I want to share with you my experience of anxiety and how I coped when I was in London. There were two occasions when I pushed on through my anxiety and then there was one when I took myself out of the situation. It was great to see how far I have come over the years and to recognise when it’s too much.
The underground – I knew getting from the airport to London was going to be an experience, the dreaded word ‘underground’ was likely to be involved which made my anxiety rise. Being underground and feeling trapped was not appealing. I was dreading it. This would be the quickest option after we made it to Paddington Station. Surprisingly, whether it was the speed at which we had to go from A to B to C or my brain not allowing the thoughts to take hold, it was no where near as bad as I thought. I was wary but I got on with it and knew the experience wouldn’t last forever and I’d be in my hotel room before long.
Interestingly, after dinner we were heading to the theatre when we realised we were heading in the wrong direction. After Googling, the only option (with 13 minutes to go until the performance) was to find the nearest underground, otherwise it was a half hour walk…..there was no choice. We ran – and I mean ran to the underground and got on, squashed in, right at the door. If my face was any closer I would have been kissing the window! I held onto my friend for the two stops and then we fell out of the door and ran. We got to the show and just as I was sitting down, the lights went off….talk about perfect timing!
The positive experience I had earlier in the day on the underground had helped me to get on it. Being at the door despite the sardine feeling had helped me as I knew I’d be first out the door on arrival.
When we have a good experience it helps to cement that in our mind for the next time. Our anxious thoughts in these scenarios may never fully subside but knowing it worked well previously helped.
The theatre – When we finally made it to the theatre and sat down, I pushed the anxiety I had about feeling trapped in my seat with a crowd of people out of my mind. I’ve wanted to see the show for ages and I wasn’t about to let my anxiety win. My friend had picked great seats and that helped. But wearing a mask during the performance was difficult especially as we rushed to get there. There were many things to feel anxious about but I focused on the show. I listened to every word and enjoyed all the songs and before long feeling trapped and claustrophobic had left my mind.
Once my breathing had calmed down I was happy I pushed through the anxious feelings I had and managed to really enjoy the show.
Crowded streets – I really dislike the hustle and bustle of crowded streets. The overwhelming noise, lack of space and having to ensure you don’t bump into people is not fun. I had done well in the underground and in the theatre but when it came to Oxford Street and Covent Garden, it was too much. So busy and a squeeze at times. My anxiety was screaming in my ear ‘RUN, GET OUT’. This time I listened. They were great places to see and I’m glad I’ve ticked them off my list. It feels good to know when enough is enough. We quickly walked on and eventually the crowded streets were behind us. My anxiety levels dropped and I felt much better.
I coped well with two of the situations but the third was too much for me. If I’m not getting a feeling that I could push through it then I know I need to leave a situation. Listen to your body and mind. Trust your gut and do what you need to do. I felt better for it and it certainly didn’t cause me any further thoughts. I know it was the right thing to do.
I like to share my experiences with you, so you know you are not alone. I have had anxiety for over 10 years now. I navigate it as best as I can but I have learnt to listen to my mind and body and know when I have to walk away or let people know I am uncomfortable.
I often surprise myself when I don’t feel anxious in situations, but I view that as progress. Always remember, your body is trying to protect you which is where anxiety comes from, it just doesn’t realise you are not really in danger.
Enjoy all your festivities as we go through December, do the things you love, take care and have a great week.
Love Emma xxx