.” It has its own sleep section which I find really soothing. Other tips I find helpful are a hot bath before bed, a nice warm drink, or having the fan on (the light breeze and sound of it relaxes me). Opening your window it has a similar effect. I love listening to the rain whilst going to sleep.

9. Some days you really struggle to get out of bed and face the day.

All I can say to that is well done if you got out of bed today. Some days it seems near impossible and all you want to do is climb back in under the duvet with your cat — well, that’s me! I try to avoid sleeping in as it makes it harder for me to get up if it’s already later in the day. I also give myself a task for the next day too, so I do actually have to get up.

10. And finally… you are your own hero.

There is nothing more scary and uncomfortable than fighting a battle inside your own head every single day but still managing to paint a smile on your face. Take each day in your stride. You can do this.

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Unsplash photo via Fade Qu

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An Inner Dialogue With Myself During an Anxiety Attack

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I don’t know. Well, I do know.

I had coffee. I shouldn’t have had coffee. But I like coffee. I meant to get decaf, but I don’t know… I didn’t forget to get decaf. I just wanted coffee. And now I pay the consequences.

I tried using my skills — “Who, what, when, where, why, and how” — but then it ended up with me internally yelling at myself.

I think I’m just lazy. Yeah. I’m lazy. I can’t have depression, I’m always laughing. But when I’m not laughing I’m beating myself up. Blaming myself for every little mistake I make. And I feel so empty and lonely. I’m just lazy.

I just want attention. Those posts about me trying to help people understand my anxiety and depression is just for attention. I don’t need help. I’m fine. compared to homeless people and starving children. I’m fine. Peachy perfect. I’m a-OK. I’m good. Good in the hood.

I don’t know. My mom came in my room earlier asking me to turn off my phone. And I did. But I just started yelling at myself. In my head. Having a conversation. You’re just lazy. You stay up late on your phone. That’s why you’re always tired. No, it’s not because of the phone. It is. No, it’s not. Yeah, it is. Why can’t you just be normal? I stay up because of my thoughts! What thoughts? These thoughts! And then my inner self went quiet. It sounded like a movie. I don’t know.

Because of this, no one will want to deal with me. I’ll be alone. Yeah, I have my parents… mostly my mom… sometimes my mom… I don’t know. But who’d want an anxious girl at 3 a.m. and a depressed one at 4 p.m.? That’s why I don’t have confidence in myself. Because of this.

Breathe. Breathe. Just breathe. I am breathing. Yes. I am alive. But am I living? I think I am. I don’t know. I’ve been afraid of living lately. No, I don’t want to die. I just want this to stop. I’ll be OK. I think. I don’t know. What if this kills me?
What is life? How can I live and enjoy life with this? I am not my diagnosis. I think. I’ve been very unsure about what I’ve been saying recently. I’ll be OK. OK? OK. OK? OK. OK? A-OK.

I need to pee. But if I get up I’ll wake up Ma and then Pa will ask me if I’m OK, and what if i cry? I’m not OK. Wait. We just went over this. I am OK. Why am I not tired? Go. To. Sleep. I need to throw up. No, I don’t. What I need is: to cry. But I’ve been crying too much. Just gotta bottle it down. Just like every other time. Except yesterday and the day before and the day before that. I don’t know. They say crying is OK, but then they see me as weak. I’m not weak. I’m strong. I am resilient. Yeah. I’ll be OK. If not today, then tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then the next day. And so on. There has to be a day that I’ll be OK. One day. Maybe. I don’t know.

I think I’m calming down. The thoughts are stopping. What if I get anxious tomorrow morning. Ma and Pa will get mad if I don’t go. I’ll just say I’m fine. I’ve faked that for years now, and they seemed to have believed me. Yeah. I’m fine. Yeah. I. Am. Fine. If I say it enough, maybe it’ll be true one day. Hopefully.

It’s 12:39 a.m. OK. If I go to sleep exactly right now I’ll have six hours and 21 minutes. Yeah. OK. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. I. Can’t. Sleep. I really need to pee. Oh my goodness. I won’t stop shaking. My fault. I’m gonna go pee.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Why My Anxiety Means I Take a Week to Get Ready for a Night Out

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I don’t look sick.

If you were to see me out and about, you would likely see a pulled together individual. I’d be cracking jokes, enquiring as to what people have been up to, and you’d be forgiven for assuming I’m doing a great job of navigating my way through my mental illnesses. In fact, at the weekend I was talking to people about my mental health and had three separate conversations with people who were surprised to learn I struggled with it.

This made me think: is that a good thing?

I don’t want to ruin a social event by showing the world just how terrifying I am finding it. Believe me, there would be no better way to throw a wet blanket over proceedings than to let people know what is running through my mind when they are chatting away to me. That said, I want to share how hard it is for some people, as I feel this is how we will raise awareness and understanding of mental health. I also feel it would be good for us to know how many people out there are struggling with the same battles.

young woman wearing make up and glasses holding stuffed animal

When I went out on Saturday, this above photo was “me.”  Makeup on, hair done, joking about while clutching Albie (my “Anxiety Blob”).  I was out for about three and a half hours, and I’m quite proud to say I held it together for that time. Anyone who knew me well may have been able to pick up on my constantly moving hands (so my shaking wouldn’t be as obvious) or the occasional catch in my throat (as I reminded myself I needed to breathe), but to everyone else I kept my secret hidden.

The thing I want to share is that behind those three and a half hours was some serious preparation. The week prior to it had been a tough one.  My anxiety had been sky-high, and my motivation to join the real world each day was low on the good days. I have been trying to record my reality of mental health, and the following photos were taken in that week on two consecutive mornings when I was really struggling to get on with my day.

On these days I did yoga, I meditated, I went to therapy on Tuesday. All week I journaled, I practiced gratitude, I had time curled up on the sofa trying to rest. I ate healthily and I drank lots of water. I did every conceivable thing I could to try to “feel better.”

Sometimes I find it most unfair that doing all these things and putting in the effort doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. The truth is though that while it does not make me “better,” it does stop me from getting worse. young woman crying anxiety

It is also worth being aware that it is not only gearing up for an event like this that takes planning and consideration.  The aftermath needs to be planned in too. I was so mentally exhausted after being in “I’m OK!” mode on Saturday, that Sunday was a washout. I spent it on the sofa, in trackies, watching Harry Potter (the first, second, third and fourth films). This may sound like a lovely lazy Sunday to many, but Sunday is the only day Mr. BuBakes and I have together every week. I wanted to be out with him, doing fun stuff and laughing – the reality was that this was never going to happen. young woman crying anxiety

I guess there are a few main points I want to get across from sharing this today:

1. If someone who battles with their mental health can only commit to “maybe I’ll come along” then often it is not that they aren’t bothered, it may be that they literally do not know if they will be able to manage it.

2. If that someone does manage to come out, be flattered; it must mean a lot to them and a great deal of work may have been done in getting them there.

3. If this is the case, the occasional squeeze of the arm and a “you’re doing amazingly, how are you feeling” goes a long way.

4. If the person needs to suddenly leave, let them know that is OK, and that you appreciate the time they spent there. No doubt the second they go they will be berating themselves for not being able to stick it out for longer, so the assurance that their time spent out was valued goes a long way in stopping the shame cycle.

It is hard for everyone to truly understand how everyday occurrences can take so much, and that’s OK.  No one expects those without a mental illness to simply “get it,” but people acknowledging it is a wonderful thing.

In a previous blog post I wrote:

“Sadly I know there have been comments by people questioning how I can do all my baking and set up BuBakes when I am “sick,” and to those people, I can only say that they perhaps don’t understand the kind of “sick” I am. That’s absolutely fine — I didn’t understand it before, and I still can’t fully get to grips with it now.”

… and two years on this is still entirely true.

My sickness is still one that is hard to explain. It is one people still can’t see unless they know what they are looking for, and it is one I am still getting to grips with.

I think I will be constantly learning about it for the rest of my life, and that is OK — not only because my self-discovery will be ongoing and that is a wonderful thing, but also because it means I can continue to share what I learn as I learn it, in the hope it may help raise awareness and understanding of mental health.

Lots of love to you all.

Bu xx

Follow this journey on bubakes.co.uk.

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Unsplash photo via Cody Aulidge

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As Someone With Anxiety, This Is How I Fall in Love

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This piece was written by Kim Quindlen a Thought Catalog contributor.

As someone with anxiety, I fall in love the way many people do – instinctively, quickly, often easily. The only difference is while I’m falling in love, my brain is also coming up with a million different reasons why this is also terrifying and dangerous and so easily broken.

As someone with anxiety, I fall in love slowly. And with a strange sense of guilt, because of the thoughts that won’t shut up. The thoughts like, This can’t possibly last. This can’t possibly be real. This is too good to be true. Something’s going to ruin this at some point. 

As someone with anxiety, I fall in love while feeling a strange mixture of hope and dread. Hope — that I’ve finally found someone I can talk to, someone I can depend on, someone I can trust, someone who will maybe bring me back when I feel trapped and suffocated in my own mind. And dread — that I will not be good enough, that I don’t deserve this, that my heart now sleeps peacefully in someone else’s hands and could end up being shattered at any moment.

But as someone with anxiety, I also fall in love wholeheartedly.

I fall in love fiercely and absolutely with the commitment to something that is finally light and exciting and real. I feel scared, but certain. Out of control, but also lighthearted. I feel an immediate instinct to protect my person in every way possible with the knowledge I now care about someone else’s life more than my own.

As someone with anxiety, I appreciate the big stuff, but I fall in love during the little moments — quiet car rides, deep sleeps, telepathic looks in the middle of a boring party. I fall in love during reassuring conversations. I fall in love from hand holding that puts me more at ease on a turbulent flight. I fall in love during a Saturday nap and a breakfast date that is just a bagel on a bench and a weekend spent with a family that starts to feel a little bit like my own.

I fall in love during the little things because the little things make me feel normal. The little things with someone special remind me it doesn’t have to take much to bring me back from a dark night or a panic attack or a work meltdown.

As someone with anxiety, I fall in love the way many people do. I fall in love intensely and vulnerably and wholly. The only difference for me is getting to a place where I believe I truly deserve it.

This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

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Thinkstock photo via Ivanko_Brnjakovic.

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How I Was Wrong About My Panic Attacks

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My panic attacks have had a very distinct and identifiable history: labored breathing, feeling faint, difficulty breathing, the “impending doom” of the world caving in around me, and crying, crying hysterically at … I don’t even know what sometimes.

I can usually predict it, too. The perfect storm for a typical panic attack is to feel like I have a thousand things to do and not enough body parts to do it. In my mind, I feel like Inspector Gadget but 12 arms extending in various directions. Meanwhile, I have a scroll of demands from family, friends, co-workers, finances and my health. My mind can’t keep up, so I throw my hands up in frustration, anxiety, disappointment and sadness. I break down in exhaustion, wondering why I can’t keep up, and how other people can deal with these same tasks with ease and grace. I blame myself, start the self-sabotaging negative thoughts and reprimands, and hate myself for not being all the things I want to be and should be. I shut myself off from the world, take some medication, cry it out, and be left with zero self-esteem and absolutely no energy to do the simplest tasks for the remainder of the day. If I exposed myself to the world for the rest of the day, I risked not being at my best and thus feeling embarrassed about my inadequacy.

A few days ago, my idea about panic attacks changed. No, it wasn’t amidst the hyperventilation fest or even on the same day. I reflected on my feelings and emotions for days after it happened, perhaps the first time I’ve done this after a panic attack . The truth is, I didn’t even realize I was having a panic attack when it happened because it was silent. A busy day adhering to the demands of e-mails, phone calls, appointments and errands left me unable to think about anything. Not crying. Not my list of things to do and people to call. Not the things left undone in my life. I just sat emotionless, unable to open my eyes for a long period of time, and drained from all things which made me human. I felt frozen in time and paralyzed by my own anxiety and panic. A zombie.

This couldn’t be a panic attack, though … right?

I went home, changed into my softest leopard print pajama set, turned my phone off and fell asleep on the couch at 4 p.m. I had to reduce the stimuli in my life to recenter my body and mind.

It was a panic attack; it just didn’t fit my self-created mold. The odd thing about having anxiety is that I can’t even explain this “thing” that affects me every day. I don’t know if it’s going to manifest itself in awkwardness in conversations, in hard work because I’m afraid to fail, or in debilitating nothingness for days. How can I live every day with something I cannot explain?

What I can explain is how important it is to understand your body and your mind. This actualization is why being reflective, inquisitive and self-aware is so important when it comes to mental health and wellness. You may not always understand why anxiety does what it does, but you can understand it is unpredictable. You can understand yourself and what helps you during panic attacks or extreme moments of anxiety.

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