This is the second blog post in our series on anxiety and how to cope with anxiety for Mental Health Awareness Week. Check out the first by mental health advocate, Hannah-Jane Smith here.
Paul Huntingford is an ACT and CFT therapist, and Head of therapy at That Day, who is passionate about bringing practical, workable skills to people so that they can improve their mental health and live more fulfilling lives.
Anxiety is the one of the reasons why I’m a therapist today. Since my early childhood I always remember feeling worried about what others were thinking about me. As I grew up, this proceeded to get worse and my ways of dealing with these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings was to either avoid doing things that brought them up, or escape into other coping strategies like drink and drugs that ended up making the problem much worse in the long term. Anxiety was with me on a daily basis and I felt trapped.
In my late twenties, things got too much. I decided to do something about it and made some major lifestyle changes to help cope with anxiety. These changes reduced the anxiety but at times it was still overwhelming and life could still feel too much. I continued to learn more about how to cope with anxiety. Knowing what it is, why it’s there and having a personal understanding of what it meant to me specifically, was the foundation for me being able to cope with it.
Over the years and training as a therapist, I have learnt and experienced so many approaches that help me manage and accept anxiety now. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel it. I know that it will often be there, but what I do have, are many different ways to approach it and work with it. These have provided me with more confidence and a fuller life. When I work with clients who are suffering with anxiety at any level, I aim to help them understand what’s going on at a physical and emotional level. We’ll then work together to establish ways in which they can cooperate with their anxiety to develop their own more effective personal coping mechanisms. These can enable them to live a life that they want to lead, rather than one dictated by anxiety.