Today is National Stress Awareness Day and while I thought I would list for you my top five tips to tackle stress, I actually feel that it would be of more benefit, particularly for me, to tell you about my stress: Social anxiety.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about an incident that revealed I suffer with anxiety (The Unfortunate Incident of Mr Whippy) which to be fair, the revelation was new to me too. Specifically I suffer with social anxiety, which I was only able to put a name to a couple of months ago through self-diagnosis on the internet in a bid to try and work out what the hell was going on with me.
“Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is an anxiety disorder in which a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations. Anxiety (intense nervousness) and self-consciousness arise from a fear of being closely watched, judged, and criticized by others”.
I am not really totally sure why social anxiety has hit me so hard now? Some of the contributors such as the fear of speaking on the phone, I can pinpoint back to my childhood but I would never have associated that with anxiety until I Googled the condition and it suddenly all makes sense. But while I am disappointed I have this disorder, it’s such a relief to know what I suffer with has a name. It affects me most at work, as while I feel secure here, I am exposed at the same time. I am still getting to know everyone but yet I avoid social nights out unless I can be sure of exactly who is going and if I know them enough to feel ok in their presence outside of the office. We have the Christmas party on the horizon and already this is making me nervous (so silly). In the office I don’t always make conversation, such as in the kitchen when I am getting a coffee, and I always eat lunch at my desk rather than with others. It only bothers me because take away the anxiety and I am actually a really friendly person that loves the company of others, but I feel my colleagues don’t see that, not yet. In a group of people I know I would actually say that I can be one of the dominant figures, which is random, right?
To explain slightly better, when I know I have a phone call coming up (unless it’s from family), or a social situation where I am not entirely confident with attending, you can be sure it’ll be on my mind in the lead up which could be a good couple of days, even weeks before hand. It’ll sit, dominant on my mind, building in momentum and causing a constant fluttering sensation in my chest which sounds strange, but can be exhausting to experience, particularly if it is intense and lasts all day. A lot of the anxiety concerns conversation, I worry if they’ll be enough to talk about which when it comes to the moment, is rarely a problem but still, I worry. I also find that if I miss something that I have otherwise been routinely attending i.e. a gym class, it can really knock that routine and can be a real struggle to get back into it. Why? I think I feel that my absence will have been noted and returning will be a bit awkward which is obviously not the case at all. But still.
My recent holiday with Trek America (my ‘Say Yes’ tour) did me the world of good. Despite finding myself in tears during the week before departure, I proved a lot to myself by going and what I achieved while I was away. But on the other end of the scale, I have had to in the last week or so make the decision to take a break from hockey, a sport that I love because I just cannot handle the anxiety that training sessions seem to be causing me at the moment. It’s crazy, but that’s just how it is right now; one of the solutions (playing sport), can also be a cause.
Writing for me is a great therapy and if I did one day make the decision to get professional help (should it get a lot worse), a councillor would be the way forward; medication solves nothing and I’ve been there before, a long time ago, and I don’t want to go back.
So how do I confront my social anxiety? Well as I said writing helps; contributing to this blog not only keeps me distracted, it calms me too. Aside from hockey, I try and do as much exercise as I can, particularly outdoors in the fresh air but this isn’t always possible, particularly over the autumn/winter months. I also eat and drink as healthily as I can because a happy body does definitely equal a happier mind. And from time to time, not always as easy to achieve, but I do try that old gem by just saying yes to more things to confront this anxiety head on, and talking! The more people that know, the lesser amount of people I need to fear for all the reasons the definition outlined at the beginning of this post.
So, while I haven’t really advised anything in this post, I hope that for those that know me personally, it helps you understand a little bit more about what I go through, and for those that don’t, equally I hope you find it a little bit helpful. And for fellow sufferers, let me know if you have any good coping techniques that you can share in the comments.
Until next time x
For more information on stress, please click here: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/stress/?gclid=CP-SurrJ58gCFWX4wgodMucNAA#.VjijY3lOfIX
On Social Anxiety: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-anxiety/pages/social-anxiety.aspxFollow