What is it about routines? Why is it that even something nice like a bank holiday on a Monday throwing off my routine can make me feel a little icky, a little unsettled?

In my early 20s I discovered that I was having panic attacks. I wasn't sure what to call them and didn't even know that they had a name, in fact. The only 'mind problem' I was aware of was depression. But I didn't feel sad. I was just having moments of sheer utter panic for no apparent reason. Sometimes it would happen late at night while I was awake lying in bed, or on the subway going to my art class downtown. I knew something wasn't right, and looking back I even remembered having some attacks when I was very young.

Eventually I did something about it. I went to see a psychologist and had sessions with her for about two years. I learned what a panic attack was, that they were actually very common, and she taught me some techniques for dealing with them. Doing some therapy was a great experience actually. I think everyone should do it at some point in their life – it's like taking a continuing education course – on yourself. As long as you are ready to work, because facing your own demons ain't always pretty.

I truly believe that people's general anxiety levels are set pretty early on. And I am a worrier. Give me a spare moment and I will come up with something to worry about. My parents used to call this my 'overactive imagination', like it was something good or at least interesting. But when you draw pictures age five of giant blue monsters that tower over the end of your bed, I do wonder.

As I talked about in my post Baby 19, there is some scientific evidence out there to back up my anecdotal evidence (my own observation of myself) that we don't have much control over our anxiety levels.

But what we do have is control over is how we cope with our anxiety.

I was given a great cognitive behavioural technique (CBT) by my therapist back in the day that helps if I do find myself having panic attacks. But I find these days I don't need it so much as I've developed other coping mechanisms. In fact, I don't have many panic attacks anymore.

One of the most helpful things is just knowing my triggers. Holidays (sad, but true), routines being broken, extreme work stress (particularly working late at night), lack of exercise, too much time alone, not enough time alone (ironically) and abundant amounts of drinking. Alcohol may soothe the anxiety short-term but a build up of cocktails – no matter how nice that cosmopolitan tastes – isn't helpful.

Exercise helps, especially taking long walks and yoga. Writing helps too. Having a place where I can fully discuss things that emerge from my 'overactive imagination' (such as Shrapnelphobia) is a Godsend (so thank you, MB&S readers, for listening). But mostly, knowing that my anxiety is normal for me and will happen at certain times, allows me to just hang on and live through it. I know it doesn't feel particularly nice, but I know it won't kill me and that it will pass eventually.

I don't know, I think I'm not alone in suffering from anxiety – the world can be a pretty sad and scary place sometimes. And people do seem to love their routines, and things I feel are helpful too, like exercise or meditation. We all need our coping mechanisms. Do you suffer from any kind of anxiety? How do you cope?

Related Posts:

No comments

Back to Top