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Thursday, 17 September 2020

How I cope with anxiety

In response to my previous post, some of you have asked me to share about my own experience in coping with anxiety. Like this,

and this.


And I thought that it was a great idea! Of course, I have to caveat that I am no therapist and whatever I'm going to say is entirely based on my own experience, which frankly really ain't that rosy. Nonetheless, I'm still alive and kickin' so, here goes.

1. Understand what makes you anxious and ask yourself if it is rational

As someone who thrives on the right brain, I am not exactly methodological in my thinking. Yes, we are known to be creative and intuitive but the downside is that we are largely driven by our feelings - and sometimes to our own detriment. As a right-brainer, I catch myself occasionally on a downward spiral of negative emotions, without actually knowing why I am experiencing them.

I read about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) recently and found that their approach in dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues is very helpful. What is CBT? TL;DR, it is a type of therapy that helps you identify the unhealthy and inaccurate thought patterns that you may have, so that you can correct them and lead a happier life ☺

In the context of anxiety, the first step in CBT is to understand what is making you anxious. For me, after many, many years of dating, I finally figured that what makes me most anxious is when my partner is upset, as I automatically associate it with myself and my short-comings (very non-feminist of me, I know). When he has a bad day and is awfully quiet or accidentally lashes out at me, I wonder if I did something wrong. And then I spiral. When I make (in my opinion) a small mistake and he gets upset, I wonder 'what did I do so wrong' and make a mental note never to do it again. As a result, I end up walking on eggshells around the one I love and feel small all the time - which really isn't in my (confident and free-spirited) character. 

After understanding what makes you anxious, the next step is to ask yourself if it is rational. Instead of constantly second-guessing what my partner feels and why he feels that way, I learned to communicate. And I realised that sometimes, a simple 'are you okay?' does the trick. I find out that he's actually not upset with me and I'm then in a better position to offer a listening ear. On occasions when he is upset at me, I've learned to reflect on my mistake and assess whether the proportion of anxiety and guilt that I feel is rational and justified, rather than spiralling immediately. And I realised that most of the time it is not. He is also human and there may be other reasons for his insecurities or the way he reacts. It is not always completely my fault. After coming to that realisation, I'm also in a better place to apologise, make amends, and care for both him and myself.

Of course, this takes conscientious effort and I understand that sometimes, we're frankly too tired to give a damn. This is where point 2 comes into play.

2. Find your modes of escapism and make sure that they are accessible

Ever since I studied in the UK, travelling has been my utmost form of escapism (and I recognise that it is a very privileged thing). When the going gets tough, I think about my upcoming trip and it gets me through the days. COVID-19 has taken that away and I found myself a little more depressed than usual. How did I cope?

Along the coast of California, taken by Yours Truly

I found accessible substitutes that motivate me to get through a difficult day and give me some form of reprieve. Yesss, for me it was Gin and Tonic. I always looked forward to a nice glass of G&T after a long day of work. Of course, I recognised that alcohol has its detriments and that's why I've lately been substituting G&T with a refreshing cup of iced latte (with a pump of sugar syrup) from Huggs Coffee, which seems to have been brewed to perfection for my tastebuds. I hardly go a day without my iced latte (even on weekends) and most of the baristas remember my order now. 

It is the little things that keep you afloat sometimes.

3. Find space to express yourself

Writing (usually using allegory) is my way of connecting with the world, and letting other people know what I feel without actually saying it. 

In most human relationships. you don't always get to express yourself freely unless you bulldoze your way through your conversations. I realised that this can cause a lot of frustration over time and to keep ourselves sane, we need a platform to express how we truly feel. And those who care will make an effort to try and understand what you're trying to say through your unique platforms of self-expression.

Whether its through literature, fashion, art or music, I think self-expression is an important way to keep one's sanity in this pretty insane world. I write dark fiction not to propagate depressive thoughts but to release the pent up frustration that all humans will have at various points in their lives. And I always end up feeling better.

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This year has been a really tough year for many people. But I'm grateful that amidst all the hardship, mental health is becoming a topic that is more commonly discussed. We are all human - from the President, to the Generals and the Average Joes like myself. We all have some form of anxiety that we will have to deal with at some point of our life and it's okay to do what it takes to make life a little more bearable. So, let's be kind to each other and slow to judgement, yeah?

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