Guest blogger, Amy Blythe, writes about her journey with anxiety and the strategies she uses to keep it at bay when working for herself.
My Anxiety Journey
The first memory I have of my anxiety was about 14 years ago. An awareness that if I didn’t make myself breathe, I wasn’t going to breathe. Silly, right? Breathing is an unconscious process that the body just does. But once I’d tuned into this perceived inability to breathe, that was it. That became the thing my mind focused on.
Over the following years, my anxiety came and went with varying degrees of intensity and varying symptoms. The anxiety that I struggled with was health-related anxiety. So I was basically a hypochondriac! I really struggled with this label. But no one, apart from myself, labelled me that to my face and for that I’m grateful.
I used to go to the doctors all the time with crazy symptoms, that I turned into life-threatening conditions. So I was in a vicious circle: weird symptom – go to the doctor – seek reassurance – feel better… for a week – new weird symptom (or same symptom, what if they missed something?) – go to the doctor – seek reassurance, feel better for a week… and so it goes on. I hated this too. I knew I was wasting the doctor’s time, but I knew I’d feel better for a bit. I was really lucky to have a sympathetic and lovely GP, who took me seriously, let me cry and then would laugh with me.
One of my biggest frustrations was that when I was feeling ‘anxious’ there was no immediate thing I could do to help stop it. I’d search online in the middle of the night looking for help, but unless you were willing to part with cash for the supposed miracle cure, I couldn’t find anything. Granted, now, since I’ve started blogging I have come across bloggers and sites that probably could have helped me. But this became my reason for blogging: to help others like me. Anxiety is different for everyone. I’m not professionally trained, all the suggestions that I make are simply that; suggestions to help. Things that I’ve tried in order to combat the feelings I was having.
I embarked on a course of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) in February last year. It was the right time for me. And for me it was amazing. It really helped. I faced and vocalised a lot of things that were hard for me, but after 6 months, my therapist and I parted ways and, armed with another set of tools, I am able to manage those feelings.
Working from home
I am self-employed and I love it. I am a sports massage therapist, a yoga teacher. I blog and I run mini-retreats. I sell Neal’s Yard Remedies products. Oh and I’m a Mum. One of my triggers can be just feeling overwhelmed. I say just, but when I feel overwhelmed and it brings about a tight chest, crazy heartbeats, and a head full of irrational thoughts, there is nothing ‘just’ about it. It’s important for me to maintain some sense of control.
Through this journey, I have become a huge advocate of self-care. Taking time out each day for you, even just 20 minutes. Being kind to you. Rewarding yourself. Not applying too much pressure to be a superhero. Accepting that what you are doing is actually enough. Trying to put yourself nearer the top of the list. Setting yourself boundaries.
Being self-employed, master of my own destiny (kind of) is great. I love it. The freedom; doing what I want, being able to go for a quick run, or meeting a friend for coffee in between clients. My friends are reading this going, “Coffee date? When?!”
But it is hard going too. Everything is dependent on you, and that brings its own anxieties. There’s always a temptation to squeeze one more client in or message clients ‘out of hours’ about an appointment. It can quickly get out of control; you start making a rod for your own back. It’s important to set boundaries for work time and you time.
Me and my self-care
I am adamant that the way to get self-care time in to your world is to make an appointment with yourself. Each week, I plan me time. 20-60 minutes a day to exercise, meditate, meet a friend, anything that fits into the self-care category. Each morning I sit with my coffee, my diary and my bullet journal and make my daily checklist, featuring in my exercise, yoga or whatever. This is before the kids and partner get up – a little bit of me time first thing. This helps keep me in check and my feelings of overwhelming-ness at bay. The me time doesn’t always happen of course; life likes to throw a curve ball now and again, but it’s a great start to make that appointment.
I manage my anxiety through self-care as well as techniques I learnt whilst having therapy. My self-care can be yoga, meditation or writing. Most importantly it’s
time for me to just be, just doing something for me. I am not an expert on mental health, but these are all things that have helped and continue to help me manage my mental health.
Working from home, being self-employed can be lonely, but it can be liberating. Taking care of your mental and physical health is massively important and in some ways we are in the best place to take control. Blocking out 11am to 12pm in your diary, so you can go to that yoga class is our self-employed, working-from-home luxury that encourages self-care and can keep us light and smiling.
You can also find the links to her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts on her website.