In honour of Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to address the issues surrounding anxiety that I’ve seen surface over the years. I have seen articles which state that we should make anxiety fashionable which sounds cool at first glance, but anxiety is not fun. It is not fun at all and can seriously disrupt your day-to-day life and affect important and life-changing moments. Here are the ways anxiety can disrupt your life:
It’s All Fun & Games Until:
1.You have to do public speaking and all of a sudden, your heart races, your tongue gets tied, and you’re gasping for breath in between words. Your eyes scan every face in the audience desperate to find a positive reaction. Afterwards, you see faces that were previously warm and engaging are now avoiding your eyes. I do want to give some advice that could potentially work: before you go up and speak, try to establish a connection with someone and when you are speaking, look for their face and maintain eye contact. I find it works when you find someone who is genuinely warm, and their warmth is persistently displayed on their face. Good people help. A lot. And you must try and be one of those good people too. Also, applicable: interviews.
2.You talk at warp speed because you’re both excited and anxious and all that enthusiasm is bubbling over uncontrollably and suddenly, you find people won’t stop looking at you like you’re weird. You’re not weird, THEY’RE weird AND rude. Do not feel bad for someone else’s rudeness. If you are that person, develop some empathy.
3.You’re experiencing a major transitional phase in your life such as going to a new school, college, university, job, etc and you can’t stop worrying about whether or not you are going to make new friends. We’ve all been there. I remember going to college hoping to establish my independence, pick up new skills, learn and make new friends only to find that everyone else was coming from schools where they already knew each other, had established their cliques and you are just an extra or a tag-along. My suggestions? Be friendly and open to meeting new people, but do not force connections that just aren’t there. The people who are right for you will gravitate towards you like it, fortunately, did for me. And my people, my people, my people, just because you’re going to a new school doesn’t mean you should forget your old friends who’ve been there for you.
4.It’s 2am-5am and your existential anxiety spurs your racing thoughts and will not let you go to sleep and then you find that it’s 7am and you have two hours left before your morning lecture or seminar/tutorial and you have to function on little to zero sleep. University administrators: let it be known that it should be a bannable offence to give students four-five early morning classes especially for students who come from working class backgrounds because you KNOW they will most likely have a part-time job. Allow those students to switch those classes to the early afternoon at the very least and offer some classes on the same day instead.
5.Someone you know tells you that they “need to talk to you” and you have to teach yourself to control your breathing to prepare for that conversation be it face-to-face or a phone conversation. If you know someone who has anxiety and you are planning on having one of these “talks,” let them know beforehand the nature of the conversation, alleviate their worries and, if you can, don’t make them wait for too long. That will only serve to make it worse.
6.You know the answer to the question but you’re afraid to put your hand up and/or when a teacher calls on you to answer the question, your mind goes blank. I’ve previously tried to address this head-on because I remember I was so pleased with my progress on a topic and really wanted to improve so I volunteered to answer first. While answering the question, I was struggling to breathe which resulted in me gasping out the answers. But I got them right. The teacher, HOWEVER, replied: “You answered right but… you’re not very confident.” I wish I had a witty retort to this, but I was so shocked by her rudeness that I couldn’t even speak. Anyway, I got 94% for that subject. Lesson to teachers: if you know your student has tried their best to answer and you pick apart their confidence, stop. Be supportiven encourage them and congratulate them for their efforts because this is what will build their confidence.
7.You have to confront someone, and you just don’t know how you’re going to do it, but you absolutely know you must do it. I’ll keep this short and sweet: you must confront them, you deserve your rights, and you have every right to stand up for yourself. Raise your voice, even if it shakes.
Once again, mental health disorders are not a joke. They are all very real, too real and it affects the quality of a person’s life. If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, do reach out for help and get in touch with your GP. In my own experience, I’ve found therapy very helpful as it addresses the core issues anxiety stems from and allows me to get to the root of it and tackle it head-on. Here are some links you might find useful:
I recently watched the latest episode of Made in Chelsea where Louise Thompson has to speak to an audience at her book launch. She talks about how anxiety has a crippling effect and how afraid she is to do public speaking. In the middle of her speech, Louise cries and openly says that she can’t do it, but I think she was so brave to have the courage to say this out loud in a room full of people and her speech was great too! Louise has spoken about her anxiety before and is covering it in her new book: Live Well with Louise: Fitness & Food to Feel Strong & Happy, so check it out if this is something of interest to you.
And what about you? Let me know in the comments about your experiences with mental health
disorders (I really wish we could scrap disorder! Wait, I will) and if you know anyone who’s been affected by it. Leave a kind word in the comments and let’s, one step at a time, defeat the stigma surrounding mental health and, remember, you are not alone.
Connect with me on:
Twitter: I finally made an account almost two weeks ago! I attempted to import friends and family from my tres petit contact list and found that only four or five were on Twitter. So, if you have a twitter account, let’s be friends!
(Photo credit: Viral Smoke)