Coping with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Imagine constantly feeling restless or worried. Imagine having trouble sleeping at night and difficulty concentrating during the day. Imagine getting palpitations doing the most basic of tasks.
That’s Generalised Anxiety and it sucks.
What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is classified as a long-term condition where you feel overwhelmingly anxious about a whole range of situations. It is estimated to affect up to 5% of the UK population.
Some people have specific phobias. Say you’re scared of heights (aka Acrophobia). You could gradually learn to face that fear by gradually exposing yourself to situations where you are up high. It’s a bit trickier with GAD.
People with GAD feel anxious most days. One anxious thought is immediately followed by another. You become stuck in this infinite loop of fear.
Me and GAD
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is like living in a world that was not made for people like you. Every situation you put yourself in has the potential to trigger a terrifying anxiety attack. In 2017, I started studying Journalism at Newcastle University. I thought I’d conquered my anxiety at least enough to cope with the workload of an undergraduate degree. How wrong I was.
Anxiety crept its way into every aspect of my student life. For me, it manifested itself in compulsions that I used to make myself feel that I was in control.
Asking for help was hard. I briefly attended counselling and had a Mental Health Advisor to support me in my studies. Yet, the question I heard was always:
“What are you actually anxious about?”
Everything. Absolutely everything and I had no idea why. It was like my body’s “Fight or Flight” mode had been cranked up to 11. Subsequently, I gave up asking for help and then the pandemic hit.
I cannot begin to explain how I managed to finish my degree during COVID-19. I just did. The hours of intense studying, finding quotes on Amazon book previews due to the lack of promised eBooks and intermittent crying sessions actually benefited me temporarily. Of course, all good things come to an end. I submitted my dissertation in late-May and immediately relapsed.
Help and Advice
Overcoming Generalised Anxiety is about completely re-training your brain. Myself included; many people find medication central to halting the constant anxiety attacks. Lifestyle changes are also key to coping with the world around you. Try:
A cliché but taking up a sport is great for your mental wellbeing. Attending trapeze lessons has by far been the best decision I’ve ever made. Side note: You definitely do not have to hang upside once a week to be less anxious.
Yet another cliché! Seriously though, give your body what it needs. Your body is your temple and sometimes your temple wants cheesecake. My advice though? Be conscious of your eating habits and when you may be turning to food for comfort, not for fuel.
Looking for Positives
Life is all about perspective. I’ll say it louder for people in the back: LIFE IS ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE. Make it your mission to find the positive in every situation that terrifies you. Failed a test? Great! You can learn from your errors and be even better than the person who passed first time. Missed out on your dream job? Maybe it wasn’t for you. Accidentally burnt your cheese scones? You can support your local bakery. Ok, that last one was personal.
There is no quick fix for Generalised Anxiety. Five months on, I still have days where I struggle to follow my own advice.
Always remember to give yourself a break. Rubbish days are inevitable. We all have them – if you don’t then you are most definitely not human. Really though, what’s your secret?