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,

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,

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,