If you are managing anxiety, paranoia, depression etc I can relate. I am currently travelling the world, run a website about it and suffer from anxiety. Constant anxiety despite ‘living the dream’. Rather than having or not having anxiety I would more so compare it to how large the wave of anxiety is from day to day. Some days I get to the end of the day and realise I haven’t thought about it, while others; someone is sitting on my chest, I either need to eat everything in sight or can’t eat and I’m 99% sure everyone hates me. I think I’m fine with talking about it more than other because the illnesses I previously suffered badly with were invisible (for more read here), you couldn’t see how truly ill I was, despite being incredibly ill. Anxiety and mental health are the same. But mental illnesses are as real and as debilitating as many physical illnesses while travelling it is no exception, just because you are ‘living the dream’ doesn’t mean your mental health is left at home. This is what I’ve learnt and how I best cope with it. Hopefully, you can deal with it, whether you’re travelling, working, not sleeping or lying in bed reading this thinking you may well die.
Managing anxiety by knowing your triggers:
This is absolutely key. My triggers are; if I will get enough sleep, forgetting vital documents and friends hating me. A friend I know triggers are; his girlfriend being angry at him being late and wanting to appear strong, manly. It is different for everyone but I know for many travel, can be a key trigger. The sooner you know what makes you exactly feel stressed or worried, the chemical that’s released causing anxiety, the better. A friend recently told me she randomly had an anxiety attack while she was sitting in a cinema for no reason it, she couldn’t understand it. We spoke about it for a while and eventually, she said ‘no I literally don’t handle stress, like it’s permanently buried’. Well, that was no doubt the cause of this panic attack. Be very honest with yourself about what makes you worried or what causes you to stress.
Gather your tools:
Managing anxiety with breathing and rational thinking:
Have a toolbox of rational thoughts for your triggering stresses. Interesting fact, when a group of 1,200 elders were interviewed to get words of wisdom for us ignorant millennials. You know what the most common regret was? They worried too much. When you are 80, retired, will you look back at what exactly you are panicking about now and still have the angst? Probably not, try as best you can to always see the bigger picture with your toolbox of rational thoughts.
A common example in my life was not being able to find my rail card for train journeys. My thoughts:
‘I can’t find it. Crap, oh this is sooooooo annoying, this is stressful, oh my god this will cost so much money, eurgh I’m so stupid, why am I so useless.’
In reality, it is probably in non-monetary terms costing my health more with these thoughts than the extra £50 I will need to pay for a full priced ticket. A more rational thought: It’s annoying, it’s £50 but I’m healthy and this time last year, it’s all I was begging for, so I’m happy to part with £50 to keep my health intact.
Managing anxiety with therapies:
There are tonnes out there. There is a myriad of ways out there; sitting in a room, talking over Skype, downloading an app. In my time I have had; one on one therapy, hypnosis, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), family counselling and occupational therapy. I would say throw yourself at them and see which one suits you. One friend who regularly uses CBT said ‘If I could have CBT every single day I would, it just changes my outlook on life and makes me so happy each session’. Don’t be deterred if what you try doesn’t seem to suit you. I would compare therapies for anxiety similarly to antibiotics. There is no known cure for anxiety similar as there isn’t an exact antibiotic for every exact infection. Depending on the circumstance there may be one more preferable therapy or antibiotic. Don’t be put off if something isn’t working, keep going and don’t allow your anxiety management to take a blackfoot.
Managing anxiety with mindfulness, meditation and yoga:
With anxiety not having a cure you need to be open to alternative therapies. These three are proven to help mental health, particularly anxiety.
I now know you need to learn these concepts. The first time at the end of all three of these methods I remember thinking ‘well that was a load of sh@*’. But now having learnt them myself I know the good they do. My friend who has hyper-flexibility said yoga doesn’t help her. That’s similar to saying because you have a high metabolism, understanding nutrition doesn’t help someone. I too have hyper-flexibility and yoga has absolutely helped me, yoga is as much for the mind as it is for the body. Take time to learn these methods. Don’t do it just once, download apps, podcasts, videos, do it in the privacy of your home, but just try.
Managing anxiety with medication:
This is something I would only consider if I have done all of the above. I have been on medication and while it helped, medication helps the here and now. But the withdrawals and using a pill as a crutch isn’t something I’d recommend unless absolutely necessary. Often I would say use medication to help with a pain now, while you develop your own strategies to cope in the long run.
Managing anxiety with consistency:
Have identified you have anxiety or symptoms of anxiety? It probably means at another point in your life you will get these symptoms again. In order to be the happiest, least anxious person you know the key is to keep up with something that will keep it at bay.For me it’s 12 minutes of yoga each morning or evening, for my friends? It’s 6 minutes of mindfulness. It takes 66 days to create a habit so keep at it fingers crossed you can lead a life with a little anxiety as possible.