Tag Archive | anxiety

Ditch your “inner Paxman”

Thank you Nicolas for pointing out on this morning’s post that it is just as important to be kind to yourself as it is to be nice to other people in their battles with mental health issues, whatever they may be. Once again, the airline safety advice from the Civil Aviation Authority springs to mind, ” Passengers should also be given instructions regarding the automatic appearance of the masks and be advised to don their own oxygen mask before assisting others.”  So it is with help and support. You need to make sure that you look after yourself too.

Like a lot of people I am my own worst critic and I challenge anyone to tell me anything I didn’t already know. Being kind to others comes naturally but saying “No” is alien and being kind to myself, accepting my foibles and anything less than top-notch is not part of my make-up. Humour however always helps and when someone described my self critic as my “Inner Paxman” I had to laugh. How many times have I watched Jeremy Paxman interrogate his victims, relentlessly pursuing an answer, raising his eybrows (on its own enough to make grown men weep) and saying “Oh come on” in that awful disbelieving and disparaging manner of his? I sit and squirm in my seat and think “I’m so glad that’s not me” but actually in the end I take over the Paxman mantle and challenge myself  to the same degree.  I recognise a lot of me in Jeremy Paxman albeit I channel all of this aggression and persistence against myself not others and  I have to admit, I put myself under pressure needlessly.

So, I have made a note to myself. Must be kinder to me and banish my “inner Paxman” to the wilderness.

I’ll let you know how I get on!

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Jigsaws and Jenga

At almost 50 years of age I am now finding the missing pieces originally hewn from my family’s history which hopefully will enable me to complete my life’s jigsaw.  Over the years I have dilligently collected the straight-line edging  along with the pieces relating to the memories I have since 1963 the year I was born. However, I always knew that there was much more than this and, whilst I may not have been around to witness those happier days, they did exist. Now, thanks to my wonderful cousins, I have the opportunity to fill in the missing gaps and complete the puzzle. At times this is surprisingly emotional and makes me realise that my views about my parentage and “family life” are very much tainted purely because I was born late on and certainly after the cracks  started to appear in my parent’s relationship. I never knew the “happy couple” as they clearly were on their wedding day.  I only remember  the arguments and turmoil that blighted my childhood and ended in a bitter divorce and me being sent away to boarding school. At the time this was a relief but over the years I realise that I would have swapped my experience at school any day for a “normal” family upbringing. This has been hard to deal with.

For me, doing a jigsaw represents my life-long quest to piece together the missing bits.

But, would you rather try and complete a jigsaw over a period of time and enjoy a pastime which can be picked up and put down at your leisure , or play Jenga. The game played “on the edge” and is a challenge of physical and mental skill. Jenga to me conjures up images of  pressure, deadlines, decisions, chance and fear of everything going wrong and falling to pieces.

I liken my depression to that of a jigsaw. I want and need to complete the picture. My dear friend however who suffers from anxiety likens his experience to the game of Jenga. Always living on the edge; believing that the tower will tumble regardless of which brick you extract and once demolished cannot be rebuilt. Despair, despondancy, distrust and disbelief prevail. Stomach churns; head spins relentlessly. There is no respite and exhaustion follows. Jenga represents all the characteristics of his anxiety and it must be draining.

Whilst there are differences between jigsaws and Jenga, there are also similarities. We are both fed up with feeling as we do. Few people truly understand and appreciate the effort needed to maintain an existence of any sort and it seems like there is no end to the struggle. But, jigsaws can be completed and Jenga can be beaten.

We just need to find the secret key.


The past two days have thrown up an number of challenges some of which I predicted and some which I definitely did not see coming my way. Overall, sitting at home on Friday evening after a sometimes difficult 48 hours, I think that those personal challenges have been mostly met head on and resolved to my satisfaction albeit only with the help, strength and support of those friends who are closest to me. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to help my friends as much as they helped me but I’m working on it.

My personal challenges may be different from those of my fellow tribesmen, but they are no less or no more debilitating. Just different and I thank those who provided the comforting words of encouragement for helping me conquer some of my fears and anxieties. Andrew, Leanne, Rupert, Emer and Abigail. Thank you.

I have started to think about my very organised and forward-thinking coping strategies to the extent that I may rethink my theory that forewarned is forearmed. You can be too prepared and fall victim to imagining all sorts of disasters that will never happen. Catastrophising can become addictive and certainly doesn’t help with low mood or anxiety issues.

For example. Yesterday I was invited to attend a meeting at Citi based in Canary Wharf. I am claustrophobic and don’t like heights so that flying, travelling in lifts and in the back of cars with only 2 doors can be problematic for me. Busy, busy, busy, I stumbled from meeting to meeting so that when we finally arrived at Citi at 4pm, I signed in and in typical sheep-fashion followed my colleagues towards the lift. Still catching up I watched Glen reach towards the button -36th floor.

Now if I had made the connection between Citi=tallest building in Canary Wharf, I would have checked beforehand where the meeting would be held and “persuaded” Glen to hold our gathering lower down. However, no such connections were made and before I knew it I was being whisked up to the 36th floor, my ears popping twice. . I had only made 17 floors in a lift before and I had more than doubled that in one trip.

I felt pleased with myself. But I also felt a little silly. What was all the fuss about? I was safe. The lift engineering hadn’t failed half way up. And the doors opened at the top. I wasn’t trapped. I didn’t have to be rescued in mid-air. All thoughts which I would have chewed over for weeks had I known in advance that I would need to go to the 36th Floor. There was no way I would have done that if I’d had time to think about it but the surprise element worked. My friends were fabulous. They encoraged and reassured me and I made it to the top.

What a view across London. The O2 Arena, London flood barrier, City airport, London eye, the Thames, etc etc and I took in the panorama from a safe place with my back against an internal wall!

Perhaps next time, I’ll be brave enough to approach the window and take a photo.

Small steps.

Guest post courtesy of “Fighting the blues”

One of my friends who suffers with anxiety writes a very open and honest Blog about this condition and how he deals with it on a daily basis. As with depression, there are good days and bad days, but with some patience and a lot of hard work the good days might just start out-numbering the bad ones soon.

Here, with his permission, is his latest post and I am very grateful to him for allowing me to publish it on my Blog today.  So I introduce, Fighting the blues.

Doing the opposite- by Fighting the blues

  • As I read back over yesterday’s post I am struck by a few things.  None of them are particularly positive.  That is to say as I read over the text I  observe a ‘me’ I don’t like very much.  I blogged truthfully, I said what I felt and I felt what I said but nevertheless I am left with a strong feeling that I have painted a picture of myself that is none too pretty – for the first time since I began my blog I feel I have presented myself as a little self-indulgent, an impression of self-pity.
  • That was not my intention and if anyone else read it that way please accept my apologies.  And to those who left comments (here and on facebook) thank you – thank you for replying as honestly as I tried to blog.
  • As a result of these reflections I have tried to get up with a more positive attitude.  Those who struggle with depression and anxiety know that is very easy to say and very difficult to do. The deeper the anxiety the more difficult it is to challenge.
  • Followers of this blog know I have to move house because my job in the army has changed and the second word of ‘posting order’ is ‘order’!  Is morale low – yes.  Is the move this time a fearful event (at least in my mind) – yes, of course it is!  But I have taken on board some excellent (but frankly terrifying) advice given to me by my psychologist – to treat my anxiety almost as a person.  And when feeling low (as I have been lately, in particular, worrying about my son – student loan, job prospects etc. – despite the advice and assurance of those who know us both who say my anxiety is almost certainly unfounded) to do the opposite of what the anxiety expects and demands of me.
  • What did it demand of me this morning?  To give up, not bother and do nothing.  Oh yes, let’s not forget a large measure of self-pity thrown into today’s ‘misery pot’!
  • So I’ve tried to follow the advice I have been given.  I got up – well, come on, it’s a good start.  I’ve been outside all day in the fresh air although the sun has been mostly cloud hidden.  I’ve got a lot of practical things done ready to move and I can see the results of my labour.
  • Most importantly doing the ‘opposite’ has made me feel a lot more positive.  Simple as.  My hope and my prayer is that this may encourage me to believe that my anxieties are unfounded and I start to feel better about myself with a degree of consistency.

Why worry?

Winnie The Pooh is a wise old bear –

“Supposing a tree fell down and you were underneath it?”-“Supposing it didn’t”

Many of us worry about things that never happen and in doing so can put ourselves through sleepless nights, increased stress and depression-all for nothing.

Do you spend a lot of time thinking about bad things and being preoccupied with negative possibilities? Do you find that the more you do it, the bigger your worries become? Do you even find yourself worrying about all the time you’ve spent worrying?

With the best intentions, people who do not worry to excess will say ” focus on today and tomorrow will look after itself”. On the face of it, this is sound sensible advice, but to a worrier it is easier said than done.  It is very hard to stop yourself fretting but there is some really good advice in the Mind leaflet “How to Stop Worrying” and if you are a worrier this makes a good place to start.

“In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double” [Bobby Ferrin, Don’t worry, Be happy]

No one likes worrying and it’s hard to live with a worrier. It’s exhausting and emotionally draining so seek help and talk through your fears.

Why Worry?

Baby I see this world has made you sad
Some people can be bad
The things they do, the things they say
But baby I’ll wipe away those bitter tears
I’ll chase away those restless fears
That turn your blue skies into grey

Why worry, there should be laughter after pain
There should be sunshine after rain
These things have always been the same
So why worry now

Baby when I get down I turn to you
And you make sense of what I do
I know it isn’t hard to say
But baby just when this world seems mean and cold
Our love comes shining red and gold
And all the rest is by the way

Why worry, there should be laughter after pain
There should be sunshine after rain
These things have always been the same
So why worry now

The A-Z of depression (A Part 1)

In amongst my random posts outlining my journey through depression, its impact on my life and family and the tricks and tips I use to help alleviate the symptoms I have the idea to work my way through the alphabet all the way from A-Z as it relates to depression. If nothing else it will provide a focus for posts should my inspiration run dry. I was wondering how to start, but I soon compiled a list of words beginning with the letter “A” which are often used in the context of depression and I will try and incorporate them all in a couple of posts which do not develop into novellas.

So to quote Lewis Carroll, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop “ (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland).

Let us begin with a couple of common “A” symptoms relating to depressive illness.

Anxiety and anger are just those. Both anxiety and anger can be beneficial, positive emotions in the right place, at the right time and directed at the right subject. But they can also be very destructive if not exorcised and expressed in a controlled way. They are often found lurking together ready to plunge you into extreme negativity.

The word anxiety derives from the Latin “angere” which literally means “to choke” or “to strangle” “to torment”. If you know someone who suffers badly from this debilitating condition you can clearly see that it is aptly named. It chokes, strangles and torments to the point of despair.

Anxiety can range from mild to crippling; from the relatively harmless butterflies in the stomach to outright fear. Anxiety can be a complex condition and in many cases professional help and medication are required to deal with the underlying issues. If anxiety is spoiling your life and preventing you from functioning seek help straight away.

Anger is also a very strong emotion and if it is suppressed or outbursts are uncontrolled and inappropriate it can lead to additional negative feelings of frustration and guilt. It is important that you learn to manage your anger by questioning why you feel the way you do, what has caused the anger and whether in fact you are angry, or confusing the feeling with sadness or fear. Being claustrophobic, I get angry when I feel trapped and find it very difficult to control that anger. Thinking about it however, it probably isn’t anger at all. It’s fear. I need to deal with the underlying fear to avoid the “anger” kicking in.

One tip which I wish I could adopt every time!

“When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred. “

[Thomas Jefferson]

My next “A” post will look at ways in which we can help ourselves and others deal with negative emotions. Anti-depressants, Affirmations, Acceptance , Awareness and Assertiveness.

Until then- Be ‘Appy.

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Fear of Flying

To say that I don’t like flying is an understatement. It terrifies me to the point of panic attacks and aggression, cold sweats, dizzy spells and paralysis. On one 45 minute flight into Dublin I hyperventilated so much that I lost all feeling in my arms and legs. I couldn’t get off the plane for 20 minutes after landing  when the feeling returned and I could stand up albeit supported on both sides by understanding stewards. I fully understand why the Pope kisses the ground when he gets off a plane now (!). I felt like doing the same thing.

So with my 6 hour flight to Iran tomorrow approaching all too rapidly I have tried to keep myself occupied in the hope that I can stop thinking about it. I have been rushing around like a Dervish. I started off at the golf range hitting a few balls. I moved on to cleaning the car inside and out. Finished my packing. Cleaned and hoovered upstairs. Found 3 loads of washing. Watched the footie at lunchtime, did some crosswords, did the lottery and now all that’s left is Blogging!

So I apologise in advance. Nervous energy may prompt me to focus on catching up with the Postaday topics to keep my mind off the inevitable and I hope that I don’t bore you to death.

By blogging all night I hope to avoid re-living my previous experiences like;

Refusing to board a BA Fokker 100 to Stuttgart because it was “too small”


Asking a pilot, non too politely, to “Hurry up and land this f*****g plane”


Hyperventilating during a panic attack


Experiencing an engine failure at 3,000ft on the way to Berlin and having to make an “unscheduled” landing back at Heathrow Terminal 5 with emergency vehicles in attendance 😦

Happy Flighting!

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Guided imagery-pictures in your mind

A common relaxation technique for those with stress, anxiety or depression is to imagine a peaceful, calm and comforting place where you would like to be and where you can let all your worries wash over you leaving your mind a quiet blank canvas. In my experience easier said than done and I have struggled with this for many years. Somehow, my mental clutter comes rushing back to prevent me from enjoying even a momentary short spell on a desert island, lazing on a white sandy beach, my toes digging into the warm sand whilst being served cocktails as the sunsets across the azure-blue ocean listening to the waves lapping rhythmically on the shore…..etc etc you get my drift.

So, how pleased am I to have discovered guided meditation and all the benefits it brings? The answer is, “very”.

I now have a selection of short guided meditations set to background music loaded onto my ipod. These meditations are stories set to calming music and spoken by an experienced meditator. I have to admit that they are very soporific and so far they seem to be working. In a very short time I have come to look forward to my twenty minutes of “me” time, sitting cross-legged in the middle of my bed, nursing my nugget of rose quartz listening to tropical rain storms, waterfalls, whales and dolphins, imagining that I am stranded on a desert island, climbing waterfalls or paddling my canoe! The only downside is waking up to reality. Now that can be depressing!

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Depression and meditation-is it safe?

On more than one occasion I have been advised not to try meditation as part of my recovery from deep depression. This came as a surprise at first as I had always thought that meditation aids relaxation and provides relief from stress and anxiety. So it does, but there are also times when meditation is not advised when suffering with depression and you should bear this in mind if you are thinking of it as relief from your low mood.

When and why should it be avoided?

The meditation process of focusing inwards can actually heighten feelings of despair and depression and it is not recommended that you meditate when you are extremely depressed especially not if you are having thoughts of self-harming.

For those with depression it helps if you find an experienced meditator with whom you can work closely face-to-face, by phone or on-line. This is because when depressed, a person tends to focus on what’s wrong and this can lead to feelings that the meditation isn’t working, even when it is. An experienced meditator can help you deal with the frustration and feelings of failure.

In addition when meditating you focus your thoughts  inwards and it can trigger a person to over-think about and analyse what is wrong in their lives (rumination). Far from helping the recovery from depression-it can make it worse.

Meditation can certainly help people recover from depression and reduce stress and anxiety when practised at the right stage of recovery and under the right conditions. But if you are in any doubt as to whether meditation is right for you, seek expert advice.

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Are you a stress-head?

If you are beware. You could be damaging your health if you don’t take measures to reduce your stress levels now. Some stress is good for us. It is a natural reaction to events which causes us to go into fight or flight mode. Temporarily we become more alert and aware of what’s going on and it keeps us on our toes. But prolonged stress where you become overwhelmed and anxious can damage your health, your mood and your relationships. Long-term stress can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the ageing process. It is known that chronic stress can increase the risk of leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

So please, don’t stress any more. Seek help. Take control and regain the balance and quality of life you deserve.

I would like you to look at 3 areas in your life.

Your network- A network of strong personal relationships, friends, family and colleagues can help protect you from adverse symptoms of stress by supporting you. Make sure that you retain your social life. If your network is a bit thin on the ground, go out and find some new friends. Try volunteering, evening classes, pet-walking or invite a colleague for a coffee.

Emotional intelligence- is now thought to be as important as, if not more important than your IQ if you are to be successful and live a happy and rewarding life. So look after your mental health and improve key qualities such as resiliance, flexibility and ability to cope with change.

Relax!-whatever it takes, and everyone is different, make sure that you know how to relax. Time spent relaxing is time well spent and you are not being idle, you are investing in your long term health.

De-stress now before it’s too late.

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Daniel Goleman-Emotional Intelligence (Amazon)

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