Exercise & Anxiety

Exercise is vital to keep our minds and bodies healthy. We as human beings, were not designed to sit behind a desk and then go home and sit on the couch. Our bodies are amazing, they self heal, they create new cells, without them we do not exist. It is worth keeping our bodies well and this positively impacts on our mental health. A lot of people say they hate exercise, but there is something out there for everyone!
I personally, have found that British Military Fit (BMF) 3 or 4 times a week ( when well!) for the last 10 years, has saved my sanity. For that 1 hour I cannot think about anything other than breathing. Our instructor Taz is always amazing, calm but encouraging. BMF is not for everyone, I do appreciate that but it is about finding your own personal remedy.

“Taking part in physical activity can improve our self esteem (3) and reduce stress (4), thus helping to stave off the development of mental health problems (5). It improves the quality of our lives (6). It can show us measurable improvements that we can reflect on and this improves our feelings of self worth.
Regular exercise can improve our body shape, our body confidence and can improve our lung efficiency and our auto immune system, thus benefitting our general health as well as our mental wellbeing.” taken from my Anxiety Workbook .
Exercise is an investment. Our bodies sometimes are not truly appreciated until they stop working well. Body and mind need equal attention, they are connected.
(3) lfermann, D. & Stoll, O. (2000). Effects of Physical Exercise on Self-Concept and Wellbeing. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 31, 47–65.
(4) Salmon, P. (2001). Effects of Physical Activity on Anxiety, Depression, and Sensitivity to Stress: A Unifying Theory. Clinical Psychology Review, 21 (1), 33–61.
(5) Zschucke, E., Gaudlitz, K. & Strohle, A. (2013). Exercise and Physical Activity in Mental Disorders: Clinical and Experimental Evidence. J Prev Med Public Health, 46 (1), 512– 521.
(6) Alexandratos, K., Barnett, F. & Thomas, Y. (2012). The impact of exercise on the mental health and quality of life of people with severe mental illness: a critical review. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75 (2), 48–60.

How Education or Work effects Anxiety

Anxiety is becoming more prevalent. In my counselling practice the majority of my clients suffer from anxiety. The effect of anxiety on our systems is cumulative, a bit like repeatedly filling our coffee cup without first rinsing it out from the last time we used it. Anxiety takes hold of us and restricts our lives.
Anxiety at work or school can prevent us achieving what we are actually capable of, thus making us more anxiety ridden. This is an extract from the Anxiety Workbook:
“Anxiety and stress can affect the ability to perform at school or work. It can make us not want to go into school, college or work. Missing school has a massive impact on our ability to achieve academically. Missing work will often result in disciplinary warnings and possibly dismissal.
Wanting to achieve can make us anxious but it is likely that depression affects academic achievement not the other way around.
It affects ability to socialise, perform well and concentration. Anxiety can make people too scared to go into examinations, make them ‘go blank’ and fail to get their knowledge out onto the exam paper. Fear prevents us doing well and this effects future career goals. This fear and anxiety, unless dealt with, can follow us throughout our lives, stopping us achieving our full potential. This can also lead to depression.(8)”
This is the second part of the Anxiety Compass, contained in my Anxiety Workbook. The book has more information and a guide to help you overcome this condition that can be so invasive.

Living with ‘Eric’: The Coal Face of Adoption


I have lived with ‘Eric’ ( the impetus for writing my first my ‘Loving Eric’), since he was 2.5. None of it has been easy. A history of adoption is a history of trauma, running deeply throughout his cells, predetermined before we even knew he existed.
Eric has an Attachment disorder, this means that as the primary carer I am the focus and indeed the locus of his anger. I create the chaos within him but equally I am the only solution.
Eric has Autism. His world is not our world. He treads a different path. He does not understand social cues, niceties, feelings he engender in others.He feels deeply but only from his frame of reference. He feels injustice and seeks slights where none are meant. He antagonises his peers but accepts no blame.
Eric has ADHD. His mind like a bubbling pot over which he has no control when feeling anxious. It is as if the firework display has been set off all at once, before everyone has arrived. Which firework to look at, oh too many choices!
Eric has Dyspraxia which effects his fine and gross motor skills. I believe, although our Health Authority does not recognise the condition, that he has Pathological Demand Avoidance, this means that any request such as, please turn your light off can set off a major, messy meltdown.
Eric & I have always battled. I have been convinced that my tenacity can keep him safe, help him value himself and make him achieve against all odds. I have shaped his world, swept up in front of him, behind him, to the side of him. I have fought tooth and nail, to the point where my nail beds are engorged with blood ( figuratively) to get him support that has been so sadly lacking. I never considered that I could not make my boy live a life he deserved.
Recently I have had to reevaluate. He is now 16years old. We have all of the above plus teenage hormones and the desire to be unfettered by parents. He wants, no demands that I treat him as if he is 16 ( or older) but acts like a toddler. I have been sworn at viciously and blamed for all that is wrong. I have been told that he hates me so many times but I am realising that my methods are not working.
This term has been a disaster. He has fallen out with everyone, been beaten up at least twice. He has been reported missing once to date. He left college without permission, refused my calls and returned home at 10;45pm on my Birthday, the night before 10;30pm. He mixes with appalling role models, the effect of hanging with these certain individuals is like watching an actor taking on a role. He morphs within an hour of meeting the person into a feral, unreachable street child.
Eric did not celebrate my Birthday, no card, no present, deliberately not coming home and joining in our family meal. I was hurt but made sure that I appreciated the effort that my husaband had gone to in order to make me feel special. I made sure I appreciated my girls and how they felt for me when Eric went MIA ( Missing In Action) for 9 hours. I refused to let him spoil my evening, pushing down the hurt and worry, realising that neither emotion was helpful or could change things.
Eric sees no risk. He believes that he is safe. He believes that he is streetwise, able to keep himself safe. None of this is true. He believes that these influencers are his friends. They are not, but he will only see this when they reject him or hurt him physically as well as emotionally. Then he will feel regret but will also fail to learn from the situation and the next unsavoury character he meets will sweep him up into a loop of self destructive behaviour.
I am now in the process of changing how I face these challenges:
Trying to be more relaxed around him. Not engage in squabbles.
Take time to meditate
Take time out with my 2 daughters.
Realise that this fear I carry is just that. I am sitting with it and trying to connect with other healthier tethers, such as family, friends, even the elements.I cannot make him be what he does not wish to be.
When talking with him, I am not allowing him to talk about my wrong doings but bring the focus back to him, his choices.
Pick my battles. I now just want to know he is safe, where he is and agree at time ti come home.
Accept his mistakes that he is making, are his. I do not need to vicariously suffer.
Never stop loving him
Never stop trying to do my best for him
Remain in the wings….one day he may realise that I have always been the one holding his head above water.

Home Life & the Anxiety Compass

I designed the Anxiety Compass so that you can evaluate your life, your balance. I have come to realise that our lives need balance in order to make us feel connected with ourselves and with others. This connectivity reduces feelings of isolation and allows us to see our lives as a whole rather than in fragmented pieces. It is only by looking at our lives as a whole that we can see the parts that out of kilter. With knowledge we can then concentrate on that part that is lacking balance, helping to restore equilibrium. With balance comes less stress and inner turmoil.
“Families are complex. Media portrays the idyll, smiling families with 2.4 children, happy, wealthy, often living by the sea in an amazing house. The reality for many is starkly different.
Understanding your family dynamics and personalities can help you understand yourself.
Anxiety does not like to be alone, it feeds off others peoples anxious thoughts and actions. It is all too easy to gathers the traits from those around us, influencing us. Anxious young people often have anxious parents, it becomes the family script “we are all anxious in our family”.
In addition to this is the fact that not all families are supportive, living together or indeed in contact. These realities cannot be altered but can perhaps be accepted rather than railed against. If a family is too dysfunctional then support may be needed from external people.
It can be useful to identify who, if anyone in your family is a calming influence and encourage spending more time together.”
Please read my Anxiety Workbook available on Amazon or through my shop for more information and worksheets to help assess your life!

The Anxiety Compass

I am going to share how I developed this model of working. I would sit in the counselling session, some clients talk a lot, some not so much! I have worked in schools and a college for 5 years and you can imagine that some teenagers can be even more extreme at times. I found that a good way of entering the clients world was to plot out their life on a large piece of paper.
As time went on, the themes we covered became more clear, commonalities were everywhere. I then decided to consolidate my approach into a model that can work for anyone.
“The compass
Life is an intricate web of many interrelated parts that make the whole, the you. If one or more of these parts is out of balance or neglected completely then more often than not we feel unhappy, dissatisfied, out of kilter.
We know things feel wrong but are unsure why or how to make it better. This imbalance means that we use all sorts of coping mechanisms to self soothe. These are wide ranging and varied but here are a few examples:
• Avoid all social occasions
• Stay in your room/home
• Make your life shrink
• Self medicate with drink/drugs • Stop doing things
• Self harm • Give up
If we are able to identify which part is out of balance, then we can adjust it, a bit like balancing a wheel on a car. I have drawn up a ‘Compass’, with you at the centre and all your life parts on the circumference.
I have identified 8 parts that make up a balanced life, each one represents the most important components of a persons life. One part or many may be out of alignment.
The parts are:
1. Home life
2. Educational or work life
3. Exercise
4. Diet
5. Sleep
6. Digital life
7. Creativity
8. Socialisation
The aim is to look at each ‘part’ in depth, see how you now feed it or starve it.
The next stage is to collect ideas about how that part of you could be nurtured and then you plan for how to address the missing elements.
Each part is taken in turn and can be worked on over the course of a week or a number of sessions. It is up to you!”
Taken from my Anxiety Workbook available on Amazon or copy link one my shop.
Photo: Photo Aron on Unsplash

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