Yesterday I shared a post all about how mindful exercise (especially yoga) can help with anxiety. I mentioned in that blog post that I have suffered with anxiety in the past, and I thought today that I would expand on that a little and share my story with you…
I spent all of my teenage years battling with anorexia, depression and anxiety. My family has a very strong background of mental illness, so I think I was just prone to suffering from these problems, however there were certain things in my life that triggered them.
I first developed anorexia when I was 14 and I think this was the cause of my anxiety. I became totally obsessed with my appearance and self conscious, I felt anxious the whole time and really really hated speaking in front of anyone. I can’t really remember this period of my life very well, if I am honest, but I don’t think I spoke at school ever because of my anxiety. At the time I didn’t realise that I was dealing with anxiety, I just felt very frustrated because I was shy and could never bring myself to speak, even in front of my friends. I was terrified of others judging what I said or laughing at me so I kept my mouth shut. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realised I had been dealing with social anxiety.
I never talked to anyone about this at the time, so the way I very slowly overcame it was by challenging myself everyday to speak up during conversations. I got more conformable being myself with certain friends and in small groups and eventually I started to relax. I still couldn’t speak in large groups of friends, but everyday I was growing in confidence.
This progress came about because of me stepping outside of my comfort zone. If I had stayed quiet and never challenged myself I would have never been able to overcome it. I know this is easier said that done, but whatever challenge you have in your life you just need to take it one step at a time and set yourself tiny goals that you can accomplish everyday until you reach the final goal.
I think mediation has also helped with my anxiety. It helps me to step back from the thoughts in my head that are causing me to worry, and I have perspective around these thoughts so that I can see they are not real. It has taken me years to build up my meditation practice and get to the point where it is really something that I cannot live without, so be patient with your practice and trust that it will be able to help you as well. I have a podcast all about meditation if you are interested and want to learn more! (You can find it on iTunes HERE)
Over the years, very gradually, I overcame my anxiety. I did all of this on my own very very slowly. Each tiny challenge I set myself and accomplished, I gained confidence. Going to New Zealand on my own really was the turning point. I was forced to speak to new people everyday even though it made me uncomfortable, because I wanted to connect with people and make friends. I let go of all the thoughts and realised that it wasn’t as hard as I thought. I proved to myself that I was a confident person when I wanted to be.
Now in my life I am very happy and very confident in myself, however I do still get bad days. Sometimes it is easy to slip back into my thoughts and let the anxious feeling arise, however when this happens I now have tools to help me deal with those thoughts and feelings, and get me out of the cycle.
I use my yoga practice to get me out of my head and into my body. My yoga practice gives me confidence and brings me back to my true self, this is the me who is confident and can do anything she wants, it is the me who I want to be.
Whenever I feel anxious in any situation I try to fake confidence. This helps me a lot. Faking confidence means I act confident, and the more confident I act the more I actually feel confident and start to feel happy again. I try not to think about what anyone else is thinking and I just go deep into my own body and the present moment to get me out my head.
Life is a practice, and if you suffer with anxiety then dealing with that will be part of your own practice. Everyday will be different. Some days will be harder than others. I want to tell you that it is all ok. Whatever you feel is ok. Just keep going and know that you can get to where you want to go, you may not be there right now but if you keep working on yourself then you are going to get to a point where you can be the person you want to be. Know that you are already that person right now. You are already confident. You are already AMAZING. All you have to do is let go of everything that you are not and you will find who you are.
If you need more help with anxiety, then here are a few links which I have found particularly helpful:
Check out my favourite resources and support me by clicking on the links below:
Here is a list of all my favourite BOOKS
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Book YOGA RETREATS
Book MEDITATION RETREATS