Tuesday, 25 August 2015

7 ways I cope with my anxiety

I was diagnosed with 'anxiety' a number of years ago. I had been suffering from continual tiredness, achey muscles and a general feeling of being 'just not right' for a long time before that. Physically, I've generally been very healthy throughout my life so feeling unwell for such a long time, and not being able to put a finger on it, was a worrying development.

The diagnosis of anxiety was, to a large extent, a relief. It was a problem I could solve myself so I accepted all the literature that the doctor gave to me and I began to research the condition. Page by page, article by article, things fell into place - physical conditions, emotional reactions. It all made sense and moreover, I could see when the anxiety began too.

I've been coping with my anxiety ever since. It doesn't ever go away completely but that's ok. I've developed a number of ways to manage it, to ensure that it doesn't rule my life. I'm not medically qualified in any way but I know what anxiety is for me, and what it can do to a person.These methods may not work for everyone. We all cope and react in different ways to what life throws at us. They work for me and I'm sharing them in the hope that they may help other anxiety sufferers too.

1. Prepare. Anxiety can cause me to feel very scattered and distracted, which in turn leads me to forget things. This then goes one of two ways. I either do forget to do something or take an item with me, or I have to check and recheck until I'm sure I've picked up my keys or locked a door. To avoid that situation, I do my best to prepare for events that could cause my anxiety to flare up. A while before, maybe even the previous night, I check that I have everything I need. I think ahead and make sure that tasks are done (my children's school uniform washed and ironed, the information compiled for my tax return, the lounge tidied in case we have visitors). Knowing that things are in place allows me to relax.

2. Worse Case Scenario. This can make me anxious in itself but again, it's part of being prepared (see point 1). If I can think up the worst possible outcome to an event, then I can solve (hopefully) all the things that could go wrong. Most times, it's really nothing very serious (having to wash knickers on holiday because I haven't taken sufficient) but facing the possibility of things going wrong means that I can not only prepare but that I also know how to react should it happen.

3. Have a safe person. I know that when my anxiety flares up, it can affect my emotions. My reactions can become irrational, dramatic and blown out of any kind of proportion. That's when I check in with my safe person, my husband. I know that if I ask him whether my reactions are reasonable, he'll give me an honest reply. Yes, that's completely reasonable, or no, you need to sit down and have a cup of tea. Anxiety can narrow our view of life. Sometimes, we need someone safe to take off our blinkers.

4. Be in the moment. I mention in point 1 that I can become scattered and distracted when my anxiety flares up. What I do, when this happens, is concentrate on what I am doing at that moment. If I'm leaving the house, then I give all my attention to locking the door. If I'm driving, I concentrate on the road (rather than letting my mind drift off to what that character should be doing in my novel). What this does is slow my thinking down, which in turn, slows my breathing. Deep breathing is a wonderful way to ground yourself in the moment. There is rarely a situation when you can't just stop, for thirty seconds even, and take a few deep breaths. Being in the moment means that I don't have the 'head space' to worry.

5. Recognise physical signs. Long before my anxiety affects me emotionally, it is evident in my body. My muscles become tense, especially around my neck and jawline. I sometimes develop stomach ache. I often feel light-headed. Eventually, the tenseness in my muscles will cause them to ache. By listening to my body, I can stop the anxiety from becoming worse.

6. Food and drink triggers. There are certain foods and drinks that I avoid, and there are others that I partake of only occasionally because they exacerbate my anxiety. I love a good latte but too much caffeine can send me up the proverbial wall. I therefore drink decaf coffee and save the real stuff for an occasional treat. The same goes for tea - I'm a firm fan of decaf PG Tips. I don't drink pop (coke, pepsi, lemonade) because the mixture of caffeine and sugar causes my anxiety to flare up. I only eat a small amount of sugar of any kind because again, for me, it increases the effects of my anxiety.

7. Keep big decisions for when you're calm. I know full well that if I try to make big, important decisions when I'm feeling overly anxious, I'll probably mess up. Now on occasion, I may not have the luxury of waiting (burning building, tyre blow out, fashion house sale stampede) but overall, most decisions can wait until I am calmer and more clear-headed. This is another time to speak to that safe person.

I suffer from anxiety but I don't let it rule me. It's just another factor of what it means to be 'me'. I have children, I have an overactive imagination and I'm affected by anxiety. I cope, just like we all do. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Photo Inspiration for August

This month's photograph was taken during a walk in the Grosvenor Park in Chester with my children. I can't find any information on the archway anywhere. It is simply described as a 'relic'.

There's a smaller archway to the right hand side and behind me is another archway. Looking at the three together, it was probably the two ends of a walkway at one time, but why the very small arch?

What does this image make you think of? The people who have passed through it? The building it was originally a part of? The era of its creation? What would this inspire you to write?

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Something Useful for 2015 - Exercise No. 14

Taken from Wikipedia
Did you have an imaginary friend when you were a child? I did. Mine was a puppy - a very naughty puppy that always stopped in the middle of the road to have a poo when we were supposed to be crossing over, much to the annoyance of my mother.

I'm an only child and although my parents were loving, I was left to amuse myself for the large part of my time at home. I also wanted a puppy but after a failed attempt at mixing a toddler and a young red setter, my parents put thoughts of a pet aside until I was older.

So I created a friend, and a puppy, to keep me company and make trips out with my parents much more interesting.

What about you? Did you have an imaginary friend? What kind of conversation would you have with your imaginary friend if they visited you now?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Change, change, change

During my time away from blogging to work on my novel, I reconsidered the use I was making of this website and I've decided to alter a few things.

Tuesday Choice Words

While there is a lot of brilliant advice out there for writers, what I've found in searching for new links and videos to bring to you each Tuesday, is that a large percentage of it is repeated advice, different slants on the same literary gem. So as of this week, Tuesday Choice Words will cease to exist.

What I will bring to you instead is a monthly post of an article or video that I think really stands out from the crowd, something that has helped me personally.

Book Reviews

Although my writing has taken precedence recently, I love to read. I also love to share my literary finds. Expect more resulting book reviews.

My Journey

I started this blog (back in 2009) as a way to explore and share my own writing journey. Somewhere along the way, I seem to have lost that. Now that my novel is nearing the final polish, I want to share my experiences of achieving that final version and my attempts at obtaining an agent, and ultimately being published.

What isn't changing?

Don't worry. It's not all new. My monthly photo inspiration and writing exercises will still be here, along with news related to Murdering The Text. I also plan on writing more 7 Ways articles.

So there you have it. I hope you'll stay with me for the journey.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

I'm back

It's been a busy few weeks since I last posted on this blog. I've weathered the emotional storm of my son's last year at primary school (I knew I should have taken tissues to the leaver's concert - darned un-waterproof mascara), tackled the first half of the summer holidays with my children (zoos, ice creams by the sea, computer games), and through it all, I've worked on my novel.

The task that I set myself was to rewrite my novel bearing in mind the advice I'd received from my manuscript assessment. This meant re-engineering some existing chapters, scrapping others and creating some completely new ones. 

The patching together of all of these has been a challenge. I've removed a lot of bit-part characters, reduced the number of villains, given one of my favourite characters a larger role, and I've cut the point of view down to two characters. I've also made my main protagonist, Steve Haven, much more pro active which has felt good.

One of the more emotional choices has been to remove an important character. She was someone I identified with greatly but she was superfluous to what was needed. She's not gone forever though because removing her from book one has created the chance to bring her in later in the trilogy in a big reveal. 

Although I didn't change the ending (more of that re-engineering I mentioned), I did alter  the wrap up chapter that comes after the explosive climax, and in so doing, I accidentally came across a brilliant way to start the next book in the trilogy. Result! 

I'm not at the finish line yet though. The next stage is to polish the novel to the be the best it can be. After that, I have another process to put it through (more about that in a later post). Overall, I'm delighted with the altered story. It's not perfect but it's greatly improved and it works so much better now. I can also envision the way forward for the rest of the trilogy. 

So there you have it. It's been a productive few weeks and there's more to come. "Onwards!" as Hartley would say.