When you're living with anxiety, the irritation of commuters rushing to get to work can bring your whole day down. Photo by Elliott Scott. Creative Commons license.

When you’re living with anxiety, the irritation of commuters rushing to get to work can bring your whole day down. Photo by Elliott Scott. Creative Commons license.

By Miss Evelyn-Jo

Anxiety is overwhelming. Say you’re able to find relief through resources like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is a useful tool to reduce anxiety. You start feeling “back to normal” and get on with your life. But then, often with no warning, anxiety can return. And when it gets its claws into you, the smallest things can seem such a big deal. Trying to live a life with anxiety can be very lonely and negative.

Anxiety can result from experiencing an emotional trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder. After an emotional trauma in 2010, I suffered intense anxiety. That overwhelming and consuming feeling of unease, nervousness, fear, stress and tension can engulf you. It can affect your moods, your sleeping patterns, even your appetite. Once you learn some ways of taming anxiety (and for me it was CBT), you can use them to stop anxiety in its tracks.

But anxiety can return, sparked by triggers that you might not even be aware of. Triggers can subconsciously remind you of elements of a traumatic event, such as a smell, a song, the weather, a conversation or a person.

Related: 9 Ways to Cope With Mental Illnesses This Year

Severe anxiety can also lead to panic attacks. At my worst level of anxiety, I would experience panic attacks over the simplest of things, such as going to the post office, answering the door to a delivery man or going to buy groceries. The fear of facing people or a situation that I might not be able to “deal with” would make me anxious — and made me want to stay in the sanctuary of my home.  Sometimes, it would take me hours to pluck up the courage and strength to leave the house, only to get to the end of the garden and flee back inside. Inside the house was safe. I felt safe. I felt protected.

When you are also faced with people who are rude, obnoxious or nasty this can affect how you cope with anxiety. You might feel as though you have more to battle; the army of fears keeps getting bigger.

Anxiety comes from not being able to control certain events or not knowing the outcome. I would think back over the previous day, and as keen as I was to overcome my unease, I would fill with trepidation. I would build “what-if” scenarios that would increase my anxiety level.

Mental health issues still carry stigma. People are afraid to talk about them. They suffer in silence. Worrying about what people might think, do or say can initiate further anxiety. What a bubble of worry we trap ourselves in!

I love the 1940s and 1950s. Besides the glamor, I love the spirit; despite the horrors of WW2, people pulled together. They were neighborly. They looked out for each other. They were kind to those who needed it. They managed to be positive and upbeat. They picked themselves up and powered through. It was their way of surviving. They would help each other. They were aware of others’ needs.

This has been lost over the years. Even in the 1980s, I remember as a child that neighbors would speak to each other. They knew each others’ names. People would collect groceries for neighbors if they were sick.

Since then, that neighborly spirit has diminished. People rush around, lost in their own world of electronic communication. Nobody speaks. Nobody acknowledges one other except with a grunt, a sigh or words of irritation. These negative grunts, sighs and words of irritation are enough to negatively affect someone living with anxiety.

When I experienced my darkest and deepest pit of anxiety and depression, I never felt so alone. On my daily commute to work, strangers were rude, angry, negative and irritated as they pushed and shoved their way onto the train in their rush to get to work. These strangers had no idea what courage it had taken for me to get out of bed that morning. Was their behaviour necessary if it meant they got to work a few moments early? Is it really necessary to treat others with such disregard? When did we lose compassion and kind-heartedness?

Because of those experiences, I now try to treat everyone with kindness and consideration. You don’t know what someone else is going through, so you should always be kind. You don’t know how your words will affect someone.

I say hello to my neighbors. I will help someone with their shopping. I am always complimenting people. Kind words cost nothing. I recently told a lady that I really liked her handbag. Her face lit up and her whole body language changed. She told me that the handbag belonged to her mother and I had really made her day. A moment of kindness can turn someone’s day around. Your kind words may be the only ones someone hears in their isolated world of anxiety, depression or trauma.

On my blog, I have a mix of followers, men and women, but my work is aimed at empowering and inspiring women who need encouragement after experiencing situations similar to mine. I have been witness to women as they empower, inspire and encourage each other on social media as they try to put a stop to body shaming, fat shaming, skinny shaming and bullying. All of these experiences can lead to a life of anxiety, fear and worry that they aren’t good enough. By simply being kind and positive, we can lend strength to those who need it.

We shouldn’t let our preoccupation with technology make us forget that we are all human beings. We might crave human contact and communication. We might be lonely and living in a dark world of isolation. We deserve to be treated with love and respect, with kindness and integrity. We deserve to be treated with compassion — not frustration.

Unless you have experienced anxiety or something similar, you might find it hard to sympathize and understand. That’s no reason not to be kind and positive to everyone you encounter. We have the power to make a difference in someone’s day – let’s make it a positive one!

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