Category Archives: Everyday Happy

Wobbles

 

                                             

Anxiety is a bitch

A sneaky little bitch

(excuse my language there)

Today after  well… years we had a wobble.
I always refused to believe that ‘anxiety is forever’ and ‘all’ we could do was ‘learn to live with or manage it’… I still believe this, BUT, it takes a decision, and effort, and  today it sneaked back in.

Why?
Well, Daniel has had a week off school with a chest infection. A normal childhood illness equalled a change in routine, a week away from friends, and a week away from school. Add the worry he had about being ill, and viola!
Anxiety
Honestly, we’ve probably dropped the ball a bit. Everyone has been unwell in the last 2 weeks, I’ve been stressed and overworked, and it’s January… And we haven’t been doing our ‘Everyday Happy’ homework.

What did we do?
Talked
We started by calling it out. Anxiety is sneaky. It can look like other things, like a tummy ache, or a headache, but if you don’t call it out, it wins. Naming it, and accepting it allowed him to move on and take effective steps to overcome it.

Move
We marched up and down the hallway. The fight or flight response is the body’s ancient response to real or perceived danger. It instantly releases a mass of cortisol and adrenaline around the body, stress hormones that cause increased heart rate and hyperventilation. All good if you’re running from a tiger, not so good when you’re in the house… Queue marching. Physical activity of any kind burns off the hormones and helps to calm down.

Distraction
Talking nonsense. We got talking about the end of the day, and I suggested catching up with friends. This allowed his brain to think passed what he was anxious about. Then we added some jokes and some decent preteen sarcasm.

Gratitude
Framing the day in a positive way. Today we just had a chat about gratitude (rather than writing anything) His first one…”I haven’t vomited yet” I was also grateful for! I can’t remember the other things we said, friends I think, probably food… it doesn’t matter though, the effect was positive.

Keep moving forward
One step at a time toward the goal, with very clear instructions. His anxious brain struggles with logical thought, so ‘get ready for school’ is too big… ‘put your socks on’ works better.

Forgive, apologise and move on.
The heightened emotional state that came with an early morning anxiety attack, and a stressed out dad, can and did lead to cross words and bad feelings. This added fuel to the anxiety, and needed quelled quickly. All it took was an apology and a hug before any of us walked out the door grumpy.
This one is hard. As adults we’re not accustomed to apologising to our kids, but it’s so important. Daniel’s anxious brain will circle what went wrong and highlight it, but the apology helps it to let go. Apologising to our kids has bigger implications too, like showing them kindness and courtesy, allowing them to see that we’re human and make mistakes, and offers them the opportunity to learn this behaviour through modelling.

I think today was a blip. I hope so anyway, but it has made me realise how well equipped we are as a family with the tools to get through. If it happens again we’re ready. We also need to keep being grateful, being kind, and doing some happiness homework everyday.

It’s so important to have tools, and to have a team to help.

So on reflection, today I’m deeply grateful for my family who is my team.

If you need some Everyday Happy look no further…

On a personal note…

I’ve experienced it before… the nameless entity which would leave me breathless and nauseous after nursery drop off, fretting following conversations with friends and drained after social occasions. Before this, I had a brief and intense dance with postnatal depression, and before that years of feeling, well, not quite right. Always nameless, always there, and never explained… Anxiety.

It was only when my eldest son developed debilitating anxiety at 9 years old, that I finally named it, squared up to it and took it on.

His experience motivated me to DO something, ANYTHING to help him… And what began as a trip through the murky depths of ‘what went wrong’, and ‘what did I do?’ soon became a journey into his, and my happiness.

I came across ‘happiness’ as a tool for a better life when someone suggested I watch ‘The Happy Secret to Better Work’, a Ted Talk by Shawn Achor. (Definitely worth a watch.) In it Shawn talks about 5 scientifically proven ways we can consciously improve our performance at work through increased happiness. Gratitude, kindness, meditation, exercise, and writing a journal about your daily good, can raise your happiness ‘set point’ and lead to improvements across different aspects of life!

This caught my attention. Although not specifically about anxiety, the concept gave us a new direction… Rather than being bogged down in what went wrong, we started to focus on what was going right. Instead of only learning to manage the symptoms of anxiety, (important, but not the only work to do) we saw a bigger picture. We essentially turned our back on anxiety, and through diligence and working together, focused on happiness, and have barely looked back.

Almost 3 years on, it feels like ancient history.

Our journey to happiness went a bit like this…

The very first thing we noticed was a restored sense of empowerment, the feeling we could help him, and more importantly, that he could help himself. We began with gratitude, and looking at the positives each day. Initially this acted as a distraction, and helped to nip full on anxiety attacks in the bud. It also gave him a focus at bedtime, and helped him settle on difficult nights. Acting in kindness towards his brother, friends, neighbours, and his parents really helped him to not think about his worries as much, and gave him a sense of pride. We meditated in the mornings, went walking on the beach, and looked at homemade flash cards at bedtime each night. We tried anything we could to raise his happiness, and gradually we saw our little boy come back.

Personally, this journey found me crying, laughing, despairing, and jumping for joy. It has been my biggest challenge personally, and our biggest as a family. The fact we stood next to each other and did it together (this wasn’t always easy), means we have ended up closer as a family on the other side. Our silver lining!

I wrote Everyday Happy as my way of giving back, and helping those who may be travelling down the same road. It is a practical tool… a call to action… with the aim to empower people to lift themselves (and help their children) out of anxiety.

My mission? To change the world, one smile at a time.

 

I originally wrote this post for Edinburgh Gossip Girls online Magazine here!