Reflecting on coping strategies

15th September 2017

Today I’ve been thinking about a few things, and I’ve been reminded of a few things that help me when I feel low or anxious. I thought I’d share some thoughts.

  1. Familiarising yourself with the unfamiliar.

I’ve travelled back to Uni to check in to my accommodation today – nobody has moved in yet other than me, I’m going to be in a flat of three and it’s weirdly eery there. I felt a weird sense of deja vu. I’ve already checked in twice doing the same thing for two years now as I enter my final year, and I realised that coming a week beforehand helped me to manage my anxiety of going back. When I go back properly with all my belongings next week, my parents will be with me and are likely to be sentimental, everyone else will be busy trying to fit in to the lifts, you’ll get the atmosphere of nervous and excited freshers. Without being surrounded by that I can familiarise myself again with the accommodation without all the additional triggers which may make me feel even more anxious. It’s helped me to feel more relaxed coming up on my own with a few things, it’s normalised it, and I feel a lot better than I did when I moved in, in  my first and second year. I was unsettled, irritable and impatient. Today I feel calm. That way, next week when I move up with all my belongings with the help of my dad, everything won’t feel as unfamiliar and overwhelming. So when something is unfamiliar, give yourself the time you need whenever possible to adjust and settle in.

   2. Find what grounds you.

For a long time, particularly during my first year of uni, I would spend long periods of time feeling low and anxious, dwelling on it and not feeling the motivation to be proactive and think about what I could do to make things even a little easier for myself. Of course, it isn’t easy to find that “get up and go” attitude when you’re experiencing mental health problems/stress/difficulties in life, but pay attention to what helps you to feel a bit more grounded. What I mean by grounded in my experience, is being brought back to reality. Normality. Something that comforts you. As somebody with an anxiety condition, I’m familiar with catastrophisation, worst case scenarios, racing thoughts..the list goes on! So if I can find something that reminds me that the world isn’t as scary and horrendous as I sometimes think it is, then that will help me to feel more grounded. Right now as I’m typing, I’m sat in a cafe, and this is what helps me when I feel low, or anxious. I was in my accommodation for an hour or two and I noticed that I started to dwell, and think, and become uncomfortable by it. I knew that I needed to be proactive and take action before it got worse, and so I headed out to grab myself a comfy seat and a coffee surrounded by others, who are absorbed in conversation, study, or a book. As I look around, I don’t feel like everything is dramatic. I’m reminded that it’s going to be okay, and I’m just an ordinary person that blends in, and nobody is necessarily looking at me thinking the worst of me.

   3. Get moving.

This is probably a more obvious and popular talking point, whether it involves exercise, a simple walk, yoga etc. I’m sure you’re all aware that exercise releases endorphins, it gives us energy, it provides us with a sense of achievement. I find this one particularly difficult to do when I feel low, but if you simply do it, and not rely on motivation, you’ll eventually reap the benefits of moving. I’m determined to not give up on this, and I don’t want to get through my final year at university and give in to the notion that I should sacrifice my gym membership to save money and save time for more study. If I sacrificed exercise, I’d have less energy, I’d be overthinking more, I’d be more tired and more inclined to comfort eat. As I’m writing I’m really reminding myself of this, which also tells me that writing helps me to cope! That counts in the get moving category as I’m typing and moving my hands, right? Even if you don’t choose to exercise, removing yourself from a particular environment can help, even if you just go to a different room, or go round to a friend’s house, or go to the shops. Just get yourself out, and away from the room that reminds you of how low you feel. Again, easier said than done, but even if it makes you feel a little bit better, it’s worth it and better than feeling worse, or the same as before.

What do you do to cope when things get tough? Have a think, share with me, or remind those close to you to take care of your/their emotional wellbeing.

 

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