I can go days, weeks, even months without having a chest cloyingly tense period of anxiety.
The unpredictable nature of my suffering is often the worst part. Sometimes there is simply no warning before the clouds descend. This can bring up issues in my professional life, especially as I constantly strive to be the best in everything I do, which leaves me little room to feel low and on edge.
I used to find that a particularly severe period would wipe me out for days, I would end up in bed, unable to speak or function socially. This obviously is a particular hindrance when you work for yourself, as sick days are both unpaid and nigh on impossible to manage.
Sometimes there is simply nothing else to do other than retreat to the comfort of familiar surroundings and soft bedding. In my case this is now only used as a last resort, but it is still good to know that the option is there during an unusually bad period.
I think it is extremely fair to say that no two experiences of mental health issues are the same.
What works for me may be the complete antithesis of what will work for you. Part of dealing with things like anxiety and depression is directly linked to becoming more aware of your own personal triggers and comforts.
Over the past few years, I have tried a number of different things, including taking the day off sick or trying to distract myself in my work. It's only by trying many strategies that I have found what works for me, the following represents the most effective selection!
Take a proper lunch break away from your desk - an hour if you can.
This might not be possible for everyone, but I find going out for a long walk really helps to clear my mind and induces a much calmer state. Being outside and away from my desk also gives me a new perspective on my work, which is especially useful when I'm feeling stuck on task.
Take a novel into work and immerse yourself in it during breaks
Sometimes I just need to fully distract myself and there is no better way to do this than getting my head stuck into a good book.
Even if you only have time to get 10 minutes of reading in, perhaps on your commute, I find reading to be incredibly relaxing.
Don't rely on sugar or caffeine to perk you up
I have found that whilst indulging in sugar/caffeine might give me a momentary lift, it often can backfire, resulting in a distinct slump a few hours down the line.
Along with the slump, I also get a jittery chest pain which has similarities with the feeling of anxiety and can therefore make me feel even worse.
Whether this is your partner, a friend, co-worker or even your boss, the worst thing you can do is suffer in silence.
Often a good vent is enough to help life me out of a bad place. I also think that it's very useful to get an outside perspective on some of my more irrational thought processes.
Set out your tasks at the beginning of the day and manage your expectations
I get very anxious about the possibility that I might miss the ball on things like emails, meetings or other discrete tasks.
I have found that a great way to control this feeling is to write to-do lists before I start work each morning. This is literally the first task I do when I sit down at my desk for my day.
Doing this ensures that I know that I know (if that makes sense!) exactly what I need to do and therefore can feel confident that I won't miss things out.
Sometimes I also make a list last thing at night, especially if I have lots of things on my mind and want to have a good old mental clear out.
Check out CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It's very similar to mindfulness and helps you find strategies for coping with "here and now" problems.
Whilst it can be provided by a professional, there are many self help resources that guide you helpful coping techniques and strategies. I actually had a course of CBT with a professional practitioner through the NHS.. Whilst I was initially skeptical, I actually still use some of the techniques I learnt during the sessions still today.
A starting point for exploring CBT might be this guide by the Royal Society of Psychiatrists