PLEASE NOTE: THE FOLLOWING BLOG WAS WRITTEN BY ME (MEL BONTHUYS) FOR CARE 2 CAUSES AND APPEARED ON THEIR SITE ON 1 AUGUST 2017
Habits are hard. The good ones are hard to get into—and the bad ones are hard to break—and as we grow up and mature and start to feel the stresses of life, we can become reliant on certain kinds of behaviours and habits to make life easier for ourselves.
Unfortunately, these behaviors could be the stepping stone to developing an anxiety disorder or make existing anxiety worse if not recognized and dealt with in a more efficient and healthy way.
Here are 7 common habits that could be making your anxiety worse:
1) The need to be perfectPerfectionism is a very common personality trait of several kinds of mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders and eating disorders. Perfectionists feel the need to get everything done on time, get it done right the first time and are extremely hard on themselves when they don’t succeed. Perfectionism can make a person believe they are not good enough unless they are perfect in everything from their physical appearance, to their careers, to their abilities as a parent or partner.
Perfectionism Tip – Start practicing positive self talk. When you feel yourself saying “I am stupid” rather force yourself to say “I made a mistake, but that’s okay.”
2) IndecisivenessI myself struggle with making decisions, and even when I do, I always find that I want to change my mind a few days down the line. Anxiety sufferers do struggle to make up their minds, and because we are so anxious all the time, we are constantly having a battle within our minds wondering which the best way to go is, and because we fear everything going wrong, it can be hard to make up our minds at all, leaving the decision up to someone else.
Decision making Tip – Draw up a pros and cons list. This has helped me in many sticky situations.
3) Taking on too muchThis is not only related to your career. You could be involved in charity work, being a parent, organising an event or travelling to different places. Taking on too much not only causes physical exhaustion—it can also cause brain fogginess and panic when it starts to feel as though there are not enough hours in the day.
Time management Tip – Invest in a diary and allow yourself some ‘me time’ in between your appointments. Also learn to say no when you have too much to do in one day.
4) Sleep habitsWithout sleep, we as humans would not survive, and an average adult human should be getting 8 hours of sleep per night. Things like stress, anger, anxiety and depression can cause insomnia, leaving you feeling awful the next morning, contributing to poor performance and even more anxiety and depression. Here are some awesome hacks and tricks for insomnia.
5) Skipping breakfastIf you are one for getting headaches, feeling bloated, tired and irritable in the morning—this could be related to you not eating breakfast. If you cannot eat in the morning, you can start off small. Try squeezing 2 oranges and drinking the juice and munching on some nuts. This is a light snack and a great combo for anxiety. I actually find this is the best to eat when I don’t feel like eating in the morning—then at about 11am, I’ll have an apple or banana which will last me until lunch time.
6) Caffeine and SugarAmong other things, caffeine speeds up the heart rate, contributes to insomnia and increased cortisol - a stress hormone. Sugar, on the other hand, upsets the blood glucose levels and depletes the body of Vitamin B, our anti-stress vitamins.
Caffeine reducing Tips - Don’t go cold turkey if trying to give up coffee. Concentrate on cutting back on your daily cup allowance. For chocolate, try eating something like a medjool date or another piece of sweet fruit before eating chocolate—most of the time, you won’t feel like the chocolate afterwards. For soda, try substituting for sparkling water with some freshly squeezed fruit juice.
7) Imbalance between your work, family and relaxation lifeI think it’s safe to say that most of us struggle with this one. Achieving a healthy balance within these things is a tough one, but there are ways to improve it. So many people take on too much in their jobs, and often family and time for themselves take a backseat, which could leave you feeling guilty, angry and tired.
Balance Tip – Invest in a diary, and schedule time for family and relaxation. It sounds funny scheduling time for family and relaxation, but it really is a smart life hack!
PLEASE NOTE: THE FOLLOWING BLOG WAS WRITTEN BY ME (MEL BONTHUYS) FOR CARE 2 CAUSES AND APPEARED ON THEIR SITE ON 21 JULY 2017
We often forget about spouses of people with mental illnesses and what they are going through, as all focus is on helping the person who is suffering with the actual mental disorder.
However, it is just as important to have help and advice at hand for those people who not only took their spouse for better or worse, but are also constantly exposed to the challenges of their spouse’s mental illness. After all, they share a home with their anxious spouse, and behind closed doors they witness the true intensity of what mental illness can do to a person.
Having to recently coach a desperate wife on how to help her anxious husband, I do believe that apart from the obvious tips out there, these four pointers can make or break the healing process for spouses who need to pull out all the stops to get help to their loved one.
This is tough, especially if you are not the sort of person who enjoys babying or mollycoddling. Unfortunately you are going to have to try your best here. I speak from personal experience when I say that people with anxiety disorders need reassurance. They need to be told often that ‘All is okay.’
Anxiety sufferers need to be told and reassured constantly that they will get through this and that you are there for them. Hold them. Hug them often, because not getting the hug or nurturing that they need will only make an anxiety sufferer more agitated and angry.
So hold them tightly every moment you get, and reassure them with words like: “Everything is okay, I am right here with you.” “You are going to get through this, and I will be with you every step of the way.”
Anxiety sufferers can often slip into an irrational and emotional state, making them believe that the whole world is against them and that everything is hopeless. This leads to exhaustion, making them emotional, angry and bitter.
Unfortunately, these emotional outbursts can lead to you, the spouse, becoming their punching bag, causing them to say and do things they don’t mean. They will say things such as ‘I just wish I would die.’ This is not only because they are anxious, but also because they are feeling like a burden to you. You need to hold your head high and develop a thick skin, because sometimes the words they say will sting, but please know that this is not them talking, it is desperation. I remember when I was at my worst. I asked my mother, who is a nurse, to please kill me and end my suffering. OUCH!
So please know that no matter what is said, the words are not always meant, and it is not your fault.
It’s hard to hold back the tears, but it’s important to be cautious when showing emotion in front of your anxious spouse, as this can often intensify their emotions. You have to remain calm and maintain your composure. You are their rock. You are the person who provides a means for support. You are also the person who represents level-headiness and practicality, and if you start showing your emotions, they will feel as though they have lost their rock, which will only lead back to square one.
However, you are also only a human being, and you cannot bottle it all up, so cry when your anxious spouse is out of sight. I recommend even speaking to a psychologist if you feel the need. There is absolutely no shame in wanting to get support for yourself while supporting your anxious partner.
The Bad Guy
Sometimes, people with mental illnesses have trouble admitting that they need help.
Health does come first, and you unfortunately are going to become the bad guy because no matter how much they protest, you need to insist that they get the treatment they deserve.
Do not make the mistake of threatening your partner if they resist going for treatment. Instead tell them of all the things that you two can look forward to together once they are better.
People who require going into rehabilitation centres and actually staying on site within a program may need the hardest convincing. You have to be firm but kind and tell them it’s for their own good. Make the appointment and go with them!
It is not easy being the partner of an anxiety sufferer, but hopefully these few tips can help better prepare you for the recovery process. As hard as it is, please know that anxiety is like a roller coaster, and there will be good days and bad days, but please keep faith and know that it will get better!
Why people don't get treatment for Anxiety
Anxiety in Men
According to a survey done in 2016, around 43% of British women are not getting enough sleep. Insomnia is described as having difficulty falling and staying asleep and as insomnia is a disorder within itself, it can be presented as either chronic insomnia or short term insomnia. People who suffer with insomnia suffer with symptoms such as fatigue and irritability which can contribute to more severe disorders such as anxiety disorders.
However, it can work exactly in the opposite manner as well, and people with anxiety disorders may develop insomnia due to their anxiety. So the two coexist and can cause one another.
We are all well aware of remedies such as lavender and meditation to help with sleep, but these 7 tips below are probably less well known.
So whether you suffer from chronic insomnia or whether your sleep disturbances have been brought on by anxiety disorder, the 7 tips below should help you on the road to a more restful night.
1) Warm Amber Lighting
Melatonin is the sleep hormone and it is stimulated by darkness and warm shades such as amber or red. Installing a red light bulb in your bedroom will help stimulate the melatonin that helps you get sleepy.
2) Switch electronic devices onto night mode
If you can avoid using any electronic devices before bedtime, that would be first prize, but if you read or work on a computer, I-pad or phone at night, set it onto night mode before you go to sleep. The night mode function changes the lighting setting enabling you to sleep better.
If you have a thermostat, set your bedroom on anything between 16-20 degrees Celsius. This is the ideal temperature to aid in sleep. Also make sure that you get enough air circulating through the day, so that you not breathing in stale air. Open your bedroom window during the day to ensure this.
4) Valerian Tea
I have always been a fan of chamomile tea to help with sleep, but recently I have gone mad over valerian root tea. You can get this tea from health shops. many of them including the one I use is mixed into a blend for helping with insomnia, so the choice is yours. You can either use the pure blend or a mixture of valerian and other sleep aiding herbs. Either way, they are going to relax you and prepare you for night time.
5) Isochronic Tones and Binaural Beats
I am still in awe at how few people know about these, and I talk further and about more of these tones, beats and noises in my book 'My Anxiety Companion' but in a nutshell, these are very specific types of 'tones' that can be played to target ailments such as insomnia, anxiety and study stress. Isochronic tones are regular beats of a single tone that is played to induce calmness in a person. They can also be used with Binaural Beats. This is all known as Brainwave entrainment. Noises include Pink, white and brown, which mimic sounds such a gushing rivers but pay more attention to the level of frequency depending on the noise played.
6) Eat starch at night
I know for a lot of people that starch is considered an enemy to eat at night, but if you suffer from anxiety and/or insomnia, it might actually help you. Starchy foods raise serotonin levels which are our feel good hormones, helping us to relax. Eating something like a baked potato with your dinner will aid in this being able to happen.
7) Do not sleep during the day
This is pretty self explanatory, however it is not so easy to do. Many of us, if given the chance cannot resist a short cat nap during the day, but if you suffer from insomnia, it is not a good idea. Taking naps during the day will throw your natural circadian rhythm out of balance, causing your body clock to want to sleep during the day and stay awake at night.
Bonus Tip: Grab yourself one of these sleep masks:
Zhu Zhu Sleep Mask
It's infused with lavender which helps with sleep and relaxation, whilst a good old sleep mask will help stimulate melatonin by creating the complete dark effect on your eyes.
Reference: Sleep deprivation article
To the average non anxious person, this seems like a perfectly legitimate question. However, to a person who is suffering day in and day out with anxiety symptoms, it's questions like these that make you want to literally put your fist through a brick wall.
For those of you who experience crippling anxiety all the time - let me put your mind at rest. It is not all in your head - anxiety disorders do indeed exist. No, you are not over reacting and no, you are not insane.
For those of you who have never had the displeasure of experiencing an anxiety disorder, or quite simply, for those of you who do not understand what's it's like to have an anxiety disorder - let me also put something to rest - they do exist - and the constant denial and shaming from people who cannot understand mental illness is leading to suicide of illnesses that could very well have been treated.
To put this into perspective, let's look at some statistics:
It is estimated that 1 in 4 people are suffering with a mental health related issue currently.
In 2015 in the UK, the recorded number of deaths due to mental health related suicide was 6188. To put this into even more perspective: that is between 16 and 17 suicides a day!
Meanwhile in America, it is estimated that there are over 30 000 suicides every year.
These are scary statistics for something that supposedly doesn't exist!
Let me lay it out plain, simply and bluntly:
Firstly, anxiety disorders do exist and secondly an anxiety disorder is very different from anxiety or stress, and there have been quite a few times now where I have come across articles or videos which claim that these statements are not true.
Funny enough, the very people making these claims are people who have never experienced an anxiety disorder or a mental illness.
These are also the same people who insist that 'everyone gets sad sometimes' or 'we all get moments when we are stressed out'
While it is obviously true that everyone does get sad and/or stressed sometimes within their lives, the key word to bear in mind here is sometimes.
You see, while your average person may struggle with stress or anxious symptoms when under pressure, these symptoms will last short term.
A person suffering with anxiety disorder, depression or any other type of mental illness doesn't have the luxury of their symptoms appearing sometimes or appearing for the short term.
When a human being becomes afraid or nervous, their flight or fight response is activated, resulting in adrenaline being released, causing symptoms like increased heart rate, shakiness, sweating and what is commonly described as having the butterflies.
We have all experienced that, but once the scary scenario has passed, so does the flight or fight response.
Now imagine having your flight or fight mechanism permanently switched on!
That is what an anxiety disorder feels like!
It's crippling, it's over bearing and it's irrational - it's disordered fear - which is why it's called anxiety disorder. It's a distorted and dramatic feeling that never goes away and most of the time, you never know the reasons why you feel that way.
So I ask you again, do anxiety disorders really exist?
When we examine the suicide statistics due to mental illness, do we even reserve the right to be asking questions like this?
Are questions such as these perhaps showing genuine ignorance and that we need to create more awareness on mental illnesses?
Perhaps we need to flip the coin to the other side and start talking about the survivors of mental illness more, instead of only focusing on those who have succumb to suicide,
or maybe, just maybe, until we have actually experienced something ourselves, we need to ask, do we really have the right to pass judgement?