Holistic Scotland Magazine columnist Marie O’Neill interviews former client Jane Jackson* on what it’s really like to experience crippling anxiety and discovers some of her coping techniques
If you have suffered from anxiety for some time and have tried different things, but are starting to feel like nothing is working, you’re not alone.
Here, my former client, Jane* shares her story of how anxiety was threatening to ruin her life and how she overcame it by incorporating simple yet powerful tools into her everyday life.
I hope that her honest account will inspire you to believe that you, too, can find the tools you need to be free from anxiety for good.
“I have never been confident,” says Jane. “Since childhood, I have been a worrier and nervous, but it wasn’t until my 20s that I realised I suffered from anxiety.
“At its worst, my anxiety was horrible. But it has come and gone throughout the years.
“Although it was terrifying when I first started to experience it in my 20s, I would say I’ve suffered more recently in my 40s.
“The anxiety felt as though it had evolved into something bigger and something that I couldn’t control or understand.
“Even on the days I was feeling better, it was on my mind 24/7. An attack would affect me badly – and for days after.
“When I was younger, I would recognise when I was about to have a panic or anxiety attack because my face would go numb.
“But, in my 40s, it was different. Without warning it would come on, regardless of the time, situation or location. I even had an attack on a relaxing spa day.
“Along with the physical symptoms of having an anxiety attack (heart racing, numbness, overheating, feeling sick, worry) came the days of constant dread, unhappiness, worry and feeling down.
“It affected me every day and especially in the run up to an event. This is when the overthinking part would kick in.
“Anxiety, at its worst, felt like it was all consuming. I didn’t believe it was possible to recover. But I thought it might be possible to control it.
“I thought it was embedded in me and something I would have to live with.
“I was at the stage where I would try anything and finally found some tools that worked for me.
“Before I was broken, lost, sad and feeling very down. I felt anxiety had taken over my life and there was no way out. I was in a bad way.
“But taking time out to focus and understand myself has been transformational in ways I didn’t think possible. I am confident now and know I am good at what I do – which makes me better at what I do.
“For me, work fuelled my anxiety. I had been in the same place for 16 years. With no confidence and the comfort of familiarity, I stayed in a place which made me unhappy.
“Dealing with my anxiety gave me the confidence to look for something new. I now have a new job, doing something I am good at and enjoy.
“My relationships with people have improved.
“They wouldn’t know but I used to worry about what they thought of me, even when they were standing right in front of me.
“That meant I wasn’t present or listening which would make me worry even more.
I still worry about things – I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t – but not to the extent as I used to.
“Even if a worry comes into my head, I have the time and tools to deal with it.
“Using these tools and building my confidence has transformed my life for the better.
“I can’t remember the last time I was anxious, had a sleepless night worrying or a panic attack.
Jane’s lifestyle hacks for coping with anxiety
5-minute worry time
At the same time every morning, I spend 5 minutes writing down my worries, no matter how big or small.
By scheduling a time to worry, it stops me worrying about things all day. If I start to think about something, I put it to the side in my mind then write it down at the time I’ve allocated. This frees up my mind to enjoy my day more and helps me tackle those worries as they’re written down.
Self-affirmations and being kinder to myself
I pick a positive statement about myself and recite it throughout the day. It gives me a chance to be nicer to myself and break the bad habit of my negative thinking being my own worst critic. It also makes me feel more confident, empowered and allows me to hush the self-doubt. I did struggle with thinking differently at the start but over time I’ve started to believe it.
Writing events, thoughts and feelings has helped me gain clarity and understand myself better. I am the type of person who would store a lot of stuff in my mind but this way I can get it down on paper.
After I’ve woken up, I meditate for 10 minutes every morning – just after my 5-minute worry time. It calms my mind, helps me think clearer, makes me feel more at ease and generally happier.
For me, yoga is not just good for my body it’s good for my mind. I lay out my mat, switch off the outside world and focus on my practice whether I’m in class or the house on my own.
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.