Author: Beth Brown.
As I’m sure a lot of you will be aware of right now; times are a little tougher than usual. I’m currently still going in to work, as I work in a school, and, as winter has well and truly arrived, it feels as though I never get to see the sun. It’s dark when I wake up and drive to work and it’s dark when I drive home. Couple that with the fact that my work bestie (and out of work bestie) is self-isolating and I’m feeling a little out of sorts. Most days I’m ok (apart from convincing myself that I have Covid at every headache or change in room temperature) but something about this time of year has me wanting to have a little cry in the work toilets at times. Because of this, I’m really trying my best to maintain a positive mental attitude (or PMA as my boyfriend calls it).
As I’m sure many people can relate to (very jealous of you if you don’t, might I add), it sometimes feels like my mind is my own worst enemy. This mush of matter, bundle of synapses, and chasm of chemicals locked behind my skull, is meant to be there to keep me going and yet it sometimes feels like it’s the only thing not on my side. I’ve had times during my life when everything has been relatively ok, and yet, my brain has decided to add a little anxiety or a bit of a downer into the mix for a bit of drama. Like: ‘hey girl, I know everything is going fine right now but I thought I’d start giving you panic attacks again, just to spice things up a bit’
Since the age of 18 and leaving school, I’ve suffered from panic attacks. I had genuinely never experienced a panic attack or anxiety before that. I had my first one in a cinema in Amsterdam and they seem to follow the general theme of not being able to get out of somewhere: think aeroplanes, theatres, traffic jams, lectures, meetings, and my latest lil panic location: a drive in cinema (niche I know).
After years of learning how to deal with this new piece of my life through therapy, scrolling through google and chatting to others who have the same issue, I’ve found that the most effective way of calming myself down is simply to talk to myself, and it’s the same when I’m feeling low.
I’ve come to think of anxiety and low mood as an annoying little voice inside of my head, something separate to me, like a weird little goblin that’s only goal is to make me stressed or sad. Conversation with the goblin more often than not turns into a debate, and can become an all out fight, but, if I’m persistent, I do usually win. The more I practice talking to the voice, the easier it is to reach calm and positivity. It normally consists of: “Right Beth, calm down now. There’s nothing to be stressing about” and then becomes specialised. Take my drive in cinema experience for example: as the adverts began, I had a few minutes of debate: “you’re fine. You can get out of the car if you really need to and just get a few minutes air, worst comes to worst you can walk away and get picked up. If the car breaks down, someone will come to help, they probably have jump leads. There is no need for a panic attack, you’re not trapped.” The goblin finally shut up after a while, probably dragging itself into a corner to do some deep breathing and reflection.
My therapist once said something that I still remember: panic attacks are your body’s way of keeping you safe. Back in the old days (really old days, like Neanderthals etc) anxiety was meant to keep you safe from predators, if your body perceived a threat it would kickstart your fight or flight and you’d be ready to run or battle. That little voice has stuck with us all and, for some reason, become convinced that there’s a perceived danger in front of you. The panic is your body’s was of keeping you safe. I felt a little bad for hating the little voice after that, as debilitating as anxiety can be, my body is only doing its best when it thinks I’m in danger, bless it. I’ve come to realise that it’s my job to teach that little voice and my own mind, that we can do better than a panic attack as a best response and that there aren’t any threats or dangers.
This convincing works as well for low mood. When I feel negativity creeping in, I try to tell myself about all of the good things that I’ve got going on and that the negativities I’m worrying about aren’t worth stressing over. I started writing this blogpost on my lunch break today after worrying that I hadn’t written one for a while. In between bites of cereal bar and sips of decaf coffee, the words that appeared on my screen felt like a dribble of nonsense. It took my wonderful colleagues telling me that my blogposts were really good, and not to stress, to finally calm down. I finished this post when I got home with a fresh mind and found that, with a little editing, the nonsense dribble wasn’t all that bad.
The thing with negativity or panic is that it can become all consuming. If you listen to that little goblin and nibble on the bait, it’s easy to spiral. Try thinking of some positive affirmations you can repeat to yourself each day, when things get tricky just repeat those words, either verbally or just in your head. The chanting will eventually annoy the little goblin enough that it can’t get a word in edge ways. You can make them very specific, like little lists of thankfulness and things that you are proud of, or they can be general points of positivity. I’ve collated a little list below of both quotes and affirmations if you need some inspiration.
- “Am I good enough? Yes I am” Michelle Obama
- “Who you are inside is what helps you make and do everything in life” Fred Rogers
- “I'm giving you permission to root for yourself and while you're at it root for those around you, too.” Mindy Kaling
- "I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was" Muhammad Ali
- “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing" Audre Lord
- "Embrace the glorious mess that you are" Elizabeth Gilbert
- "Nothing can dim the light that shines from within" Maya Angelou
- "I’m better than I used to be. Better than I was yesterday. But hopefully not as good as I’ll be tomorrow" Marianne Williamson
- "You must do the things you think you cannot do" Eleanor Roosevelt
My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant; my soul is tranquil. I am superior to negative thoughts and low actions. Happiness is a choice. I base my happiness on my own accomplishments and the blessings I've been given.
My ability to conquer my challenges is limitless; my potential to succeed is infinite. My positive thoughts are more powerful than my negative thoughts.
Many people look up to me and recognize my worth; I am admired.
Everything that is happening now is happening for my ultimate good.
I am at peace with all that has happened, is happening, and will happen.
I hope these can be of some help to you. I’d love to hear if you have any affirmations or quotes that help you to balance your thoughts and battle with the little goblin. I hope you’re all doing ok during this challenging time, please remember that you’re doing the best that you can and it’s brilliant, trust me.
Until next time.
You can find more from Girl on Pause at www.girlonpause.com or keep up to date with my attempts to romanticise every-day life on my Instagram: @girlonpause and my new Facebook page ‘Girl on Pause’.