This is the last post in our series on living with anxiety for Mental Health Awareness Week, written by one of our founders, Mark Briant.
If you haven't already, you can check out the others by Hannah-Jane, a mental health advocate and speaker, and Paul Huntingford, an ACT and CFT therapist, on their experiences helping others as well as living with anxiety themselves.
The theme for MHAW this year is anxiety and I wanted to share my experiences with it in recent years, something I have shared a lot in private at our Uncommon Man events, but not so often in public. I had always suffered from what I would call low levels of anxiety. I’m the sort of person who would worry about worrying, but nothing too severe. However the past few years shone a new light on my mental health, and forced me to develop a new relationship with it.
By mid 2021 I had begun to develop quite severe anxious periods, catastrophizing, my mind and body constantly on the lookout for the apparent threat just around the corner. I could seemingly be triggered by fairly innocuous events. Often in these moments I felt paralysed by negative thoughts and emotions. And regularly felt alone in these periods, desperately trying to bring myself out of an anxious state.
A few years on and my levels of anxiety still fluctuate and still affect me. I’m unsure if it’s something I will continue to live with, or a period I’ll look back on as an anxious period of my life. Regardless of that, I’m learning to deal with it better each time.
A big part for me was being able to retrace my thoughts and emotions to the event that had triggered me in the first place, dissect that a little and then work to understand why that had made me anxious. Now that’s the hard part! Lot’s of work has had to go into that, but just understanding the reason I was getting anxious has been really useful for me.
Asides from that, having a mini grounding routine I can do, subtly, on the go has been useful to bring me back into the present and also keeping in mind that ‘this will pass’ has been great. The ability to share some of my thoughts at our monthly Uncommon Man events has also helped alleviate some of those thoughts of being alone in how I feel, being surprised at how many others feel in similar ways.
I don’t want to offer too much advice, but what I would encourage you to do if you do experience anxiety, is to get curious about it. You don’t have to accept this is the effect it has on me, I'll be living with anxiety forever and that is the end of the matter. We can have more control than we think at times. Try to get to know your anxiety, why it rears its head at times and learn to live together.