I haven’t written ‘an article’ like this since 2016 lol. I always said I’d write more, but that’s another conversation for another time. With that being said, hey people :)
I went back and forth in my head about 489,553 times on whether to write this, before realising that the main reason I didn’t want to was the fear of being transparent about something that so many people experience yet so few talk about — In 2013 there were 8.3m cases of anxiety in the UK, & 1 in 6.8 people are experience mental health problems in the workplace (14.7%).
I experienced anxiety for years before I even realised what it was. Growing up I wasn’t taught anything about mental health, and if you sprinkle in the stigma, taboo and ‘spiritual assumptions’ (just pray about it) present within BAME communities you can see why I didn’t know a flying asparagus about mental health, or that I had anxiety until recently.
I’ll try and decipher anxiety in simple terms, open up with my experience and how I’m dealing with my anxiety. If this can help raise awareness, offer insight or help one person then I’d be really happy.
Our bodies have a great security system optimised for survival in dangerous situations, enabling us to ‘fight or flight’. Because I’m weird and random I’ll call it Kenton Bridges.
Kenton Bridges, our security system is powered by a hormone called adrenaline which is created by glands on top of our kidneys and it’s brilliant capabilities include but aren’t limited to a faster heart rate, faster breathing, stomach butterflies, sweating and a focus on the problem at hand.
Kenton B activates proportionately in situations perceived as dangerous or nerve-wracking such as walking through a dangerous area at night, just before a huge speech or a high level job interview. General Anxiety, is when Kenton Bridges goes rogue and on overdrive, not switching off even though there isn’t any danger present.
Synonymous with Kenton’s capabilities, some of the most common physical symptoms of Anxiety include muscle tension, an increased, intense heart rate, a tight chest, shaking, an uneasy, sick feeling in the stomach, breathing difficulties, sweating, thirst, dizziness, needing to use the toilet and not being able to verbally express oneself.
Some mental symptoms include feeling like everyone’s watching you, like things are going too fast or slow motion, thinking you’re having a heart attack or you’re going to die and a hyper awareness as if you’re in a dangerous situation. With general anxiety can also come anxiety/panic attacks, which is a severe, intense version of these symptoms over a short period of time (5–20 minutes).
I can’t trace back exactly when my anxiety ‘started’, but I can recall consistent unease when I went to boarding school in Nigeria for three years which was a culture shock considering I was barely in my teens and grew up in London, where things operate completely differently. Over here being misbehaving got me detentions, at boarding school I got beat with a cane (God knows how many times this happened). Over here, a bug bite is normally harmless aside from the pain or swelling. In Nigeria, a mosquito bite can equal malaria, a tropical disease that can be fatal if not treated properly.
This continued when I came back and had to navigate secondary school and college life without getting caught up in the dangers of inner-city London as a young male, particularly gangs and violence. Thanks to God I wasn’t stabbed or shot as many friends & associates were, but precautions meant not going to certain areas and not leaving school alone after hometime to try and prevent being robbed.
I’m going off on a tangent but I remember talking about growing up in inner city London with the mandem & my bro Rashide came up with a term called Post Ends Stress Disorder (PESD), not too different from PTSD but based on traumatic experiences gained from growing up in the hood.
I moved out of South London to a suburban area just before I turned 19 & that took me out of that environment — by this time I was running Comuzi with my bros but the daily unease never went anywhere. I would absolutely dread networking, & could be at a meeting or a phonecall & wouldn’t say a word because my anxiety would go on overdrive and I’d freeze and sweat.
Don’t feel sorry for me by the way I don’t need it lol, I’m just providing context by talking about time periods that likely intensified my anxiety overtime that others might be able to relate to.
I’m working on myself on a daily basis, but didn’t realise I was dealing with anxiety until 2018 which is why I feel like awareness of so important for people who might be going through ill mental health without an in depth understanding.
Over the last six months I’ve been honing on self-care, and dealing with my anxiety so it doesn’t affect my day to day life negatively. Please note that I’m not a medical professional but here’s what I’ve found to help:
Therapy — Big up my therapist. I’ve only been therapy four times, but I can’t stress the importance of these hourly sessions. It’s helped me understand my anxiety in scientific & personal depth vs previously not knowing what I was going through & its helped me offload vulnerably in a safe, confidential space where I won’t be judged. My therapist gave me a plethora of practical tools and techniques to help alleviate my anxiety, which I’ll talk about below. You can get therapy freely through the NHS or privately. There’s also a great site if you’d like to see a black or asian therapist.
Meditation — Put simply, this is focusing on one thing, such as your breathing, or your senses to free yourself from distractions and calm your nerves when there are 7.6 gazillion things running through your head. I normally do this by sitting down with my back straight, closing my eyes, and breathing in and out slowly. My focus in normally on my breathing, the ceiling or what else I can see or smell, however you can also meditate on the move/doing a range of activities — I use Buddhify for this — it’s £5 and available on IOS & Android. More information on meditation can be found here. Simply taking deep breaths really helps to alleviate anxiety.
Exercise — This is a no brainer. Since exercising regularly my anxiety has lessened, I’m slowly becoming more confident, my dark chocolate skin is glowing & I feel considerably better on a day to day vs when I wasn’t exercising. There’s gigatons of info on exercise online but my point is, get to a gym or a treadmill and sweat yourself out! You’ll thank me when you’re done.
Letting go — Some of my bad days are based on me over thinking/over analyzing things that aren’t in my control. The truth is I can’t protect all my sisters at once, I can’t end world hunger, and I can’t control what people think about me. One way I let go is telling God to take control of my day. I get that not everyone is religious or spiritual, so for someone it could be accepting things you can’t control, or focus on the positive changes you can make.
I feel like I’ve written too much, but other tips I’ve got are to 1) sleep well every night to avoid irritation on top of anxiety you might already have, 2) eat & drink well (too much coffee can increase anxiety), and 3) positive affirmations — I occasionally tell myself I’m beautiful and flipping smart and it seems to be helping!
I really hope this has helped, and feel free to share your thoughts below or pop me an email at email@example.com x