Day 19: Nature

How lucky that we’re in Wiltshire, where bits of gorgeous green countryside are never more than a ten minute walk away.

I hadn’t realised, until I spent a year in a second floor flat, just how much I require the outdoors. I’m sure all of us do, but maybe, for those of us that live in the countryside, it’s just a part of our lives enough that we don’t realise how essential it is until it’s gone. Until we’re told to work from home and stay indoors and ration our outdoors time. I don’t know if the lack of a garden last year contributed to the anxiety, but the panic attacks did start three months into my gardenlessness.

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Day Nine: Exercise

Oh my God I should have started with this one. It’s so flipping essential. I know this, why have I let it slip?

About twenty years ago I was in such a religious bubble that I didn’t know how to speak to real people and was painfully shy in all secular social settings. I happened to go for a run with a non-church friend one day, and I found that afterwards, I could chat and laugh with my friend with zero inhibitions. I decided running would be my way to overcome social uncertainty, and tried to fit in a run before any stressful social event.

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Day Eight: Emotional Freedom Technique

This is a bizarre method of tapping on acupressure points and telling yourself you love and accept yourself regardless of the bad feelings. I was taught the technique by a lovely religious lady a few years ago, and even then I was skeptical. It did seem to work though, even if it was by virtue of placebo based self delusion. There was one occasion when I was hurt so badly by someone right before a meeting, and I had one minute to snap out of the sobbing, which, with a few taps on my eyebrows and chin, I managed in an instant. It really might just be the practice of doing something completely different that tricks your brain into thinking you must be fine now, but it did work.

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Day Six: Cold Showers

Today’s shivery suggestion is brought to you by my very happy, healthy and confident little brother. In a family zoom call recently he talked about how great he was feeling since he completed his three day fast a couple of weeks ago. We were fascinated by his experience, as he described the physical and mental benefits of a complete cleanse and reset. While not at all tempted to follow that example, the conversation went on to the similar benefits of cold showers, which everyone sort of nodded in agreement to. I didn’t realise the extent to which immersion in freezing water was of recognised benefit to health, and looked it up.

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Day Five: Breathing techniques

5.30pm. The more astute of you will notice I’m a day late with this one. But instead of beating myself up about it, I accepted that on a day when my part-time job (that is supposed to require three hours per weekday) ends up taking eight hours, then I am allowed to roll my wellness hours over and catch up at the weekend.

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Day Four: Bedtime routine

Last night I still wasn’t 100%. I fended off the anxiety by making myself a cosy nest on the sofa with the heavy blanket and playing a previous Helm De Vegas’ show on the laptop. We join his Facebook live music performances every week which are not only full of amazing music, but real connection to a community of love and beauty, which works even when it’s not live.

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Twenty one studies in emotional strength

It has come to the point where it’s time for me to try another 21 day project to strengthen my troubled little brain. I have done this sort of thing before but not told anyone, and as a result, didn’t manage to keep the commitment. So I’m letting you know about this one in the hope that having an audience will oblige me to stick to it.

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Tether that voice back up for a bit

Last night we had our follow up session with Cara to see how we are all getting on, six weeks after finishing the course to Untether Our Voices. I had planned to arrive at this October session with a proud announcement of my first draft of my story I’ve been working on for years, but instead I watched my face in the zoom screen grinning from ear to ear as I explained that writing it was triggering such a bizarre and fascinating world of anxiety that I would be pausing the big writing project and taking some time to look after myself. They all smiled and nodded in approval at this necessary part of the story telling process which added to my huge relief to be able to just let go. How lovely.

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Do not subscribe to those thoughts

So in an effort to still my scrambling mind, I turned to YouTube, my old friend and advisor, who knows me so well. Even the adverts he shows me are about wellness and meditation. And tonight YouTube tells me to watch this interview with Mooji. Yes I think I need to get a bit transcendental today.

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In and out of darkness

It has got to the point where I can write again. The stomach wrenching anxiety has settled into an exhausted sort of headachy weariness, from which I can face the words that describe what has been happening. So much anxiety. My sister asked me yesterday how do I measure my levels. I suppose there’s a scale of 1 to 10. I’m mostly at around 5 or 6, which is when I am aware there is something beautiful, but I can’t see it. Yesterday morning, I could see that there was a beautiful sunrise, I knew that the delicate gold light rippling through the emerald green of the trees was beautiful, but I couldn’t see it. Anxiety sort of clouds over every thought with a dull grey blanket of engulfing dread. You don’t breathe properly, can’t really talk, can’t cope with complex emails or loud noises… It is just crippling. I have had a few days on and off recently, with small breaks in the darkness where I can eat, smile and breathe properly, till it returns. And while I’m in the grey space, I understand why some people just can’t cope with life. If you were in a constant haze of anxiety or depression how could you even be polite to people, let alone proactively thoughtful and kind? It’s just not possible. When I’m anxious I have zero ability to care about others. I feel bad for wasting peoples time or making errors while I’m in a bad way, but I don’t have love or compassion, just a different flavour of fear and dread.

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