wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Let February deal with that..

To begin with, I may have struck gold. A hairdressers that I actually like! i.e. I didn’t cry afterwards and I felt relaxed enough to breath properly during the experience – usually I hold my breath in between snips, (don’t ask.) Taylor Taylor in Shoreditch. For months I thought it was a furniture shop, because of the cool décor. Turns out I was wrong. It’s a revolution in hairdressing.. the place felt more like a home than a salon – actual carpeted floors, two dogs roaming around the place and a freaking cocktail bar! Plus, for the first time in a decade I loved the end result. (Normally I fake happiness and spend the rest of the journey trying to work out how I can fix it.)
Any who, just thought I’d share the experience. If you get anxious about having your hair cut then I’d really recommend it. The atmosphere is chilled and friendly.
Catch – £60.00 for a cut & blow is quite steep, but I only get my hair cut twice a year, so I can rationalise the splurge!

Day twelve of the most depressing month of the year. How are we all holding up? Do please comment or send me a message. I’d really like to know.

Why is it so miserable? Allow me to summarise:

  1. It’s too long. 31 Days is clearly someone’s idea of a joke.
  2. Everybody is skint. That early Crimbo pay day isn’t looking so good now huh? (After my haircut I now have £100 to last me two weeks – although I plan to stay in denial about this.)
  3. There technically isn’t anything to look forward to until April.
  4. It’s dark at 4:15pm
  5. Everybody on public transport is irrationally angry.

Ok, so now that I’ve sufficiently depressed you all, let me bring words of hope; YOU’LL GET THROUGH IT, I promise.

January signifies misery to a lot of people because it’s a month without distractions. Suddenly there’s nothing to divert attention from our own lives, thereby prompting the most dangerous of all activities…. thinking about ourselves, (at least I do.) What am I doing? What do I want from life? Why can’t I be happy? Can I really cope with this? These are niggling thoughts which have popped into my head throughout the Januarys of years gone by. The thoughts then trigger unpleasant emotions such as; sadness, anxiety and fear, which in turn makes me look for solutions, which then conquers up more thoughts. Do you spot the negative cycle there? You cannot win. Remember that, you can never win a battle against your own brain. It only results in feeling hopeless.

So what is the solution? My advice is to not engage in the battle at all. This is not to suggest that you should try and fight your negative thoughts – because we all know this is both impossible and counter-productive. Instead, just don’t act on them. Why? Well if you’re anything like me then you won’t be in the right state of mind to be looking for solutions when your head isn’t straight.
When I was having a hard time last January I spent hours on the internet desperately searching for new therapies or medication that I could try. I nearly spent £220 on a course of acupuncture! The truth is, the mind cannot heal during periods of distress, because the Amygdala will view everything as a threat. The neurotransmitters are depleted due to prolonged stress and negative emotions, so the ‘happy/calm’ signals don’t have a enough of an impact on the brain.
This is not to say that you can’t make yourself more comfortable during this period, just don’t try and ‘fix’ anything.. if that makes sense? It sounds defeatist I know, but I promise you it’s the complete opposite. Instead of falling for the anxiety trick you’re taking control of the situation and refusing to play ball.

Another piece of advice (from experience) is to avoid making any big decisions in January – unless you feel 100% stable. When humans feel unhappy we start to look for the cause of said unhappiness; Is it my job? My relationship? My house?
It’s an instinctive reaction, we want to resolve issues with the hope of feeling better ASAP. However, as I touched on earlier, during periods of extreme emotion the mind cannot process things rationally. Therefore, it cannot be trusted to make rational decisions. A good example of this was when I decided to make a career change. I spent an entire afternoon researching Psychology degrees (can you imagine?) Fortunately, my thinking brain recovered enough the following day to release this impending mistake! It’s now buried in my list of weird experiences.
If you’re really unhappy and want to make a change in your life that’s fine, it’s your life after all. All I’m suggesting is that you wait until February before you make any big decisions. Is 19 days really so long?

In the meantime we need things to help ride out the rest of the month. I find that planning and organisation helps. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Invest in some really cosy nightwear. It sounds daft I know, but never underestimate the comfort a snuggly pair of pyjamas and slipper socks can bring.
  • Make sure that you eat tasty and nutritious food. Yes I realise that the effort to cook can seem like a marathon, but try it. Ideally fish is best as it contains Omega three oils (which help the brain.) However, anything will do so long as it has some nutritional value. Don’t worry I’m not going to turn into Gwyneth Paltrow, but keeping the body healthy helps to take pressure of the mind. Cooking is also a great distraction from those long dark evenings. Plan at least three nice meals a week and research good recipes. Tonight I’m making sea bass with rosemary potatoes and greens.
    To clarify, a takeaway is obviously fine at the weekends!
  • Buy a selection of films, preferably ones that don’t have complex plots. I watched The Expendables last night and it was perfect! I’m also really into horror films that are so shit they’re good. I highly recommend Sharknado.
  • Games and puzzles are handy for distraction. Have a look for free apps on your phone.
  • Light – I bring out my SAD lamp ever year to help with moods and energy levels. Nobody wants to come home to a dark and gloomy flat. Candles are good too (even for men dammit!) Candle light is soothing – unless you have a fear of fire.
  • Exercise – yes I know I bang on about this one all the time, but it helps! It’s an effective way to reduce adrenalin in the body and improve moods. Just 10 minutes a day will suffice. (Unless your doctor has advised against this.)

If all else fails remember one thing: It will end, because… well everything does! That’s a certainty you can use to find comfort. January will end.
During the darker moments try not to think about the future or the past. Don’t actively block these thoughts, but don’t curl up with them either. Focus on the present and what you can do to help you get through each minute. One step at a time.

We’ll do it troops and I’m right here with you!!

Categories: Anxiety

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16 replies

  1. We always book a holiday for early February so we have something to look forward to in January. It’s worked for the last few years. Why book a holiday for the summer when 1) it’s ridiculously expensive and 2) the sun shines so you feel happier anyway.

    How do you find your SAD lamp? I’m considering getting a body clock one which helps you get up in the morning (with particularly great timing of waiting until the days start to get longer before thinking about it)

    January been interesting for me so far. Feeling anxious most mornings for no reason whatsoever – maybe just down to the weather and the lack of sunshine!

    Thanks for blogging – always a great read

    • I was thinking about booking a Feb holiday next year actually, good tip.

      I got my lamp from Dixons a few years ago. It was around £30.00 and is the size of a standard computer screen. A body clock one sounds like a good idea.. I have to practically roll out of bed at the moment!

      The mornings and the evenings are the most common times (for me) to feel anxious. Have you tried going for a brisk 5-10 min walk?

      Thanks for reading Andy!

  2. Indeed…always a great read. 🙂 I’m not too sure about the horror film thing but, bizarrely, I did really enjoy the Texas chainsaw massacre and the exorcist. Although they were viewed pre mental illness days! A comfy set of PJ’s are always good; whether alseep, watching some comforting telly or whatever. The big one for me though is cooking. It’s weird, but although I find it stressful (especially when trying to make one of Jamie’s 30 min meals come in at less than an hour), it’s good stress. For me anyway. I have to focus on something other than whatever has been pissing me off during the day and if it works, I have an end product that I created and hopefully I have an appreciative audience. If it doesn’t…well, yes I get stressed again but then I think about what I could do differently next time, so it’s constructive. What I’ve realised through all this is that stress//depression/anxiety is the most “personal” thing possible. Ie what works for one doesn’t work for everyone, but the point is to find out what gets YOU out of the downward spiral. And that not all stress is bad. Although most of it is:-)
    Finally, please visit the SANE website and buy a rather funky “stop mental health stigma” wristband.
    🙂

    • Thank you as always for reading! 🙂
      It’s great that cooking works for you. I agree, having something positive to focus on is an excellent way to engage with stress in a constructive way. Don’t even get me started on Jamie… 56 minutes was my best time!
      That’s also a really good point about anxiety etc being personal.. It’s important to tailor coping techniques to suit YOU.

      How do I buy a wristband? I’ve been on the site but can’t find it!! 😦

      • I did reply to this but it seems it didn’t work. And, yes, I know this because I’m egotistical/insecure enough to check if my comment ad received a comment. I’m now thinking about whether ego and insecurity are mutually exclusive or totally dependant on one another. Could someone please switch my brain off ? Anyway, here’s the link to the SANE giving pagehttp://www.sane.org.uk/what_we_do/black_dog/
        Or, you can text SANE followed by your address to 70300 and they’ll charge you 3 quid.

      • Ahhh I do love a good worry cycle! 😛
        Thanks for this, will sign up today.

  3. I’ve been doing quite well this January (so far). I had a glorious weekend away for a friend’s stag do at Whittlesea burning straw bear festival (an experience and a half), as well as dinner and a hotel in Ely, which was really nice. It was very expensive though, and now I find myself facing the rest of January skint! I am feeling the professional urge to do something, as I’m tired of the same job. I was quite down last week, especially as it’s a year since my mum passed away, so although I wasn’t consciously wallowing in it, I reckon that has left me feeling more anxious and down than usual.

    • Hi Simon,
      Firstly, I’m really sorry to hear about your mum. I can’t imagine how devastating that must’ve been.
      So yes, feeling low at the moment is a perfectly normal reaction. You will get through this though, just take it one step at a time. I also demand that you plan some nice (cheap) distractions for the evenings.

      Yep, the money thing has just hit me too (literally) I checked my bank account 3 mins ago. I’m still in shock!

      The stag do sounds fantastic, what a great way to spice January up. I think there should be more parties in Jan. Maybe a ‘January is shit, so dance’ party…

  4. Great read, as usual! You’re right about the January effect, and this time I have A Plan. Daily exercise, less internet (aimless browsing to fill time/distract myself, and especially facebooking, fill me with a strange kind of anxiety, even though I might have been entertained by it), more meditation and Yoga, and daily, systematic work on the PhD. Oh, and working on better posture: a straight back works wonders for a more stable mind, for me 🙂

    Good luck to you, happy 2015, and looking forward to more posts! 🙂

    PS-I’ve been reading your blog almost since you started (came here via the Guardian article)

    • Thanks for getting in touch, so lovely to hear from you 🙂

      I’m in serious awe of your January plan! I wish I could prise myself away from the internet..especially on my phone. I might start deliberately letting the battery die.

      Good luck to you too!

  5. Hi Claire,

    Thank you for this post, it’s really quite helpful.

    I came across your blog via the Guardian piece. I live in Cairo, Egypt and I have been struggling with stress for some time. I suppose that’s because I’m a corporate lawyer which is quite a stressful way to make a living and to be honest, I am very much a “worrier” in all circumstances.

    About not engaging with negative thoughts, this resonated with me as I’m currently reading the Untethered Soul by Michael Singer which seems to have a message similar to yours. Namely, we’re not our negative thoughts and emotions, but the awareness behind the thoughts. I thought I’d draw your attention to the book if you don’t know it already. Some talk of energy may grate a bit, but I found its strategies mostly helpful.

    Long winded way to thank you for your blog and wishes for all the best from a fellow stress bot 😊

    Best regards,

    Ahmed

    • Hi Ahmed,

      Thanks for the book tip, I shall check this out.

      Your job sounds incredibly stressful! But you seem to be dealing with it in the right way.

      Thanks for getting touch and for the kind words 🙂
      Best wishes to you also.

  6. Hi Claire,

    I just wanted to get in touch to say how massively happy I am that I came across your blog! For the last 6 months or so I have been experiencing a lot of anxiety related to my work. I’ve always worried about certain aspects of it and thought I was just nervous/tired/needed to get over myself! But after a particularly hectic time I realised that the amount of time I was spending worrying about these things and the way I was feeling physically wasn’t quite right!

    Reading your blog, especially this post, has really helped me to realise that I am not the only person to feel like this and that there is (hopefully) a way to get through it! Last week I was on the verge of handing in my notice but I’m still there and although I am looking for other jobs because ultimately I do feel that I need a change, I am resisting the urge to run out the door like a crazy person! Also luckily for me, when I spoke to my GP about it he immediately referred me to a service providing CBT.

    Thank you for blogging – it really is very helpful!

    Jo xx

    • Hi Jo,
      Im so glad that you find my blog useful.
      It sounds like you have a good perspective on your anxiety and im glad that your GP has been helpful.
      If your job is causing you too much stress then it makes sense to be proactive and change your situation. However, its also great that you’re being sensible and not making any rash decisions.
      I wish you all the best 🙂
      Claire

  7. I know this forum is anxiety based, but though this may be on interest to people http://www.sane.org.uk/resources/mental_health_conditions/

  8. Hi Claire, I just stumbled across an old interview you did with the Guardian and then followed you to here. It’s like listening to myself talk. I wish I lived nearer you so I could chat with you ! Am going through a particularly bad phase at the moment, going to see GP on Tuesday but really don’t wAnt to go down the medication route if I can help it. Just reading your comments helps me remember I’m not alone in feeling like this and it will pass . My anxiety started properly six years ago after the birth of my son, I suppose I’d always been a bit of a worrier and sensitive ( periodically not being able to read the newspaper without going into meltdown at the state of the world, I’m sure you know the drill ! ) but after Milo’s birth it went into overdrive ! It comes and goes and I’m putting down the current bad one down to the fact that we moved house just before Christmas from a house we loved but was just too small for us.
    January isn’t helping, I detest it, wish I could hibernate ! So your article really made me laugh (yay !) and feel good . I’ll stop waffling on now, just wanted to say Hi and thank you, I shall be following you avidly from now on. Sharon xxx

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