I started suffering from anxiety around three years ago. I had been living in London and was about to make a big move to the Netherlands to work as a photo editor for Greenpeace. I needed to get my anxiety sorted pronto if I was going to pursue the career and life that I wanted.
Action was needed, so I found myself a therapist and worked hard on myself for months. I stopped drinking alcohol, began meditating and started taking yoga classes. This was extremely effective. However, as the date of my wedding day came closer, I discovered my anxiety had returned and worst still, was at an all time high. This is what I did to keep sane and reclaim my calm:
In this day and age, not only are women expected to do everything, but we're often our own worst enemies when it comes to expectations and our demands for perfection. We expect to work in a successful career, have a perfect relationship, a fit body, create and maintain a lovely house, become a mother and, all the while, have a great and busy social life. The reality is, it is impossible to have everything.
In this crazy life we lead, the best way to stay sane is to regularly stop and take time out for ourselves, and never more so then during the stressful lead up to a wedding. During the months leading up to my own wedding, I scheduled into my routine regular massages and shiatsu treatments and days at the spa. I found that when I was out of the house and completely without any electronic devices, my mind would become clear and the calm would return.
Take your time
I have noticed that, during times when I am busy such as the pre-wedding months, I tend to rush around much more than normal. I get up, get ready as quickly as possible and rush out the door to start another busy day at work.
Be aware of how much you are rushing and consciously try to manage your time to avoid this. For example, I found that by setting my alarm twenty minutes earlier in the morning, I had time to relax with a cup of tea and take more time over getting ready, which meant a calm start to the day. You'd be amazed at how much of a difference being calm, in control and organised can make to your mood.
Work up a sweat
I know I know, you've heard it a hundred times already: add some exercise into your day! The problem is, if you're anything like me, you might try, fail a few times, and then feel even worse because you just never seem to get around to it.
My advice is to start small and start slowly. Don't set yourself an impossible target right off the bat like the gym five times a week for an hour. Think of every movement you do as something that will positively impact your mood, from taking the bike to work to opting for the stairs instead of the lift. Start to see yourself as an active person not a couch potato.
I also found it impossible to exercise if it wasn't going to be fun. So try out a few different sports, classes or exercises types until you find the one that suits you best.
Tell people how you feel
Boy did I struggle with this. I have always looked after myself, even from a really young age, and I never wanted to burden people with my issues. But bottling it up doesn't help, and it wasn't until I began to share my problems with people that I discovered the truth of that old adage: a problem shared is a problem halved. I found that if I had a cry to my now husband, or spoke to my therapist or close friends, the weight off my chest was palpable. Not only do you feel less alone in your suffering, but you often discover just how many other people have similar anxieties.
Listening to your body
This can be hard if you are not use to doing it. But once you get the hang of it, you'd be amazed at how much listening to your body can change your life, because you start to respond to its needs. An example is when you eat heavy, unhealthy foods. Not only do you often feel uncomfortable afterwards, but you might notice a spike in your anxiety. Coffee can leave you jittery and anxious, and alcohol, which is a depressant, can also leave you feel down in the dumps and anxious too. Somehow, we have become very good at tuning out this inner guide that tells us to stop what we are doing or slow down. So make it your mission to start listening. If you feel tired, don't reach for a coffee, stop and take a nap. If you're feeling overwhelmed, instead of a wine, go to a yoga class or try some meditation. I can personally testify for how much this change of approach can help in getting you into the healthiest headspace ever.