I’ve recently finished reading ‘Notes on a nervous planet’ by Matt Haig. A fantastic book about the modern world and how technology, social media and our ever busy environment is contributing to the increase in anxiety and stress in pretty much all of us. Whether it’s the fear of robots taking our jobs or the more simple reality of constantly being connected via social media, Matt talks about the need to switch off and advice on how to live a better life. I may have painted it out to sound like a self help book – to me it’s not. Instead it’s observations of the world from a man who has suffered crippling depression and anxiety, that page after page makes you do that almost silent exhale laugh through your nose, or make you wince and think ‘Jesus, poor bloke’ at some of the experiences he’s been through.
I picked this book up with little expectation other than a good read based on a friends recommendation. As someone who has suffered from anxiety over the last 5 ish years, I have gone from someone who thought it was a word tossed around by Hollywood celebrities when they were faced with having to cook themselves a meal, or mingling with us “normals”, to understanding that it is very much real and can leave you sat on the side of a busy street finding it hard to breathe as if an elephant is sat on your chest because you’re going through what feels like unmanageable moments in your life.
Anxiety is worry, usually exacerbated by your internal monologue telling you things are going to be worse, or you can’t control what’s coming. Which is true, to a certain extent we can’t control what’s coming, that’s the excitement of life, but also the dread that fuels anxiety and sees you do the opposite of living in the moment instead worrying what’s round the corner.
Generally speaking, I’m a confident person, I’m sociable, and most describe me as loud – those closest to me may even say I’m someone who likes to be centre of attention (don’t listen to them!). I’ve delivered my wedding speech in front of 130 people, and I’ve given presentations at work to 100 people I knew didn’t care what I had to say. This isn’t a plug to show my history of public speaking though, despite those – what I perceive to be achievements, I will still be sat on my train on a week day commute wracked with nerves about the meetings I have throughout the day, even if they’re one to ones on topics I’m fluent in, or worries about how busy the train will be and if the claustrophobic environment will have me on the verge of a panic attack. Or just a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach about, well, in some cases I have no bloody idea, yet there I am with a face like I’ve just been told the world is ending.
Anxiety is like that person at a party you don’t like. Your evening is going well, you’re having a laugh with your mates with no other concerns, then look who shows up “that dick head”, who takes your focus off what is making you happy and quickly reminds you of the concerns you have in your head. The thing with the guy at the party is you can walk off, not look or talk to them. With anxiety it’s not quite so straight forward.
I’ve slowly come to learn what does and doesn’t work for me when it comes to managing anxiety, though there are days where I feel like there’s no clawing back a sound mind. But as Matt says in his book, instead of fighting it sometimes we have to accept the feeling and try and move on as best we can. Exercise, good food, and a reduction in caffeine (that last one hurts), all help to stop feeling like life is a bunch of spinning plates.
Mental health is a hot topic at the moment, and so it should be. I’ve never had an issue with opening up to those closest to me, and apparently the general public (hence the blog!), but some people do, and it’s only from talking to others that I’ve seen and heard how many of us are “going through it”. Our minds are complex, which is amazing and frustrating in equal parts. I just need to work out how to manage mine a bit better.