Anxiety, Mindfulness & why I do what I do.
It’s been ages since I wrote a blog, but I wanted to check in and write something about my experience of anxiety and how mindfulness has played a huge part in helping me. It’s just been mental health awareness week, and one of the most important messages that I came across in that week was, ‘share your story’, so here goes
My story is not a unique one, in fact, as we now know, many people have a mental health issue such as anxiety and learn to live with it everyday.
I was always a shy child, and maybe this was the start of anxiety or maybe this was literally me being quiet and shy, but I do remember after my parents split up and went through a difficult divorce while I was still quite young, that I started to notice anxiety in my body. I always had a feeling something terrible was going to happen, I had constant stomach aches, I spent a lot of time on my own worrying about things. Like I said, my story was not unique or different, but my anxiety did stop me from doing certain things. I had very low self-esteem and confidence which carried on through my childhood. I had a constant voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or able enough.
I managed ok through primary and secondary school and 6th form college, but it’s when I moved away to University things got worse. I still didn’t think of myself as someone with anxiety (or didn’t really have an awareness of what it was) but I really struggled in new situations, being out of my comfort zone and avoiding things where I could. I also became drawn to drink and drugs and for many years after I graduated, had no plan of what I was doing with my life apart from to party hard every weekend (basically avoiding myself!).
My confidence has been so low, that practically everything I have ever trained to do, I have never put into practice. For example, I have a degree in Arts Management, and have never worked in the arts. I paid £500 to train as an exercise to music instructor which I passed, and I never taught a single class! I had the intelligence and qualifications to further my career choice, but I couldn’t even get past the first hurdle!
In job interviews, I always got the same feedback; ‘You sounded perfect on your application form, but you just don’t seem very enthusiastic about the job’ - it’s not that I wasn’t enthusiastic, it’s that anxiety takes over and I sound very dull and lacklustre and not able to articulate myself properly. It took me 7 attempts to pass my driving test, because I would tell myself I was going to fail, even before I started, so inevitably, I did!
My brother is also the same, he has very low confidence and self-esteem, and a degree in genetics (which he has never used), and now he works as a care worker – probably one of the most academically educated care workers there is!
This is why I so passionately believe in teaching mindfulness to young people and children in schools. It doesn’t matter how well educated they are, if they get top marks in SATS and GCSE’s, because they may still not be able to function in society, like I found myself struggling with – it’s more important we educate the whole child, from the inside out, making them more resilient and aware of how to deal with their emotions, especially the difficult ones.
Since practicing mindfulness, I have experienced more perspective on my anxiety and it’s surprising what has come up.
One time, I thought I was just randomly sick when I was about to go out with some new mum friends about 4 months after having my first child – now I know it was the anxiety and the fear of going out with a group of people I didn’t know that well that made me physically sick. I have had panic attacks in social situations, avoided talking to people in other situations, had problems with air swallowing and belching caused by anxiety (those who have worked with me will remember my belching!) - basically a constant sense of angst all the time, although I’ve managed to get on with things the best I could.
Since discovering mindfulness, I have gained such an insight into my anxiety, but also perspective, realising things are not as bad as they seem. I don’t need to over plan or over worry about something in the future I have no control over.
I practice a lot of self compassion. Self compassion is not self-pity and it is not weak. Where as self-esteem is measured in levels that can go up, but also back down; self compassion steps in just when you need it, when that voice in your head is telling you something negative, self-compassion is like the voice you would use for your best friend, supporting them, giving well-wishes, highlighting their great qualities; self compassion calms and soothes and helps the mind to move on, out of the negative thoughts.
I would love to see mindfulness and self-compassion practices in every school. Children can be taught a way of self-soothing and not being to hard on themselves.
This in turn can lead to a healthier mental state as they grow older. Also being taught that you are not your thoughts is a powerful message – I wish I had known this when I was younger, to be able to gain perspective and see thoughts as just like clouds passing by, not having to believe or get caught up in them.
These are simple messages to get across to children but in my opinion, they are so powerful, and this is why I do what I do, because I believe it is so important!
I would love to hear your opinions and experiences related to this subject! If you wish to contact me via email please use the contact form at the base of this page. You will not be subscribed to any Kindfulmind services or subscriptions and your contact details will be used soley for the purpose of replying to your specific query and not shared with any third party.