Although thanks to lots of positive lifestyle changes my anxiety is kept to a minimum now, I do still have flair ups and suffer with the occasional anxiety attack. You have to accept this, recognise the signs and try to manage them as best as you can, unfortunately there is no cure for anxiety and it will sadly never disappear from my life forever. I am just grateful the outbreaks are now few and far between rather than a weekly occurrence.
Being able to recognise your triggers is a really helpful way to manage anxiety. They will be different for everyone and some you may be able to avoid at large (for example being confined to a small space, going on a alcohol or drugs binge or facing a big height) others however will be unavoidable parts of life. Here you have to be able to say to yourself “I recognise I am feeling anxious because of x, it’s causing me to feel x and x in response and this is why I am feeling this way”. By acknowledging that the way you’re feeling has in fact been brought upon by an external factor it may make you feel you have more control over the situation.
It’s not always obvious what your triggers are, or why they are in fact triggers and it may take you several months or years of anxiety to figure out a pattern. For me being ill is a trigger, as well as unexpected big changes of plans. As my anxiety is social anxiety I obviously also struggle when socialising with big groups of people, especially if I don’t know them very well. In fact any kind of extended period of social interaction is challenging to me, it certainly doesn’t come naturally.
As you can see from my triggers these are certainly not things I can just avoid. You can’t go through life without being sick from time to time, you certainly can’t avoid change, in fact you need change in life and it shouldn’t be something you fear. Social events and interactions are a daily part of life, not only that but they can bring immense amounts of pleasure. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that I hate all socialising; I just find it really difficult sometime and I crave my own space too. My ideal is to be surrounded by small/medium groups of people who I feel comfortable with for an evening or a day but then I do need my own time afterwards. Some people are comfortable, even relish, being surrounded by big groups of new people all the time, and that’s brilliant however it’s not something I will ever feel natural doing.
I recently had some anxiety struggles I want to share with you on holiday. It’s easy to talk to you about how to change your life to help avoid anxiety but it’s also really important to address how to manage anxiety when it rears its ugly head. Now being on holiday is something one assumes will be totally stress free and unlikely to cause any anxiety. So when it does happen it can make it even more difficult, as you believe others really wont understand why you’re feeling that way. They may think, “God, x is really ungrateful, look how amazing all this is and they’re still not happy” Obviously this isn’t the case and there is a lot more going on than what appears on the surface. This judgment and frustration can cause big feelings of guilt for the anxiety sufferer, which then increases anxiety. This mag cause the sufferer to start to isolate themselves; again this will only increase anxiety and make them feel worse. It’s a vicious circle.
I could recognise why I was feeling so anxious; we were on a boat with a group of friends (who were all lovely and I knew really well, I must just mention) and on the first day we had hit very rough seas. I’m not usually seasick but as you know I am pregnant and I also have very low blood pressure at the moment. Both these things had obviously increased the effects of the high winds and huge waves that were rocking the boat and I was very, very sick. It was a long, terrifying journey for me with no respite; both my head and my stomach were in turmoil. As I’ve already mentioned being ill and social interactions are triggers for me. While I really enjoy the company of everyone on board it’s hard to have some time to yourself, especially when you don’t go into port. I think had I not been feeling the anxiety bought on by the sickness I would have been mentally strong enough to deal with the lack of ‘me time’, for want of a better phrase. However throw in the sickness (no nutrients inside me helping my body fight the attack) plus 3 bad nights sleep too and it all became a bit overwhelming. I couldn’t get back on an even keel.
How did I manage the anxiety? Well I recognised what was happening, then to help it sink in even more I wrote it all down and it became this blog! Whatever your outlet is it doesn’t matter, just try and turn your feelings into something positive and I promise it will make you feel much better. I didn’t let it ruin my trip, I just accepted it was an unpleasant but unavoidable part of my life, worked through it (with some help from my husband and friends) and still had a lovely holiday. Thats all we can do, make steps in our lives to reduce the onset of anxiety then on the occasions it does affect us try and deal with the situations as best we can.
I just wanted to highlight with my story today how easy it can be to become anxious in situations that other people really wouldn’t expect you to. I know my husband (who now through reading and my experience really knows a lot about anxiety) can even sometimes struggle to understand why I feel like I do when I do. Especially with such beautiful surroundings and no work to worry about. When in contrast during the weeks leading up to the holiday I had managed an incredibly chaotic period of work, where I had far too many jobs in the timeframe I had to do them, without any anxiety. I could get everything done without it casing me any anxiety because work just isn’t a trigger for me.
It’s so important to try and recognise why you’re feeling the way you are in order to attempt to manage the effects, you also need to know what your limits are. Understanding gives us control and power, something anxiety sufferers often struggle with. The message here is to just be aware that others around you may be struggling with things that you find easy or even enjoy but take a moment to try and understand before you judge or form a negative opinion. There’s often way more going on than you think.
Todays recipe is one that I’ve been asked for a lot on Instagram recently but have been too busy to share, so I thought I’d share with you now. Oreo cheesecake swirl brownies…because everyone knows two desserts are better than one and of course chocolate makes everything a little better.
Oreo Cheesecake Swirl Brownies
FOR THE BROWNIE
150g dark chocolate, melted
250g soft butter
350g sugar (either caster or granulated are fine)
4 large eggs, beaten
70g cocoa powder
60g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g white chcolate chips (optional)
FOR THE CHEESECAKE
200g full fat soft cheese
1 large egg
150g sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp lemon juice
1 packet Oreo cookies, bashed to break into chunks
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line a roughly 28 x 35 large rectangle roasting tray or with baking parchment (if you don’t have a large tray then do two smaller batches in the traditional square pans). Beat all the ingredients for the cheesecake in a small bowl until combined.
For the brownie layer put the butter and sugar into a mixer fitted with a paddle (or mix with electric hand beaters) and beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 mins. Add the eggs, little by little, beating well between each addition. Fold in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and melted chocolate and white choc chips (if using) mix until evenly combined.
Spoon big blobs of brownie mix into the tray leaving room for the cheesecake then pour or spoon that into the gaps. Use a chopstick or kebab stick to marble and combine the two layers together. (See video) You want it to all merge so you get a little cheesecake in each chunk. Top with the Oreos. Bake for 35-40 minutes, (check after 35 but they may take even longer especially if you’re usina smaller size tin) until when you shake the tray there is just a slight wobble in the centre. Cool then cut into squares. Can be frozen or kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.