Society's construction

Life appears to revolve around society's expectations; what age you should get a job, the size of your body, how you should act. Of course, there are laws to follow and things we need to do as humans, but for the most part, society is just a construction that for some reason many of us seem to follow.

I have spoken to many of my friends who think that just because another person has done something that society deems as 'grown up', they are better than them. Definitely not. People develop at different times and what one person may be able to do at the age of 18, another may not. There may not be the right circumstances nor may you feel confident enough. Nor is the action "grown up" in everyone's eyes.

As the years went on in secondary school, the more I saw those around me following the crowd, which is great if that's what makes you happy. But, I know there were many who were just doing it to please others, and I somewhat felt like a bit of an outcast. There was so much pressure to fit in and change appearance; do things that deep inside they didn't want to do. I can't deny it's hard not to bow down to peer pressure, but as time goes by you'll be glad you didn't; if you felt it wasn't right for you. 

If a person has gotten a job, for example, that's brilliant. However, not everyone will feel ready to get a job and there is nothing wrong with that. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You are just as good as everyone else. As my mum says "you have the same right as anyone else to be on this planet" 

I think it's a great accomplishment if you undertake what you want to do, whether that be increasing your self esteem or getting a job; whatever makes you happy. But society is a construct and remember to look at and understand yourself first. There are bigger things in life, than what people think. Try not to compare and feel disappointed if you're not with the rest. You'll get there in your own time.

As I have said before "don't spend time caring about others opinions of you, as it will only hinder your journey and not their own". I know that this can be very hard to put into practice, but once you do, you will be able to be more of your own person. I've never followed the crowd, and perhaps that's why I got teased a lot at school. But at the end of the day, I am happy I've stuck with what I've believed in.

I know that with disorders such as social anxiety, it can be very hard not to care about what others think of you, especially with the images we are bombarded with in the media. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, as social anxiety is something I'm battling myself. But, the less you care about what others think of you, the more you'll enjoy your life. You only have one life to do what you want to do, just don't let it be hindered by other people's thoughts; it's not worth it. Remember; you have the same rights as anyone else. Let's all undertake the challenge! Go for it. 

Best Wishes,
Amy Xx

Tips for health anxiety

Here are my top tips to cope with health anxiety:

1. Google - As mentioned in my ten top tips post; do not self diagnose. I know there is a tendency to want to know what's wrong, but please don't. It can lead to the wrong conclusion, and it's highly likely not accurate; it's not a doctor. You'll end up feeling worse and worrying more as a result. It's better to distance yourself from 'Dr. google!'

2. Small Steps - You overcome your fears with a small step at a time. With health anxiety, try and do something you fear every once in a while. For example, when you feel you have stomach cramps - don't use Google. On the other hand, for me; try a food that you would worry that would make you ill. Each step is a step towards winning the battle. Do something you fear would make you ill, and see what happens. Highly likely, nothing will happen.

3. Logic - You are an intelligent human being. You know what will in reality make you ill, and what won't. It just so happens that there is a lack of clarity because of your health anxiety. For example, I feel I am going to be ill every day. But what you have to do is be logical and use your intelligence (easier said than done!) to explain to yourself that you won't be ill. For example, Have you eaten anything funny? No. Are these feelings highly likely from anxiety? Yes. Try and reason with yourself.

4. Focus - My therapist taught me that the more you focus on something, the more you'll notice it. For example, if you focus on your foot for a minute, you'll notice it's quite heavy. In the same way, the more you focus on your stomach cramps and sickness, the worse it will get. Try to think of something else or do something else; sing, dance, talk. Anything to stop your thoughts in their tracks.

5. Past experience - You'll know that from past experience that being ill and having health anxiety are somewhat different; even if it is extremely hard to tell yourself that. The time when you had a stomach bug, will feel different to the symptoms anxiety gives you. Write down your past experiences, as it will help you differentiate between real illness and anxiety induced symptoms.

For the moment, these are my top 5 tips. I may add more in the future. I hope these help you as I know how awful health anxiety can be.

Best Wishes,
Amy Xx

Health Anxiety

As you may have read in the 'About me' section, I live daily with health anxiety and unfortunately this is my most severe type of anxiety. 

According to Anxiety UK, health anxiety is defined as follows:
'Those affected by health anxiety have an obsessional preoccupation with the idea or the thought that they are currently (or will be) experiencing a physical illness.'

This means that for many people, they will regularly have the fear that they may have cancer, aids or a brain tumour amongst many other illnesses. There is also the tendency that if someone else has an illness, the person may feel they have the same. But, people may also be obsessive over being ill or becoming ill with a particular illness, like a stomach bug. From having one symptom such as a headache, many will jump to the conclusion that it's something a lot more serious such as a brain tumour, and in turn this will affect their everyday lives. Anything from a rash, a bite, a cold and muscle pain can all be taken to severity. You will often find many people with health anxiety taking regular trips to the doctors, to make sure they don't have anything wrong with them, otherwise known as a safety behaviour. A personal example was the time when I was getting really bad stomach aches, and was sure that there was something wrong and so I went to the doctors. After a few tests, I found out that is was just my anxiety creating the physical symptoms.

For me, it's not so much about being obsessed with getting a disease, cancer or a heart attack; although I am prone to jumping to conclusions. It's mainly the obsessive and controlling fear of being physically ill in front of people. For me, this is mainly being sick or having stomach bug, but it could even be something like a nosebleed. I question and analyse how I'm feeling pretty much from the moment I wake to the moment I sleep and this can be hell; as not only do you feel ill, but you are in a high state of anxiety. 

Many people would say now; "don't focus on it" and "stop focusing on yourself". But if you felt ill, you wouldn't ignore it. So for someone who feels ill pretty much all of the time due to anxiety and has fears of illness, it would hard to justify your statement. Just like if someone has a fear of dogs, and they are constantly worrying that a dog might be near them, you can't just ignore it. You're scared.

It can become a downward spiral. For example, every day when I have school, I will wake up feeling ill, which is typical of the flight or fight system. However, feeling this way will make me think I am actually ill and have a bug. Therefore, I will find it very difficult to leave the house. Especially if I have to get in car or a bus etc. Because I feel I cannot escape, it becomes a big issue. Of course, this heightened anxiety will increase the symptoms.

I've had this fear for as long as I can remember, but it got really severe back in 2012, when my anxiety began to creep in. You can read more about it hereI've had to cope with it for a very long time, and I'm not going to deny it; it's very debilitating. For example, struggling with public transport in the fear that I cannot escape incase I am ill. Not going to school, incase I am really ill. Not doing driving lessons, incase I cannot leave. Basically, it hinders anything and everything from going for a walk to giving a presentation. I know for some of you reading this it sounds absolutely ridiculous, but think about your worst fear and how debilitating that is. The mind is extremely powerful and my phobia works in just the same way as yours. 

Recently, however it's taken a new turn. I am avoiding certain foods in the fear that it will make me ill. For example, I won't eat some meat, I will be obsessive with dates and dairy amongst other things to ensure that I don't get ill. Even though I know bugs are all around me, I try to prevent illness in any way I can. Obviously, not eating certain foods and eating less food is in no way good for my health and I am slowly trying to overcome this area of anxiety.

I hope this has been helpful to you in some way. I know many people will say "stop worrying" and "there is nothing wrong with you", but it's hard to when it's a fear. Don't forget, talking is the most important bit of advice I can give you. Don't bottle your feelings up and certainly seek professional help if you feel you need it. 

Best Wishes,
Amy xx 

You can buy determination?

I asked the people of twitter whether they would be happy to see a series on education here on my blog and many were happy with the idea. This series will include advice, tips, my thoughts, mental health and anything else that can be to do with education and motivation. If you have a specific topic you want me to write about, don't be afraid to let me know.

You can buy determination?

Many times a day, I hear and read about people lacking motivation and/or determination. "Where can I buy some motivation and determination?" you ask. Well I have come up with a solution.

Over these last few months, I have felt drained and I suppose I have lost a bit of my determination. But, looking back to last year I questioned what it was that encouraged me to keep going; whether that be through my A-levels, discrimination and general self improvement. I ended up writing a little speech and it has relighted my fire to go full steam ahead. 

Think of all of the people that have said you couldn't do something. For me this is the biggest determination. Recall all of those comments people made about you, saying that you can't do it, you'll never make it. All of those times they made you feel awful. Recall these and use them to your advantage. Show these people wrong and show them you can do it. Beat them and have the last laugh. Never, ever let someone make you feel small, and if they make derogatory comments, know that they will regret it because you will succeed.

Think about what will happen if you achieve what you want to. If you want prolonged periods of sadness and hurt because you knew you could've tried harder, then don't work for what you want. You'll end up in a worst state. Or imagine where you could get to. You've worked incredibly hard with blood sweat and tears. Yes, you've missed out on a few gatherings with friends, not eaten what you wanted, but you've achieved your goals and this has made you elated and so happy, and ultimately got you where you've wanted to be. This happiness lasts for a very long time in comparison to the blood sweat and tears you've shed. I know where I'd rather be. I am not going to let myself get behind and have it affect possibly years of my life, making me sad, wishing I'd done something at the time. Don't make your life harder than it needs to be.

Think of all of those times you've been disappointed with yourself. All of those times others may have been better (it's never useful to compare, unless for this reason!) think of the times people have gloated about how far they've gotten, and how secretly unsympathetic they were to you. Well, take this anger from the disappointment and other people and show yourself and the others that you can do it. You will improve and you will beat the others and again, have the last laugh. Work it and win it. You can do it, so do it now. You have the power to change it, so why not start now? If you want it enough, you will get there. Work hard, play hard.

Best Wishes,
Amy xx

Better yourself

As much as we would like to turn back time and change things, we can't. Perhaps one day in the future, but not now. Things are locked in the past and cannot be accessed, as much as we'd like to. There are things we cringe about and things we wish we had done differently, but it's all part of being human and at the time, it's something you felt was right. We can no longer worry about it, as it doesn't change anything, whether that be in the past or the future. We can only improve.

As each day goes by, there is another chance to change the way you are living. Another one of my favourite quotes "every second is a chance to turn your life around". As we cannot change the past, we can only better ourselves. Each day our understanding of the world increases and our actions change as a result. Every action we learn from. We learn from our mistakes and hopefully become better people.

The moral here is that as much as the past may hold both good and bad, each day you can change and improve. We cannot differ the past, but learn and understand why. Each day you can do something you've always wanted and work towards your ideals. "Don't let the past rob you of your present".

I know with anxiety, each day can seem a drag. It's important to learn from the days you spent crippled with anxiety and know that it's part of the journey and it's made you stronger as a result. If you cannot change it, then we must find a way to battle and survive it.

So, what are you going to do to better yourself? Eat healthier? Join a club? Use social networks less? give to charity? Any moment is a fresh start. As Russell Brand stated, you don't have to wait for a new week or certain day to change. You've got the power to change, what will you do to better yourself? 

Best wishes,
Amy xx

New Years resolutions

As many will know, we've hit 2014 and have said goodbye to 2013, which generally I'm glad to see the back of.

Each year I tend to set myself goals and resolutions, many which I tend not to stick to! But this year, I've made them more manageable and realistic. I think it's important to set goals, or even things you wish you've always done; like a bucket list. It's important to make sure you have something to strive to and even something you're looking forward to; as these things keep you going when you feel you want to give up. In true New Years fashion, I am going to share a few of my goals with you. Perhaps you can gain some inspiration and in return, you could always let me know some of yours. These are only a few picks, I have over 20 goals this year!
  • Become healthier: the typical goal that I never tend to stick to. However, I aim to be joining a boxercise club in the next few weeks, join my cycling club and perhaps do a bit of swimming. It may also be a good idea to complete a little exercise before I study, to increase productivity as the brain can concentrate better.
  • Pass my driving test: I started driving in October 2012 and passed my theory in January 2013. However, my anxiety has meant that I have had many breaks and haven't had lessons since June. I think it's important to get back to it, as I am only a few lessons off from my driving test; which I cancelled as I was too anxious. 
  • Give blood: it's something I've wanted to do for a long time, because I can! I feel giving life to someone, is an amazing thing and also an accomplishment for me too.
  • Toxic people: As I wrote in my get out of the darkness post; in order to improve your mindset, you must get rid of the drains. You don't need people in your life who are full of negativity, drama, generally take from you and pick you up when they need you and then drop you. You need people who you get on with, generally positive and who will support you. 
  • Stop feeding my anxiety: With health anxiety, I'm constantly thinking that there is something wrong with me, or that I am very likely to become ill on a daily basis. Anxiety sufferers are also prone to 'what if', meaning you question and analyse the situation, sometimes leading to a panic attack. In order to curb my anxiety, I need to stop voicing the possibilities and gain some control over them. Usually, I would discuss what I am feeling and what could happen, but it's important to know that the more you focus on something in regards to anxiety, the more anxious you will get and the more the feelings will develop.

What are your goals for 2014? 

Best Wishes,
Amy Xx