"Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life – for example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or job interview. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal. However, some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives."
As someone who suffers from anxiety, it's pretty normal for my mind to be overwhelmed by my thoughts and feelings. There are quite a few ways that I manage my anxiety so I will share one way, that is the most recent addition, as it has made a great impact in such a short space of time.
I recently started swimming again as my main form of exercise. As I have an ongoing ankle injury (since 2013) that has caused other ailments to surface in the last two years, I have had to stop doing high impact exercise to not further aggravate my ailments. This included giving up my beloved spin classes as the pain I suffered during and after classes caused my doctors and specialist great concern. I was worried about giving up spin as I did find it was effective in some key areas but fortunately, swimming works my whole body. It also allows me the mental freedom I need to get through the week; something I hadn’t felt with other forms of exercise or since my childhood. I couldn’t believe how familiar that feeling was to me once I completed my first lap; it was like “coming home again”.
me the mental freedom I need to get me through the week..."
When I was a child, my Mum would take me swimming every week without fail. It was one of my favourite activities and I treasured my time in the water. I always felt like it was one of the places I belonged and knew, even at such a young age, that I could just BE. I didn’t have to think about anything that was troubling me. Unfortunately, one of the downsides to me swimming was that I started to get ear infections a lot, to the point where my doctor advised my Mum and I that I should stop swimming. To say I was devastated is an understatement! I remember still having to go to that same sports centre with my Mum, as she still went to step class and played badminton there. I would walk around and always ended up watching everyone in the pool. I wondered whether I would ever be able to swim again.
As I got older, my anxiety issues became more obvious and I could no longer pretend that I was just a “worrier”. It was taking over large parts of my life! I tried to manage it in different ways and found that some forms of exercise, writing, reading or listening to music helped to reduce the pressure on my mind but it still wasn't enough. Anxiety sufferers should know that exercise is one of the prominent ways to reduce and even help eradicate your anxiety. However, I still hadn’t figured out what form of exercise worked best for me. I didn’t even know that swimming was what I needed to battle my anxiety so I settled for spin classes. However, over time, that also became difficult for me to do with the re-occurring issues with my ankle.
Fast forward to the present day, after seeing a specialist for one of my ailments, he advised me to stop doing spin and try swimming. I was shocked and wondered what I should do as I’m still prone to ear infections, even from simply washing my hair. After much to-ing and fro-ing that lasted more than a few months, I made an appointment to see my doctor, for a second opinion. I knew I wanted to swim again but I was afraid of being told no. Luckily, after going over my results from the specialist and his recommendations, my doctor overtly encouraged me to start swimming again. For my ears, she advised that I try professional swimming ear plugs, which I immediately bought, along with a swimming costume. FYI this wasn’t my first time trying ear plugs! She also warned me to stop immediately if I experienced any ear infections symptoms.
I’m pleased to announce that it's been three weeks and I haven’t had one issue with my ears so far! Fingers crossed this continues as I’m so thankful that I’m able to swim again and start healing. Whilst writing this blog, I did some research on the best aerobic exercises for those with anxiety, as regular exercise encourages the brain to release serotonin, which can improve our mood. Swimming was constantly recommended! I wish I had been aware of this much sooner but regardless, I'm doing something I love that is physically, mentally and emotionally improving my health one day at a time.
If you’re showing signs of an anxiety disorder or currently battling anxiety, please speak to someone e.g. your GP, a trusted individual or a mental health organisation as soon as possible. Below are some organisations you can get in touch with:
The Samaritans: offers emotional support 24 hours a day (in full confidence). You contact them for free on 116 123 or email them firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rethink Mental Illness: offers practical advice Monday - Friday/10am - 2pm on different types of therapy & medication, benefits, debit, money issues, your rights under the Mental Health Act etc. You can contact them on 0300 5000 927 (calls are charged at you local rate).
Mind: offer an information line to answer questions about types of mental health problems, where to get help, drugs & alternative treatments etc. You can contact them on 0300 123 3393 (UK landline calls are charged at local rates, and charges from mobile phones will vary considerably) or email them email@example.com.