Saturday, 21 March 2015

This post is the first of a new series of posts I will be writing, under the title of 'Alphablog' - each post in the series will centre around a word beginning with the next letter of the alphabet, with that word being something that means a lot to me, or is a part of my life in some way. I hope you enjoy them!

I'm kicking off the series with 'A is for Anxiety' (let's get the serious stuff out of the way first, shall we?!)

I have wanted to write a post on this topic for quite a while. Anxiety is an issue that I often see talked about on blogs these days, and I think it's great that people finally feel that they can open up about it on social media. I am genuinely astounded by how many people are affected by anxiety on a daily basis, so I wanted to share my experience with it too.

I am a self-confessed worrier. I worry about everything under the sun - my family and friends, about their health, about work, about what people think of me, other people's feelings, about the random old man I see sitting alone in the cinema...(why is he alone? What has happened to his wife?! And then I will be consumed with worrying about him for hours afterwards!)

My mind can go into over-drive worrying, often about things that are absolutely nothing to do with me, or things that are completely out of my control, and that can't be healthy.

Work is the big one. I worry about work all the time, and often wake up in a panic in the middle of the night to check my phone to make sure I haven't missed anything. I will dwell for ages on things that are absolutely beyond my control, and feel like I am personally responsible for everything even when I'm obviously not.

Some days, I will wake up with the feeling of anxiety, for reasons I just can't put my finger on. I just have 'anxious days', and I can go about my day for hours feeling anxious about something but nothing in particular, and it's a horrible feeling.

Recently, I was laying in bed thinking about nothing at all, and I became very anxious out of the blue - my breathing became erratic and I started to experience heart palpitations, the usual systems of my anxiety, but triggered by nothing specific.

Other days, I experience anxiety because of social situations. Whenever I open up to people about my social anxiety they don't tend to believe me or are really surprised, and say that I appear really confident, but believe me when I say I am not! I appear confident because I have told myself that I can't go through life being terrified of social situations, but that doesn't mean I didn't spend the whole run up to that moment thinking of a million excuses not to be there. Even with things I love doing, and do weekly, I will feel anxious about doing it all day and then love it when I do it, like tennis or nights out with friends.

With the gym, I am so anxious at the idea of going when it's busy, and always prefer to go late at night when I know nobody will be in there. If I am running on the treadmill alone in an empty gym, and somebody comes in to work out, my heart-rate shoots up and I find it hard to breathe, and always end up finishing my workout early so that I can get out of there. I have even been known to walk into the gym in the evening and walk straight back out when I've seen that there are other people in there. I realise how crazy that sounds!

My housemates and I recently signed up to a 5k fun run, and I was so anxious about it, almost every day in the build up to the race, and felt a huge amount of relief when the event was postponed.

On another occasion, I attempted a beginners Salsa class at my apartment block. As there was a limited number of men in the class, the girls were split in to two groups - one group watched whilst the other group danced. I was gripped with panic about being watched by the other half of the group and couldn't concentrate at all on the dancing, so when it was time for us to swap and for me to join the watching group, I grabbed my things and ran out of the class! I was mortified, but I was so uncomfortable, anxious and out of my depth that I just had to remove myself from the situation.

It's a tricky one as exercise is proven to be amazing for relieving stress and anxiety, so it is frustrating when I am gripped by the fear of taking part in it.

Symptoms of anxiety include disturbed sleep - almost everyone who is close to me can vouch for the fact that I am a terrible sleeper. I have night terrors, and wake up most nights shouting about something or panicking that somebody is in the room.

Anxiety at it's worst leads to panic attacks. To memory, I have only experienced panic attacks twice in my life, and hope not to experience one again. Once last year - again, for no real reason. I had been feeling particularly anxious all day, was completely restless, my heart was pounding and I couldn't stop worrying - in the evening I had a dinner with friends and my mum, and all through dinner I felt so emotional and wanted to cry. When we left and I was in the car home, I began panicking to the point where I couldn't breathe. To this day I still don't know what triggered it. The second was on my recent flight from Doha to the UK when we hit some turbulence. Even after we were clear of it and other passengers had gone back to sleep and the air hostesses were going about their business as usual, I was sat in my seat convinced the plane was going down, I was crying, my heart pounding out of my chest and my breathing all over the place. I think the guy behind me thought I was a bit mad!

I'm lucky that I am not somebody who suffers from panic attacks regularly, or potentially at their full capacity. What I experienced was bad enough, so I can only imagine how it feels for people who's lives are consumed by panic attacks.

I have never been to see a doctor about my anxiety, but there are a few things that I do to try to help myself:

I discovered Pilates, with a fantastic instructor who is completely approachable and put me at complete ease during my first class. I will still always hide at the back of the class, but it is one hour a week where I can completely switch off from all of my worries, whilst getting an amazing work out at the same time! I haven't actually been to this class for about a month now but writing this has reminded me how much I love it and that I must start going again!

There is nothing quite like taking a deep breath and counting to ten, to slow your heart beat down.

There are some really good apps available for taking time out to meditate to. I use the Headspace and Sleep Easy apps most often.

I have found that talking about anxiety helps to normalise it. Reading blog posts by other bloggers on the issue has also helped to reassure me that I'm not alone.

I would urge anybody feeling symptoms of anxiety to try the above :)

That concludes my first instalment of my 'Alphablog' series - I promise the next one won't be nearly as heavy going! I always think it's important for readers to know a bit about the person behind the blog, so I am looking forward to working on this series of posts so that you can get to know a bit more about me, as well as my week by week life in the Middle East.

I hope you'll join me for the next one!


  1. This was such an interesting post and brave of you to write too. I definitely do some of the same things, including putting off events with people and thinking of excuses to try and get out of things. It's a lot better as I've got older, I think because I'm more willing to tell the truth when I feel uncomfortable and let people help, as well as caring a lot less about what others think.

    1. Hey lovely, so sorry I completely missed this comment. Thanks for your kind words. So pleased that you approach things in that way now, being honest is definitely the best way as people are far more understanding about things than we perhaps think. I am taking a few more steps to self care now as I really don't want to carry on through life letting anxiety get the better of me!

    2. Hey lovely, so sorry I completely missed this comment. Thanks for your kind words. So pleased that you approach things in that way now, being honest is definitely the best way as people are far more understanding about things than we perhaps think. I am taking a few more steps to self care now as I really don't want to carry on through life letting anxiety get the better of me!