I joined an anxiety club-here's what I learned
Earlier this year, my anxiety got difficult to deal with. When I realized I needed some extra help with it, my doctor suggested an anxiety support group. In my head, I started calling it Anxiety Club. I imagined a clubhouse with all of us sitting there, nervously trying to share. The very thought of it, sitting in a room with other people suffering with anxiety too, made me totally anxious! Which isn't ideal, obviously, but I persevered because I'd tried everything else. And as well as giving me loads of hints and tips on how to deal with anxiety on a day to day basis, it gave me confidence in my own decision-making abilities.
Please note that anxiety support groups aren't for everyone, and if you're coping with ongoing serious anxiety, you should talk to a professional about treatment and coping. But Anxiety Club really worked for me. Here's what I learned.
You're very, very far from being alone
If you currently have anxiety, whatever form it might take, you've probably felt super alone at some point. Worrying, and not being able to get your thoughts under control, can be a really lonely business. It can feel as though no one else is going through what you are, and that no one understands how you feel. Anxiety Club made me see straight away that anxiety is a common thing that loads of people deal with. Whether or not you join a club or try something different, just know that you're definitely not alone.
It's okay to ask for help
I had a lot of things going on in my life when I joined Anxiety Club. They ended up having a cumulative effect on me and I began to find it impossible to separate the problems out from each other. Family members were ill, I'd been diagnosed with a chronic illness, my relationship was challenging, and my friendship group was changing in major ways. All of these things mixed together and I started to feel like I might never fix any of them. Of course, some of these problems are unfixable, but whatever issue you're dealing with, it's totally fine to ask for a little extra help now and again. Life is hard, and although asking for help is nerve-wracking, sometimes other people have a different perspective on your situation.
Being mindful of things around me helped a lot
You don't need to join Anxiety Club to find out more about mindfulness. There are lots of books available now which will teach you how to practice it in your daily life. The basic idea is to try to break that racing-brain feeling by concentrating on what's in front of you, and what you can appreciate. Anxiety Club introduced me to it, and even though I'm terrible at appreciating the good that's around me, I'm glad I've learnt about this technique. It's so easy to get lost in your own world and forget to see the beauty around you. Taking a step back can help calm anxiety.
Anxiety is a cycle
I'd felt the effects of the anxiety cycle only too well, but Anxiety Club spelled it out for me (I love a good PowerPoint presentation!). Sometimes, our brains work overtime. We start feeling bad about something and can't stop. This in turn links with other problems we might have and we try to pin down why we feel so terrible. A lot of self-blame happens, followed by guilt, and before we know it we're stuck in a cycle of worry and we can't get out of it. Understanding that this is what was happening in my brain helped me to dial down the self-blame and guilt, and see my problems from a a less-biased perspective.
Free coffee is great
Okay, so this might seem obvious, but going to any club means you get free stuff. And you have the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a coffee afterwards too because you achieved something awesome. You put yourself first, and were super brave. Yay you!
A thing that helped me? Finding a mentor, and a mantra
Your mentor could be someone you know, but in my case it's writer Cheryl Strayed. Deciding to seek help for your anxiety is the perfect time to find someone whose words you trust totally. After watching Wild, and reading Cheryl's book of advice, Tiny Beautiful Things, her words became mantras which helped my anxiety. Having a sentence you can tell yourself when you're feeling worried, down or alone, can make all the difference. In my case, this quote from Wild helps immeasurably: "What if I forgave myself?"
You can put yourself back in control
Whatever you decide to do, whether you join a group like I did, speak to your doctor about medication, take up a form of exercise, teach yourself mindfulness, or develop a sweet coloring book habit, you're doing something great. You're putting yourself first, and taking control of your anxiety, and that's a brave thing to do.
[Image via Searchlight Pcitures]