Journaling, mindfulness and dealing with anxiety

The latest episode of Live.Life.Better. takes a look at the challenges of living with stress and anxiety in our lives, through the eyes of three authors with very personal takes and approaches to dealing with mental health issues...

"I think for me, being an anxiety sufferer, I think most of the time my head is just filled with noise. Just rapid fire thoughts and feelings and what if scenarios.

"It might be things like worrying to the point where you feel like you can't stop worrying about something. Feeling nervous, not being able to concentrate easily. Not being able to switch off. It can affect things like your sleep, you might have things like a racing heart." - Ollie Aplin.

Does this resonate with you?

They do with me, uncomfortable as that is to admit. I wish they meant nothing to me, honestly. But they hit home.

As a man, I suppose I feel like I can’t always express my emotions because it goes against what a man "should" be. Logically, I know this is a wrong and potentially dangerous way to think - because I’ll inevitably repress stuff that needs to be released - but I still find it hard to really and truly and exactly express how I'm feeling. Because I'm scared.

I'm scared I’ll be judged as weak and, therefore, not 'manly'. But you know what? Maybe I don’t have to talk to anyone about it. Maybe there’s another way.

Ollie Aplin is the founder of MindJournal and author of the new book, MindJournal: This Book Will Make You Stronger. And he’s found another way:

"Journaling has had a massive impact on my own life. It's been the go-to tool where I've been able to put all this stuff that I'm thinking or feeling or struggling with because I haven't felt comfortable with sharing it with other people either close to me, or a therapist, or someone else. It's still exercising it out of myself. Instead of keeping it bottled up, I can write it down in the journal. Also, there's tonnes of science out there that says journaling is just as effective as talking."

So if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s ok. You don’t have to. But will you continue to ignore and repress your 'stuff' forever? Please don’t. Because that definitely is not manly.

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Of course, there are always other ways to approach anxiety.

Chloe Brotheridge is the author of the new book, The Anxiety Solution, and is an advocate of mindfulness.

"Mindfulness is being in the present moment, and if you find yourself reacting or having the same kind of negative thoughts again and again, if you're more mindful, you're aware before that starts to happen and you feel like you can notice, 'Oh, I'm starting to have this anxious thought that I'll make a fool of myself at that party'. Or whatever it is, and actually think, 'No, actually, I'm just going to stay in this moment. I'm going to take some deep breaths'."

In other words, you don’t have to participate in your anxious thoughts. You don’t have to be all involved in your worries. You can simply notice yourself having these thoughts and then decide what to do about the situation.

Think about it: you are not your thoughts. You can hear your thoughts, right? See them, even? Well then, how can you be them? You can’t. You aren’t. Imagine what would happen to your life - to you - if you practiced that every time you had an anxious thought or worried about something?

Let’s finish off with one tip from both Ollie and Chloe.

Ollie first:

"It would probably be a case of finding the right tool. For me, maintaining my anxiety and looking after myself is almost like a daily thing, and that's taken me years to build up. It's all been a case of just finding these tools. I see a therapist once a week. I journal. I meditate. I go to the gym. I make sure I'm going for a run and I make sure I do at least one of these things once a day to make sure that I'm looking after myself and I'm being kind to myself."

And now Chloe:

"There is a genetic aspect to it… but a lot of it is learned. You know, there are things that you've taken on board through your life and there is absolutely loads that you can do to help yourself. It's not about being perfectly calm all the time. It's just about making progress and feeling better. There are, as Ollie was saying, so many tools that you can use. For me personally, I do meditation and exercise… there's loads that you can do in order to help yourself and feel better. Please don't put up with feeling rubbish. Get some help."

(Remember, when it comes to mental health, there is not a one size fits all approach. The Samaritans also offer free emotional support 24 hours a day in the UK. Just call 116123 or visit samaritans.org to find out more.)

What else you can hear on the podcast:

  • Why hypnosis can reduce anxiety.
  • How modern life is actually inducing anxiety (hint: it’s that thing you have in your hand nearly every second of the day).
  • Hear from Genevieve Von Lob, author of "Five Deep Breaths", on how children and their parents can deal with anxiety at exam time.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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