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Thread: List of things that are helping me with my anxiety

  1. #1
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    Cool List of things that are helping me with my anxiety

    Last updated on 18th August 2013 - I've added brief details of my relapse which began in April 2013, and I've also added information about mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

    My story:


    I have had anxiety episodes on and off ever since I was about 8 or 9 years old, but it was only last summer that I had the courage to seek help. Before that, I didn't really understand what was happening to me, and I was too scared to tell anyone else in case they didn't understand, or worse, thought I was crazy! Nearly every time, the anxiety is about a different topic - it always plays on my worst fear at that particular time. My episodes come on very suddenly and they can last for weeks or even months. Eventually they fizzle out and I can go for months or years until the next episode starts. Between episodes, I feel happy and relaxed nearly all the time.

    My most recent major episode began last summer (2012). It was so intense this time around (I keep getting intrusive morbid thoughts including worries about getting old and dying, even though I was only 28!) I felt tensed up nearly all the time and I felt like there was always something negative in the back of my mind, so I didn't enjoy things as much as I used to. I was no longer sleeping properly, and every morning I would get up full of dread for the day ahead of me - that I would have to face another day of my mind filled with intrusive thoughts. A few weeks later, I began to feel a lot better after starting medication and doing CBT for the first time. I came off my meds in early 2013, with my doctor's support. Unfortunately, I suffered a relapse at Easter, so I had to re-start my meds and I'm now learning more about mindfulness.

    I feel that I have learnt a lot over the last few months and I now feel much more confident in my ability to control my thoughts, instead of letting them control me! So I thought that I would share details of all the things that have helped me. I hope they will help you as much as they've helped me!

    CBT-based methods


    CBT Stress Control course:
    This is a 6 week course where you learn to control your anxiety and panic. It's offered by many NHS trusts around the UK and as it's taught in a group, the waiting lists are much shorter than with 1:1 CBT. You're not expected to speak in front of the whole group either. You listen to the instructors and at each class you get booklets to take home which contain exercises. It is very important that you carry out the exercises between the sessions in order to make sure you get the full benefit of the course. At one of the classes you also get a relaxation CD, which will help you to learn progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).

    This is what the 6 week course covers:

    Week 1: Introduction and information about stress
    Week 2: Control your body: relaxation and exercise
    Week 3: Control your thoughts: learn to think your way out of stress
    Week 4: Control your actions: boost self-confidence
    Week 5: Control panic
    Week 6: Control sleep problems and control your future.

    You can ask your doctor for more information if you want to be referred for this course (if it takes place in your area).

    CBT workbooks from Centre for Clinical Interventions:
    If you click on this link and scroll down about two thirds of the way until you get to the heading "Psychology resources made by other people" you'll find lots of self-help programmes for various conditions including general anxiety, depression, health anxiety, panic disorder and so on. In the latter part of 2012, I worked through the general anxiety self-help programme and I've found the skills I've learnt to be very helpful. The panic self-help programme is also very good too.

    Here is a full list of the different self-help programmes that are available:

    Assert Yourself! Improve your Assertiveness
    Back from the Bluez - Coping with Depression
    Building Body Acceptance - Overcoming Body Dysmorphia
    Facing Your Feelings - Overcoming Distress Intolerance
    Helping Health Anxiety - Overcoming Health Anxiety
    Improving Self-Esteem - Overcoming Low Self-Esteem
    Keeping Your Balance - Coping with Bipolar Disorder
    Overcoming Disordered Eating - Part A
    Overcoming Disordered Eating - Part B
    Panic Stations - Coping with Panic Attacks
    Perfectionism in Perspective - Overcoming Perfectionism
    Put Off Procrastinating - Overcoming Procrastination
    Shy No Longer - Coping with Social Anxiety
    What? Me Worry!?! Mastering Your Worries (for GAD)

    This is an alternative (direct) link to the workbooks listed above: Centre for Clinical Interventions.

    Android apps from the Excel at Life website:
    If you have an Android phone (if you have a Samsung, HTC or Sony phone, amongst numerous others, then chances are it will be an Android phone) then these free apps are invaluable. They are based on CBT principles and enable you to keep a cognitive diary whilst you're on the go.

    Here is a list of the apps that are currently available:
    Excel At Life Ad-Free Support
    Happy Habits: Choose Happiness!
    Depression CBT Self-Help Guide
    Stop Panic and Anxiety Self-Help
    Cognitive Styles CBT Test
    Cognitive Diary CBT Help
    Worry Box--Anxiety Self-Help
    Self-Esteem Blackboard
    Jealousy Test & CBT Self-Help
    Qi Gong Meditation Relaxation
    SportPsych Performance Coach
    Know Yourself Personality Test
    Know Your Relationships Tests

    The interactive CBT Diary app enables you to record what's currently worrying/upsetting you, and then it will help you identify the errors in your thinking (eg Catastrophising, Negative Evaluation of Self etc). Once you have done that, you'll be given the opportunity to write some statements to challenge your negative thinking (or choose from the pre-written statements). The diary entries are saved on your phone so you can read through them whenever you need reassurance. You can password-protect the diary if you are worried someone else might read it.

    The Worry Box app lets you make a note of your worries and it asks you questions to help you work through your worries.

    All of the apps also include articles and background reading about CBT, plus streaming relaxation audios.

    CBT4Panic:

    CBT4Panic is another online CBT programme. Despite its name, it can also be useful if you have generalised anxiety and/or intrusive thoughts, as the course includes workbooks on mindfulness and overcoming obsessive thoughts. The course includes videos and audio files to explain the techniques, if you don't feel like reading through the workbooks.

    The main program is divided into 4 ‘Steps’:

    1. KNOWLEDGE - This will give you a thorough understanding of what is happening to you
    2. SKILLS - You learn cognitive and behavioural skills to help you deal with anxiety and panic
    3. PRACTICE - You put your knowledge and skills into practice through carefully planned ‘Behavioural Experiments’
    4. RECOVERY - You learn how to stay recovered (the 4 extra books described below are very useful here)

    There are 4 additional eBooks:

    • An easy-to-read version of the main 4 books
    • A book of actual online dialogues between a therapist and a lady undergoing CBT
    • A book on overcoming obsessional and frightening thoughts
    • A great book on Mindfulness - makes it very easy to understand.

    The course is now available free of charge to No More Panic members.

    The "postpone worrying" method:
    This is a very helpful method I learnt from one of the CBT workbooks in the general anxiety self-help programme mentioned above. The idea is that whenever a worry enters your mind during the day, you note it down somewhere and then you don't ruminate about it any more until a set time (usually each evening). It is very important to note that this does not involve blocking out negative thoughts (which is actually counter-productive). Rather, it means that if a negative thought enters your mind, you can just let it sit there in the back of your mind instead of following the train of thought (ruminating). You then gently bring your mind back to whatever it is that you are doing.

    This is an example of how I've successfully used this technique:

    I read something scary one lunchtime which triggered some worries about my health. I felt a bit panicky and nervous for about 10 minutes after reading it. After that, I agreed with myself that I wouldn't ruminate on it until my afternoon break at 3.15pm (using the "postpone worrying" technique). I made a note in my notebook to remind myself of the subject matter of the negative thought.

    I then carried on with my work. At first, the negative thought did try to intrude on me, but I just let it lie in the back of my mind and I refused to ruminate on it. I breathed deeply and slowly and then I gently brought my focus back to what I was doing, ie I carried on with my work. The thought did try to come back a couple of times, but I just used the same technique again. After a few more minutes, the negative thought gave up on trying to intrude as I wouldn't pay any attention to it.

    By the time my mid afternoon break came round at 3.15pm, the thought had almost completely lost its ability to scare me. I then started writing the rational challenges to the thought in my CBT diary. After that, the thought didn't bother me any more for the rest of the working day. Even when I was at home in the evening, the thought didn't bother me, as whenever it entered my mind I would just remind myself of my rational challenges to the thought.

    Dealing with existential anxiety:
    Most of my anxiety has been existential anxiety, eg the fear of getting old, the fear of death and dying, solipsism, time and so on. However, what helped me was to accept that it is just like any other fear and that you have to be prepared to let it boil down to just anxiety, and not an inability to cope with big concepts. We are only scared of what we consider the most scary thing. Some people are scared most of cancer and that fear is on the same level as those of us with existential anxiety. If it is their biggest fear then they feel the same way about cancer as we do the whole of existence. The only reason our fears are different is down to what our triggers were to start the thought process and also where your mind wanders to in fear. Some people think more deeply about life and the universe and therefore are more likely to get existential anxiety rather than other types of anxiety.

    Whenever you get an existential worry, catch the thought and look at it objectively. You will notice the more you study your thoughts that the thinking that is causing you the most panic is not the "scary bit" surprisingly, the cause of your fear. It is actually the underlying thoughts about your thinking. You will find these thoughts when you are starting to worry over your original thoughts - the size of the universe etc. But THEN you think something like "I can't cope" "I'm going to go mad" "I'm going to break down". These thoughts are centered around you and what will happen to you. Ultimately it's not everything else you are worried about, it's what will happen to you in the end. When it comes back to you, you panic.

    It is only your fear of the thoughts that keeps them going. I found it useful to use the "postpone worrying" technique described above in order to deal with this. Instead of trying to force the thoughts out of your mind, it is better to just let it sit there in the back of your mind instead of following the train of thought (ruminating). You then gently bring your mind back to whatever it is that you are doing. After a while, the thought will not seem so intrusive.

    General notes about how CBT has helped me:

    I began to notice a positive difference in my thoughts within a few weeks of learning CBT methods. I was starting to think about things more rationally instead of jumping to negative conclusions. Here's an example. In the past, if I wasn't invited to a party or if I was left out of some event, I would think to myself "It must be because I'm so boring that no-one wants me around them!" I now realise this is an exaggeration as there are several people who do like to be with me.

    One morning back in October last year, as I was waking up some thoughts entered my head about an outing in January which I hadn't been invited to. (It was arranged by a member of my social club, but I don't see her as a close friend).
    A few minutes later, I started to think about it more rationally - this woman only had room for 10 people, whereas the club has about 80 members, so she couldn't possibly invite everyone. She probably invited the people she feels closest to, and there are several people in the club that she has known for much longer than me. I then remember telling myself "I can't possibly be one of everyone's best friends, or one of everyone's favourite people. It's unrealistic to expect that and I would only be disappointed if I did. I can't expect to be perfect. In any case, I don't need to be everyone's best friend. I have a circle of close friends who do like to be with me, so I don't need to worry about the actions of people like this woman who aren't so close to me. If I do ever feel closer to this woman, maybe she will begin inviting me to her activities, but if not, it doesn't matter as I have plenty of other things to do and people to be with who make me happy."

    Medication

    Citalopram tablets:
    I first started taking 10mg citalopram from August 2012 until February 2013 and they helped me a lot. They gave me some "breathing space" to learn my coping techniques.

    I did experience some side effects for the first few days - mostly insomnia, some nausea and lack of appetite. These side effects began to wear off after a week and I noticed an improvement in my general mood and my intrusive thoughts gradually lessened. It took until Week 11 before I felt the full effects of the medication, but I was doing the CBT Stress Control course at the same time, so I think that helped me a lot as well. I kept a detailed diary (click here to read it) about my experiences on citalopram - I updated it daily at first, and then once I'd begun to improve a lot I started updating it weekly.

    I had medication reviews with my doctor every 3 months. By the first review, I had begun to feel a lot better. Click here to read about how I'd improved after 12 weeks of medication and the CBT Stress Control course.

    After another 3 months had passed, it was time for my next review with my doctor. By that time, I felt I was ready to come off the medication. My doctor agreed and I spent the next 5 weeks tapering off. For the first 4 weeks, I took 5mg a day (half a tablet), and then for the 5th week I took 2.5mg a day (quarter of a tablet) before stopping completely. This is the post I wrote after coming off citalopram - I felt fine for a month after stopping, but unfortunately I suffered a relapse at around Easter time. At first I thought this was due to belated withdrawal effects, but another 6 weeks later I still wasn't feeling any better (if anything, I was getting worse) so I went back to the doctor's in May and restarted citalopram.

    If you want to learn more about citalopram, I recommend reading the citalopram survival guide here on No More Panic. Actually, a lot of the information on there is very useful even if you're not on any medication.

    Flower remedies

    Bach Rescue Remedy spray:
    This is useful for when I feel extra anxious. There are different sprays that can be used during the day and at night-time.

    Bach Rescue Remedy chewing gum:
    This is useful for when I feel extra anxious when I'm out and about, as it's more discreet than using the spray.

    Bach Rescue Remedy pastilles:
    These are available in different flavours - I have the blackcurrant flavour.

    Bach Rescue Remedy products are available at any major chemist such as Boots or Superdrug in the UK. I think it's also available in Holland & Barrett. Alternatively it's available from the No More Panic online shop. It is safe to use with prescribed medication and has no side effects.

    Other remedies:

    Berocca vitamins:
    I have these at work each morning and they help me to wake up and feel more alert (I don't like tea or coffee!). They're effervescent and come in several flavours. I like the orange ones myself. A colleague recommended them to me last year, as I'd never heard of them before. They help with immunity as well - my colleague recommended them when I was recovering from a bad cold.

    Lavender oil:
    I spray it on my pillow and duvet every night before I go to bed. I find that the scent of the lavender has a calming effect.

    Relaxation and mindfulness techniques

    Relaxation and mindfulness MP3s from the Excel at Life website:
    I listen to these before I go to sleep each night, and they really help to calm my mind down. In the past, I used to have so much rubbish going through my mind when I went to bed that it sometimes used to take me over half an hour to get to sleep!

    Deep muscle relaxation CD from my Stress Control course:
    I listen to this at bedtime if I'm feeling tense. Afterwards I feel so calm that I often fall asleep with my headphones still in!

    Breathing techniques:
    The Calming Technique
    1. Ensure that you are sitting on a comfortable chair
    2. Take a breath in for 4 seconds (through your nose if possible)
    3. Hold the breath for 2 seconds
    4. Release the breath taking 6 seconds (through your mouth if possible).

    Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
    Following my relapse in 2013, I've decided to explore the subject of mindfulness more deeply. In August 2013 I purchased a book called "Mindfulness - a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world" by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. The book consists of an 8 week course based on MBCT principles, including an audio CD with guided meditations. At the time of writing, I have completed the first week of the course and it seems very promising. For the past week I've felt more relaxed than usual and more optimistic about the future.

    Other things I've found helpful

    This forum:
    Talking to people with similar experiences and sharing advice has helped me realise that I'm not alone. I've also learnt many useful tips from being here.

    Blackout blinds:
    They help me to sleep better, especially in the early hours of the morning when the sun rises. I tend to be very sensitive to light, and in the summer I often used to wake up at 5am in the morning and not be able to get back to sleep again. Since getting the blackout blinds (which I have in addition to my curtains), I haven't had this problem. By the way, they're not actually black - mine are a nice lavender colour!

    Exercise:
    This has helped give me more energy. I usually exercise by walking and playing Nintendo Wii games such as Just Dance 4 and the Wii Fit.

    Watching funny programmes:
    I like Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week and old programmes such as Fawlty Towers.

    Playing games (especially the ones on NMP):
    I like the Something Fishy game and all the bubble shooter games. I have no idea how some of the people get such high scores, but I enjoy playing them anyway.

    Listening to music I like:
    I create my own playlists on YouTube so I can listen to my favourite songs whenever I want.

    The chatroom on this site:
    I don't go in there that often, but it's nice to get to know people. I also take part in the Saturday night quiz if I'm not busy.

    Making sure I allow more time for myself:
    I used to be obsessed with doing online tutorials in the evening (to learn new skills for my job) and I think this put me under unnecessary pressure. I figured that if my employer wanted me to do more training, they would allow me to do it during working hours. I now spend that time doing fun things instead (like playing games, visiting this forum etc).

    Spending more time with my family and friends:
    This means I have less time to be alone with my thoughts.

    Writing to-do lists:
    I always used to worry that I would forget to do something important, and this would make it difficult for me to sleep. So nowadays, before I go to bed, I write a list of things I need to do the next day. I use either a "Things to do today" book I bought from Wilkinson's or some Post-It notes.

    If anyone's got any comments or anything else they'd like to add to the list, feel free.
    Last edited by Sparkle1984; 18-08-13 at 00:34. Reason: Added brief details of my relapse which began in April 2013 and info about MBCT
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  2. #2
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    Re: List of things that are helping me with my anxiety

    Very helpful indeed! I too chew gum when I'm feeling extra anxious and love to watch a good comedy to try and relax. I was born in 1984 where abouts are you from? I've suffered for 4 years now and it's constant every day I've told myself I have to have recovered by year 5 lol xxxxxx

  3. #3
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    Re: List of things that are helping me with my anxiety

    Thanks Sparkle, it's always nice to hear what helps other people and I will give some of your tips a try.
    Love Sam

  4. #4
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    Re: List of things that are helping me with my anxiety

    that's an excellent list and shows that we need a combination of things to get better rather than just one thing. it has highlighted to me how i seem to have stopped doing some of the things that were making me feel better, but you have given me some inspiration to get started again! thank you!

  5. #5
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    Re: List of things that are helping me with my anxiety

    Thanks for your comments. This list is a work in progress and I'll add things to it and amend bits as time goes on. hugs - I'm from Norwich in the east of England.
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  6. #6
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    Re: List of things that are helping me with my anxiety

    Last night, I got a good laugh off reading "bushisms" ooooo it made me chuckle lol

    A good list Sparkle! I think exercise is very important, and like you I have been using the wii to help me build up. I have the Zumba game, whic really does get your heart up!

  7. #7
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    Re: List of things that are helping me with my anxiety

    I am three weeks into a 6 week program of hypnotherapy/pschyotherapy which is working astonishingly well.

  8. #8
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    Re: List of things that are helping me with my anxiety

    wow that link you gave to all them sheets etc is fab!!!! (wondered where my cbt person got all info from!)

  9. #9
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    Re: List of things that are helping me with my anxiety

    A wonderful list
    Thank you for sharing!

  10. #10
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    Re: List of things that are helping me with my anxiety

    Thank you for that list. How many hours a day do you set aside for this ?

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