How I cope with being ‘Anxious Annie’
Vicki Lee, who has PH and is awaiting a heart and lung transplant, shares her coping methods for living with anxiety.
Anxious Annie… that’s me! I struggle a lot with anxiety. I think I always have a little, but now because of all my health issues it seems harder to cope with, as my ‘irrational fear of death’ feels quite justified now.
When I was around 24 I was really struggling with my breathing, especially when walking. Friends were worried and pestering me to go to the doctors, which, to be honest, was exactly what I needed – I should have been more persistent. I was in denial, I think.
We thought that I was having panic attacks when walking because I feared death, but I was just extremely breathless due to the PH becoming bad. To be fair I’m sure that you have done something, running or whatnot that’s made you so out of breath that you think you’re dying.
Now, I don’t tend to allow myself to get to the stage of breathlessness where I am gasping like a fish if I can help it. I’m very slow now!
I think that anxiety is very normal and common for people who have health issues, so I thought I would share some of my coping methods:
1. Mindfulness, this is very simply about living in the moment and enjoying the little things in life.
This can be done in many ways. I often do it but just sitting down with a cup of tea and really savouring it – enjoying it from the first sip. I look forwards to doing this outside when the spring starts to appear. Warm tea, cold air, and the birds in full song; beautiful! Another way I found to be mindful is crocheting.
2. My lovely psychologist has been teaching me ‘safe space meditation’.
This is where you make up an imaginary or real space in your mind where you feel safe and loved. Mine is a hut in the woods (kind of like Hagrid’s) lovely open fire, always a cup of tea ready and lots of blankets of course, with the rain tapping on the windowsill and the smell of the damp woods. So cosy, so happy, so safe and so loved. The greatest thing about this place being in your mind is you can go there any time, anywhere.
3. Another tactic I find very helpful is to ‘name 5 things’.
You start with 5 things you can see, touch, feel, smell and so on. This one is good for when your brain starts to spiral, as it helps to ground you.
4. Journalling is another good way of helping with anxiety.
Sometimes just writing down what I’m feeling means that I don’t have to think about it anymore.
5. I have also found reading books on the subject to be helpful too.
It helps you understand that you are not your anxiety. My top two recommended reads are Happy by Derren Brown and Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. (Well I listen to Happy as an audio book, but it counts!)
Anxiety is just a feeling, and most feelings (if you just sit with them) will pass by in 90 seconds. Its natural and normal. You are more than your anxiety.
This is an extract from Vicki’s blog about living with PH, www.survivingthriving.co.uk
You can follow Vicki on Instagram @survivingthriving_with_vicki