i would never have described myself as having a mental health problem – Tara’s story

I had the privilege of meeting up with a friend to chat about her experiences relating to mental health.  Tara is a friendly, confident lady who will help anyone and everyone she can. I never guessed she had her battles with mental health. I learned that she would never have described herself as having a mental health problem until she started reading my blogs.  They made her think about herself and certain “feelings” that overwhelmed her on occasions.

“Anxiety doesn’t affect me every day but when it does happen, it comes up with a huge smack in the face.”

Many people can certainly relate to that huge smack in the face as one minute they are fine, then they encounter a trigger and a panic attack kicks off before they’ve had time to blink.

Tara feels that her anxiety was brought on by the experiences of losing close family and a good friend. Her Dad passed away when she was 34 years old. She remembers her Dad being quite peaceful throughout his illness but recalls one moment when he was upset whilst with her, thinking about how his death would impact her and her family. When he actually died at home, Tara couldn’t bear to see his body taken away by the undertakers and went into a room so she couldn’t view the removal.

The next sad event in Tara’s life was the death of her best friend at the age of 42.

“I would never say I had anxiety in my younger years. After my best friend died I believe I developed a fear about losing my mother. I would call her every day, sometimes twice a day to see if she was ok. She was always fine, there was nothing wrong with her.”

Tara’s mum died suddenly. She had a heart attack whilst at Tara’s house doing some gardening. Another close friend died shortly after her Mum.

“I have seen myself building up with anxiety gradually.”

Tara is a committed Christian and in the past has found herself telling God that she doesn’t want to know about death, she wants Him to protect her from it. She also wrestles with why she has this anxiety if she really believes what she confesses to believe. Why doesn’t God remove these fears and anxieties and heal her?

Tara’s anxiety appears to present on crowded trains. She used to travel daily on the underground to her job as a nurse in a central London hospital. She hasn’t used the underground since her Dad died.

“I make myself get on the train and hope to control the feelings. I call my husband and talk to him, I pray, but if the train is very crowded and hot it’s not long before the feelings take over and control me.”

grayscale photography of subway station
Photo by Paweł L. on Pexels.com

I asked Tara if she felt she grieved well. She had never thought about it. When her Dad died she had support from her mother who encouraged her to do things like going to see her Dad’s body. She felt this helped give her some closure, knowing it wasn’t him anymore. With her mother, she felt she didn’t grieve as much for her as she did for her friends and wonders if she didn’t grieve fully for her. She said she handled it well considering her anxiety while her mother was alive. She has never been angry about any of the deaths of her parents or her close friends.

Tara didn’t seek out counselling with any of her bereavements and hasn’t for her anxiety. She has always felt that she’s a strong person and is in control. She bravely admitted to denying for a while that she may have had a mental health problem.

Tara was incredibly honest and courageous as we chatted. She’s certainly not alone when it comes to a tendency to neglect one’s mental health and perhaps to just accept and accommodate anxiety with avoidance.

We discussed the potential impact of praying whilst having a panic attack. As I was talking to her, it occurred to me that asking for help could exacerbate the state of panic. Perhaps a better approach is to pray expressing gratitude to reframe the fearful thoughts that are driving the anxiety.

Here are two things that struck me most about Tara’s story:

Not many people can encounter loss without experiencing mental health issues subsequently.

The more unexpected, shocking, or traumatic the loss, the more inevitable the mental health fallout. I remember reading Grief Works by bereavement counsellor Julia Samuel and her telling the story of a client who came to see her after her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Huh, I thought, she went BEFORE he actually died. Now that seems smart, why didn’t I think of that? I didn’t even see a counsellor regularly after both my losses. Just one trip to a psychologist. He was very good in that one session but I expect I would have benefitted from a long-term talking therapy. You live and learn and perhaps if more people sought out a counsellor as soon as a difficult time hits, there’d be less breakdowns occurring.

The biggest challenge with anxiety is letting go of the need to control your feelings.

This is extremely challenging because it’s so unpleasant. The physiological and psychological symptoms are all-consuming and all you want is for them to stop. So, we panic about them never stopping and not knowing how to make them stop. Cue some more adrenaline being pumped around our already frantic system. As Tara expressed, we feel completely at the mercy of our feelings and try to regain a sense of control by trying to push the feelings away. Breathing is proven to counter the physical fight or flight reaction and if we can step back and allow ourselves to notice what we are feeling and accept that it’s ok to have these feelings, they are just feelings that won’t cause us any harm, it is much easier to engage with the techniques that do work at bringing us back down to a calmer place.

Thank you Tara, for your story.

(Name has been changed)

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what is Situational Anxiety and how to cope with it

 There are many types of anxiety disorders one may have and situational anxiety is one that affects many people. In this post we’ll explain more about it and teach you ways of coping.

What is Situational Anxiety?

Anxiety disorder is when you have episodes of anxiety-related symptoms. These can include intense fear, a fast heart rate, panic attacks, a feeling in the pit of your stomach, and much more. Sometimes, anxiety disorders are due to trauma in the past or they are random. Situational Anxiety is one that you may have guessed by its name; you get anxiety due to certain situations.

These situations can be due to you being in a place where you have to face a fear. If you’re afraid of heights, you may have situational anxiety when you’re looking at the Grand Canyon. Situational Anxiety can also occur whenever a big life change happens. When you first leave your parents’ home you may have anxiety over your future. You may have anxiety after a bad breakup.

Situational Anxiety can be tough to deal with but there are ways you can cope with it. These include:

Avoiding the situation

This is the most obvious one. If your anxiety is triggered by an avoidable situation then don’t do it. If you get anxiety over roller coasters, don’t go on them, despite the protests of your friends. If you’re going to a place that may trigger your anxiety bring it up to the party you’re with and see if you can avoid it.

Of course, you may want to know how you can face your anxiety. Sometimes, for your own personal growth. Other times, your situational anxiety may be triggered by events that you can’t avoid. Here’s how you can reduce your anxiety.

Exercising

Exercise can release feel good chemicals in your body, which can help you to calm down. It helps to release all the energy your body has in you, which can help lower your anxiety. If you’re not that active take some baby steps. For example, try taking a walk if you feel your anxiety levels rising, or do some crunches. While it isn’t magic, it may help to lower your anxiety.

Exercising does not have to be physical, either. Practicing breathing exercises can help you to calm yourself down during an anxiety episode.

Thinking about it logically

Sometimes, the cause of your anxiety is irrational. For example, you may be afraid of flying on a plane. However, by doing some research, you can learn that planes are the safest travel method and your chances of dying during a trip to the grocery store are astronomically higher. If you’re afraid of giving a speech in a public speaking class realize that everyone is also afraid and everyone is going to be a little awkward.

worm s eye view photo of plane between two high rise buildings
Photo by jacoby clarke on Pexels.com

While logical thinking doesn’t cure every bit of situational anxiety it can help a little. Definitely see if your anxiety is warranted.

Seek Help!

If you’re having situational anxiety and no coping strategy works, don’t be afraid to look for a therapist. A good counselor can help you find out the reason for your situational anxiety and help you to come up with strategies to fight it. They are also quite empathetic and will listen to any concerns you may have.

If you’re wondering, “Where can I find a therapist near me?” look them up, or speak with an online therapist.

Anxiety is definitely tough to conquer but by not letting it consume you, you can handle any situation that life throws at you.

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. 

Marie-Miguel

Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com

With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

PTSD coping mechanisms that can help you

PTSD.jpg
Image taken from www.sdsscuola.com

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be horrible to live with and not everyone can understand what you’re going through. An episode can occur at any time and ruin your day. It can affect your career, your relationships, and your overall quality of life.

Thankfully, there are ways to help you cope and reduce the amount of episodes you may have. In addition to seeing a psychologist or a counsellor to help you cope, there are other ways to help you as well. These mechanisms are easy to perform, yet may help you with your PTSD.

Exercise

Exercising is nature’s way to help your physical and mental health. When you work out, your brain releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Plus, you can use an intense workout to let out any emotions you have when it comes to your PTSD.

You don’t need a gym membership or be a star athlete to reap the benefits of exercise. Try doing a few exercises at home, or take a walk. Start small, and increase the intensity along the way. While it won’t cure your PTSD, it can help with the symptoms. Let out your feelings as you work out.

A Pet

Having a furry companion can help you cope. A purring kitty can relieve stress, and a dog may be able to comfort you whenever you’re having an episode. If you are diagnosed with PTSD, you may be able to bring a service animal with you. Service dogs are allowed in most businesses or homes that don’t allow pets. Look into it. Even if you say you’re not much of a pet person, you may change your mind once you see all the benefits of owning a dog or a cat. You’ll discover a furry friend who needs you as much as you need them.

Art Therapy

You don’t need to be an amazing artist to get benefits from art therapy. Art therapy involves expressing your emotions through some form of art, be it painting, sculpting, or anything else. You can even create art in a video game such as Minecraft. Also, writing is an art, so you can create some form of diary and express how you’re feeling each day. Some of the best art is created by some of the most troubled people, and you may surprised at how good of an artist you are. Try different outlets. If none are for you, then you tried. However, you may realise you can find an outlet that does work for you.

Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness techniques can help you with your PTSD. Mindfulness involves being aware of the present and yourself. Despite most of us thinking we are, mindfulness is not obtained by very many. Look into resources that teach how to be more mindful, or take a class. Again, it’s not a magic cure, but it can help you monitor your body and possibly detect when an episode is coming. Look into the concept, and you’ll be surprised what it can do for you.

Seek Support Groups

One of the best ways to cope with a disorder is to find a group of people who are going through the same thing. There may be a group in your town that can help you to cope, or an online forum you can participate in. People can teach you their own coping strategies, and you can seek support whenever you feel an episode coming.

PTSD can be debilitating, but by fighting back, you can be able to take control of your life. Practice these techniques and see what they can do.

This guest post was written by Marie Miguel. Marie has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. 

Marie-Miguel

Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.