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Steph Geddes Personal Essay On Anxiety

Steph Geddes on Her Experience With Anxiety and the Tools She Uses to Manage It

Mental health and wellbeing is very close to our hearts, and while we aim to have an always-on approach to covering all aspects of mental health, we have chosen to shine an extra bright light on #WorldMentalHealth today, and for the rest of October.

We bring you The Big Burn Out — a content series made up of honest personal essays, expert advice and practical recommendations.

It took a while for me to realise that what I was experiencing was anxiety — I had always just put it down to stress. For me it presents as a racing heart rate, tightness in the chest, irritability, inability to concentrate or focus, not being able to relax or unwind and sometimes low moods. It's not like this all the time, in fact sometimes I don't experience these things at all, but sometimes it gets to the point where I struggle to work, do daily tasks and to muster any motivation to socialise.

At first, I had a lot of resistance to it and struggled to make sense of why I experience it. I would say to myself, I have an incredible husband, amazing family and friends, a job that I love and so much more to be happy and content with, so why do I have anxiety and how do I get rid of it?

Over the years I have come to understand that it is completely normal, in fact very common to experience anxiety. It might likely be with me forever, so instead of resisting it, now I lean into it so I can nurture and manage it, kind of like you would with an injury. I know what has and does trigger it; for example, the death of my dogs, unpleasant interactions with people, taking on too much work, and the biggest trigger of all for me is Winter. I also know what helps it too (as hard as it is to do some of those things at the time).

Lucky for me, being a Nutritionist and Exercise Scientist I know diet and exercise are an integral part of managing my anxiety. Exercise wise, when my anxiety is bad, I don't always feel like exercising so on those days instead of going hard at a HIIT session I go for a slow jog, do pilates or yoga instead — just as long as I still move my body. When it comes to nutrition, I am rather fascinated with how foods can affect our mood and mental health so have researched a lot in this area. I now base my diet around foods I know have an impact here like HEAPS of vegetables plus fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, kefir, yoghurt, fish, dark chocolate, green tea and extra virgin olive oil.

One of the best things I ever did was to seek professional help. The first time I got a Mental Health Plan from my doctor I didn't quite connect with the psychologist I saw so it took me a while to try again, but the second time, (which was longer than 12 months later so I was able to get another 10 sessions through a Mental Health Plan), my therapist has been amazing. She has opened me up to so many other tools I can use to manage my anxiety and to understand that a life with no worry, anxiety or sadness is not realistic. As humans, we have emotions for a reason (partly as survival techniques) and they are not always going to be positive ones — in fact of the main emotions we experience, majority of them are negative. She helps me identify when anxiety is present, why it might be present and gives me tools to help manage so it doesn't get to the point where it affects my life too much.

Some really effective tools I have found are Epsom salt baths, Headspace meditations, 4-7-8 breathing via the Breathe App, WorryTime App, journaling and having set times for work (hard when you are a freelancer and own your own business) and also set times for when I put my phone away (social media absolutely fuels my anxiety but it is also how I obtain a lot of my business so having boundaries instead of deleting it is the best option for me).

With so many efforts around raising awareness for mental health these days, I do feel like the stigma around the word anxiety is not as prominent as it used to be and people are much more understanding that anyone, even the people you least expect, can experience it. My advice for anyone that has anxiety, or those who think they might have anxiety, is to find the ways that help you manage it instead of being resistant towards it. There will be more than one way, and those ways will be different from other people's ways of managing, but you can absolutely live a happy and healthy life with anxiety that is managed.

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