For Mental Health Awareness Week 2023, we’re sharing thoughts, experiences, and strategies from the team across our different services on anxiety, the focus of MHAW this year.
Ru at Connect & Teen Connect
Anxiety has ruled my life from the age of seven and has often hindered me from functioning well as an adult. Anxiety has a way of convincing me that I am “less than”, and often sends me into a state of fight-or-flight with unnerving ease. My anxiety can seem disproportionate to those not experiencing the feelings or thinking the thoughts, causing me to feel misunderstood and alone. This isolation is compounded by multiple overlapping othered identities.
I find being offered techniques unhelpful when I am extremely anxious – I can’t think, so going for a walk is out of the question. However, I will share some techniques that have been helpful when my anxiety is manageable-ish, i.e. when the anxiety has dissipated slightly, if I can make a decision, or the spiral isn’t too spiral-y yet:
- The TIPP skill: it’s used as part of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). The temperature skill is a go-to for me; it doesn’t require much thinking, and all I have to do is run an ice-cold sink of water and put my face in it.
- Neurodivergent friendly skills: if you are neurodivergent, I would recommend purchasing The Neurodivergent Friendly Workbook of DBT skills. DBT can be useful for anyone who struggles with anxiety, depression, trauma, and so on, but I am aware it does not address the bigger picture where systems (workplaces, statutory services, institutions etc.) re-traumatise, and cause or exacerbate poor mental health and anxiety. Our mental health exists within an oppressive power structure that is not designed to keep us well.
- Animal companions: never underestimate the soothing solace found in our furry companions. I prefer animals to people, and spending time with a cat often reduces my anxiety. When I’m not incapacitated by fear, being in nature and swimming outdoors can shift feelings slightly and can feel quite grounding.
- Mental health zines: they can be more accessible than books or podcasts when I’m very anxious. Sonali Menezes sells super-cheap downloadable zines including so you’re anxious as fuck for just 74p. If you prefer physical zines, I’d recommend InkAndPaperOriginal and MaiIrvine Art.
- Understanding: it can feel supportive to seek out individuals and groups who understand your struggle. Perhaps try different things to see if something fits. At LSLCS, we recognise that anxiety exists within a wider picture of oppression, and move away from blaming and labelling. Instead, we meet the person where they’re at, and offer something called unconditional positive regard, where nothing you share is met with judgement. We accept and hold you as you are, and believe you deserve support, care, and understanding.
- Support: leaning into the truth that I am not alone in my struggle – no matter how alone I feel – can help me through bouts of extreme anxiety. Connect (for anyone aged 18+) and Teen Connect (for anyone aged 11–18) are there for you when you are feeling anxious. You can call us every day if you need to. You can talk about the same issue or different issues. We are here to listen and to be with whatever feelings that come up. We all have lived experience of mental health and understand deeply how impactful and frightening these feelings can be.
Acknowledging that thoughts can be awful to sit with, whilst also acknowledging that thoughts and feelings do not equate to truth or facts, has helped me to cope. From the age of eight I have experienced intrusive thoughts and anxious tics. For years, these thoughts caused me to feel like a terrible, unlovable person, and sometimes they still do. But I am not my thoughts, and you are not yours. Observing anxious thoughts as if they exist outside of your head can help to distance yourself from the thought you are experiencing, and can lessen their power.
I started this blog by saying my anxiety has caused me not to function well. Over the years, however, I have discovered that I function differently, and that is okay. My anxiety is complex and understandable, and so is yours.
Trying things to see if they help is a journey, and you have not failed if you haven’t found something that eases your anxiety. Connect and Teen Connect will meet you wherever you are, and offer you the compassion and space you deserve.