My four stages of anxiety

It’s been literally 4 days since my last post on mental fitness and this week has been a total nightmare! I’ve been tired, cranky, definitely stressed… and that feeling that starts with a big fat capital ‘A’ has reared its ugly head for the first time in several weeks! Anxiousness!

As much as my first few months in London sucked, one thing I am truly grateful for is that I am now extremely aware of every single stage I go through before going full-blown meltdown. When I was back at home, we had every weekend booked out in advanced, never-ending to-do lists and every spare minute I had was planned for maximum productivity. At work I was so busy with back-to-back meetings and I was so stressed with deadlines that I had severe coffee-induced Tourette’s. I never allowed myself space to check in with myself and observe what was actually going on. I’d be plodding along with my day, maybe feeling off, then suddenly teary… and BAM!!! Full blown Brittany breakdown out of no where! I remember the first time my boyfriend saw me experience a panic attack and the poor thing freaked out – he didn’t know what to do with me! This sobbing, hysterical, hyperventilating mess that just disintegrated before his very eyes who he could have sworn was fine an hour ago!

I’ve come a looooooong way since then and all my experiences in London so far has forced me take a good hard look at myself. I went through all my emotions and triggers, and was able to break it out in four key stages:

  • Stage 1 – that rib-crushing feeling where I can’t get a satisfying inhale – like I’m wearing an 1800’s corset. I would yawn and sigh constantly, and people would either mistake me as not getting enough sleep or that I’m bored with what they’re saying. Previously I’d just put it down to stress and poor posture.
  • Stage 2 – I’d then start getting tense, with mild butterflies and jitters added in with that chest tightness. I would become hyper-animated, extremely extraverted and loud. I’d previously mistaken this for being highly stressed, so my solution would be to increase my caffeine intake to power through what I needed to get done. Didn’t realise I was fuelling a dormant volcano.
  • Stage 3 – THEN I become aware of the overt negative mental looping, rumination and over-analysing (probably started in stage one but hadn’t realised it yet) things I’d repeat would be like: “I’m not good enough.” “This is shit.” “Life is shit.” “I hate my job.” “I don’t have time.” “I can’t cope” “everyone is forcing me to doing things I don’t want to do” “it’s their fault”  “I want to run away” “I’m too stressed to chill” Once I got to this stage, there was pretty much no turning back.
  • Stage 4 – rib-crushing shallow breathing, butterflies, jitters, stress, coffee addiction, negative looping – all festering under the surface. I am literally backed into a mental corner ready to lash out or run. Stage 4 is really just the trigger, or straw that broke the camels back. These have been anything from walking to work, putting on makeup to see a friend, or even someone asking if you’re okay (damn you R U OKAY day).

The truth is, before I was usually at stage 3 tipping into stage 4 before I would realised I was anxious. Since moving here I’ve had the space to be able to really stop and observe how my physiology and mentality evolves through these stages.

This week I’m at stage one. I have been yawning and sighing like a mo-fo for the last three days! And I know exactly what initially set it off. One. tiny. mistake. at work.  I was tired from the weekend on Monday and I effed up. It was all fixed, but that anxiety around feeling like a failure didn’t get properly dealt with before a million other deadlines piled on top of me, resulting in a lot more stress. The difference now though is that I’m not pushing through and ignoring it. I know exactly what, how and why I’m feeling like this and am able to nip it in the bud before I shatter.

Obviously people go through varying levels of anxiety and every individual experience has its own intensity. I’m just sharing mine in the hope that it might help others identify their triggers, because figuring out the above has helped me ENORMOUSLY in how I process and work with my anxiety. It seems like every second person I meet has gone through some form or extreme stress or anxiety attacks, and its okay! As long as you don’t let it rule your life! I want an anxiety-free life and everyday I work towards that, to make sure I’m the best person I can possibly be for my friends, family, boyfriend and colleagues.