Over the past couple of weeks I have been under a lot of pressure. My anxiety has been rearing its ugly head and I can feel my stress levels slowly bubbling up again. In times like this, it is so important for me to call upon my tried and tested coping strategies; all of which happen to be things that bring me genuine joy and pleasure. Here are six of my favourite ways to manage my anxiety and stress.
- My family
I’ve always been part of a close knit family and I love it that way. We love any excuse to get together for food, drink and games, meaning our family days are always a lot of fun. I grew up closely around my Auntie and cousins and view them very much as part of my immediate and not extended family. The family has grown a lot over the past decade, with the addition of new partners, husbands and wives. Since the arrival of my brother’s children (my two nephews) and our son, family days have taken on a new dimension and are spent playing with the kids. Spending time with my family serves essential function in keeping me sane and whilst it’s not as often as I’d like, I try to go home at least once a month. In fact, I’m heading home today for some quality time with my Mumma.
I’ve never really been a cat person, but have always had a wonderful bond with dogs. I have always said, no human will ever be as happy to see you at the end of your day as your dog will be. I find cuddling and stroking a dog to be hugely therapeutic and really calming, particularly if I’m struggling with my anxiety. If my depression is playing up then taking the dog out for a walk in the fields is a sure fire way to lift my mood and clear the cobwebs. After losing my best friend in September last year, I spent 6 months without a dog in my life. We were recently joined by Lady, a seven year old rescue. I’m already feeling the benefits of having to get outside on a daily basis and having a fluff ball to cuddle.
I guess this is closely linked with the previous point. Walking is something that creates a sense of calm and wellbeing within me. We live on the edge of a large town/city, a few minutes’ walk from a nature reserve, a canal and a river. I gain great pleasure from walking in these places, despite having done the same routes dozens of times. I’m really looking forward to continuing with sunrise walks with Lady over the summer months, as it is a great way to set me up for my working day.
My father is somewhat of a music nut. I was brought up with a hugely eclectic variety of music being played at home and was regularly taken to music events as a youngster. At the age of 10 I was taken to my first weekend music festival, in Frome, Somerset. From then on, festivals, gigs and music events became a central part of my world.
Going to festivals and gigs is not so much on the agenda anymore, since the arrival of the small one and the departure of all my disposable income. Despite that, music is still a big feature in my life. My taste remains very eclectic; ranging from punk, to pop, to drum and bass and even a spot of classical. I never drive without having music on, put the radio on first thing in the morning whilst getting ready for work, and more recently have put our VQ Christie radio (kindly gifted) in the kitchen so I can listen to music whilst I’m cooking dinner or cleaning up. Chores never feel quite as dull when you’re doing it to music!
I absolutely LOVE photographs. Over the past few months, since my father bought me a drill for my birthday (I was genuinely delighted with it!), I’ve made the effort to start hanging photos on the walls around our house. We have a LOT of photos around our house, starting with the days when Hannah and I had just met nearly six years ago, to our wedding and then Frankie joining our family. However, the thing that probably features most heavily around my house goes back to point 2, again! My best friend Marshall. His hairy little face is everywhere and it really helped me cope with the grief of losing him to have him around me. Despite older photographs, of my wild single days particularly, making me incredibly nostalgic (which doesn’t always feel positive) I love looking back and reminiscing about all the good times I’ve had over the past 31 years.
I first started sewing around 4 years ago. At this point I was making very small and simple projects, like a tail for my friend Grace (she went through a stage of thinking she looked better with a tail – I’d agree). A few years ago I started playing with making clothing for myself. I started simple, just making gathered or circle skirts. I then enrolled on a council run dress making course. Whilst this boosted my skills dramatically, my confidence was still poor and I eventually stopped making things as the fear of getting things wrong was making me more anxious than happy. I spent a long time looking for a new class to join, but was unsuccessful for a long time. Thankfully, I have recently stumbled upon Make With, a one woman business run by the lovely Sylvia. She offers 1-1 or group tuition at her sewing barn. I went along to my first class around 6 weeks back and truly felt like I’d found my happy place. The other group members were so welcoming and my anxiety about turning up on my own dissipated within minutes. I look forward to each class and am excited by what I can create over the coming months and years.
There you have it; the six things that not only calm my anxiety but make me feel happy. What are your go to activities when you’re not feeling so great?