Dealing with anxiety

Anxiety and I have a colourful past.

It first noticeably impacted my life aged 14 when I found my nervous system going into overdrive at the smallest of things. I remember offering to cook dinner for my family and feeling so panicky that I had messed it up and was going to make everyone ill.

I also got very nervous at the prospect of going to parties and social events and had a big anxiety attack at my own birthday meal in front of all of my friends. It was horrible!

It came to a head during the dress rehearsal for a school play when mid-performance I completely froze. I couldn’t speak, the lights made me so hot and the faces of the other students watching me became a blur. I managed to utter that I felt unwell before running outside with palpitations, struggling to catch my breath and an overwhelming numbness in my hands.

My friends came to find me and brought our teacher who managed to slow my breathing down and get my fingers moving to get the feeling back. It was such a frightening experience and I went home in tears, unable to do the actual show.

My Mum took me to the doctors and I was referred to CAMHS for CBT which helped me to understand what anxiety was, what triggered it and how to re-train my brain so that I became less fearful.

Fifteen years on and it still affects me daily. Some occasions are easier to rationalise than others.

I’ve worked with multiple therapists for various difficulties over the years and anxiety always crops back up as it lies at the centre of so many different mental health problems. It’s still hard to nail even all of these years later, as it sneakily creeps up on you faster than you can tell yourself there’s no major threat.

If this sounds familiar and you struggle with anxiety too, I have put together a short list of five key tips that have helped me most over the years. Please read on and comment some of your own below if you would like…


Breathing techniques are incredibly helpful in lowering the heart rate and preventing the panic from taking hold.

When I feel my anxiety levels rising I kick start my slow breathing and find the process of exhaling at a reduced speed really calms me down.

I don’t know the medical technicalities but I believe that hyperventilation (the act of breathing very fast and not taking in enough oxygen whilst gasping) can exacerbate an anxiety attack so making sure you take long, deep breaths helps to counteract that.

Another major plus is that you can do it very subtly in public too, without those around you noticing what you’re doing.


Something that has helped me enormously is learning what anxiety is and how it actually benefits the body. Yes, benefits!

I’m sure we all know the basics – the ‘fight or flight’ response from the caveman days and how adrenaline prepares us to either face our perceived danger or run from it…but when you truly drill down into the effect it has on the body it makes so much more sense.

I don’t know about you, but I find the physical symptoms of anxiety pretty scary. My heart races, I feel sick, I get flushed, my tummy starts to flip, my fingers tingle – none of it is at all pleasant and adds to my fears. It’s a vicious circle.

I’m still not brilliant at it, but now that I understand what is happening and that it’s origins are actually to HELP not hinder me I can rationalise it more and relieve some of the fear.

I tell myself ‘anxiety is not harmful, just very unpleasant right now.’


Anxiety is relentless and exhausting, so it’s important to take some time to look after yourself when you’re struggling.

When I’m apprehensive about something, my nerves will be elevated so I have to use calm distraction techniques to settle myself back down. For me that’s walking, yoga, breathing techniques, meditation and guided relaxations or speaking to family and friends. Keeping my mind occupied allows less time for the negative thoughts to creep in.

It’s also a priority to take care of yourself when you’ve recently experienced an anxiety attack as you’ll be feeling vulnerable, tired and low in mood. I always feel a little sad once I’ve calmed down (and a tad emotionally battered and bruised) so simple things like having a hot bath, early night and listening to music I enjoy helps me to recover. You deserve to focus on feeling better when you’ve been through a traumatic ordeal.


Now, this one doesn’t work for everybody but I find it really helpful and calming.

Meditation means something different to each individual, but for me it’s phsyically stopping still, practising breathing techniques, focusing on the present moment and listening to guided imagery and audio relaxations.

This isn’t always possible in the heat of an anxiety wave and actually, it was never intended for that purpose either. Meditation practice is most effective when you have time to yourself, away from your stresses and usually in the comfort of your home or in an instructed class.

The more you are able to gain the benefits of this chilled downtime the lower your general levels of fear and tension will become.

Many people find it helpful for them to meditate first thing in the morning as it makes them calmer ahead of their busy days. Personally I find it more restful to engage in at night but whatever works best for you is fine. I really noticed a difference.

Monitor triggers and patterns

When you make a note of your anxiety triggers you will begin to see patterns of thoughts that lead you down the panic path.

Whilst attending CBT sessions, the therapist tasked me with the below exercise to track my anxiety levels and identify the key events that activated the ‘alarm response’ in me.

It was very revealing, and I noticed a few trends – mainly in the cause of the anxiousness and the negative thinking that prolonged it. I also couldn’t help but spot that I usually always recovered from it and noted that I was catastrophizing each time, fearing the worst and realising it didn’t happen.

Once I was able to learn from this, the anxiety lessened in severity and the perceived threat diminished.

I hope that helps. Please leave me a comment if you have other techniques that work for you.

G x

The A-Z of eating disorders (part two)

Welcome back to my A-Z of eating disorders (part two). I hope you enjoyed reading the first half of the alphabet, and that my thoughts and opinions resonated with you.

Please read on for the next instalment…

N – Nutrition

In all of the seemingly crazy obsessiveness with eating low calorie or ‘strictly healthy’ foods, it’s easy to forget that food is nourishment and needs balance. I look back at the days I only ate dry cereal, dry crackers and dry vegetables and wonder why I felt so rubbish! I’m still quite limited in the foods I will eat but I have a better nutritional equilibrium now and feel remarkably better for it. Nutrition education is very key in recovery.

O – Obsession

So many elements of ED’s are obsessive. The food restriction, calorie counting, body checking, compulsive exercise, bingeing and purging… it’s a condition that’s riddled with rituals that vary depending on the diagnosis. Tackling each of these one by one and reducing the urges gradually has worked best for me so far. It’s hard to stop them cold turkey and it isn’t sustainable to do that either as you’ll risk becoming even more obsessed.

P – Paranoia

Sadly, eating disorders are riddled with paranoia. You fear people looking at you, judging you, thinking you’re overweight, underweight, eating too much or not enough. You become deprived of rational thoughts and bend the world around you to fit your narrative. I’m still experiencing paranoid and negative thoughts on a daily basis so can’t say I’ve beaten them yet but I am getting to realise that is my irrational and illogical brain saying these things to me, not my true ‘Georgie’ brain.

Q – Questioning

Questioning my condition has helped me no end in my ED treatment. Being educated about the reasons why you feel the way you do helps to challenge the way you think and the behaviours that have become part of your everyday life. I now go to my therapy sessions armed with questions to ask, I have so much interest in understanding this multi-faceted problem so that I can hopefully beat it off for good.

A person standing on weighing scales.

R – Restriction

Food restriction is a huge part of my eating problem and something I tackle daily. It’s not a battle I always win, and I find myself giving in to the side of my brain telling me I should skip a meal in order to keep the world on an even keel. There’s an emotional high that comes with depriving yourself of food – it’s like you’ve won a competition or achieved a big goal, and sadly the feeling is addictive. I’m still in a place where the high keeps me motivated but I am finding myself questioning this more and enjoying the food restriction process much less.

S – Secrecy

Eating disorders are shrouded in secrecy and so many of the rituals and behaviours remain known only by the sufferer that is carrying them out. It’s the act of keeping everything to yourself that fuels the ED and gives it the power to continue as it slowly takes over your mind, convincing you you’re doing the right thing. Once you break down it’s walls and ‘out it’ to others it loses its grip and you begin to regain the freedom of your life.

T – Triggers

Many factors can trigger eating disorders to not only start, but also continue. The diet talk in the office, filtered-to-perfection influencers on Instagram, seeing your reflection in a mirror and longing to look different – it can be very hard to avoid these detrimental prompts and every trickier to ignore them. I know my triggers now, so I work hard to build my life away from them by limiting my exposure to certain profiles online and reducing contact with those individuals that have a negative effect on me. It really helps.

U – Uncertainty

Uncertainty is incredibly common with ED’s and you’re left constantly doubting and questioning yourself. Your mind is plagued by negative thinking, wondering if you’re making enough progress, or maybe if you’re recovering too quickly or not fast enough. I’m awful for comparisons, looking at those around me and worrying that I’m much bigger or smaller than they are and thinking that perhaps I should be more like them, whoever they may be. You start to doubt your own mind. Therapy certainly improves this, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still struggling with the thoughts.

V – Vicious circle

There are many negative thought patterns involved in living with an eating disorder and it’s difficult not to fall down the traps. My main cycle at the moment is: ‘I want to recover from my ED’ > ‘I have to gain weight for that to happen’ > ‘I am now gaining weight and it’s making me feel unhappy’ > ‘If I lose weight I will feel happier’ > ‘I need to lose weight now’. It’s an exhausting merry-go-round of torment and I’m yet to find the solution but identifying the habitual thought-loops is definitely the first step.

W – Worthiness

Everyone is worth recovery, no matter how underserving they may feel. I put off getting support for such a long time because I believed I didn’t need or require it. I thought people with eating disorders were much thinner and sicker than me and I truly couldn’t comprehend a diagnosis of anorexia because ‘that’s what really ill people have’. The truth is, regardless of your weight or appearance, it’s how you feel, think and behave that determines your right to support – not what you look like.  

X – xxx

Let’s face it, X was always going to be the trickiest letter. I’ve fudged it a bit by going with ‘xxx’ as a representative of love. ED’s require a tonne of love, support and kindness from people around you and professional services. Knowing that people love you is such a strong motivator for getting well, as is remembering all the reasons why you are loved and what a great person you are regardless of your illness. Love conquers all!

A neon sign saying 'love'

Y – Yearning

Not a day goes by when I don’t yearn to be better. Or wish that mental health problems had never shown their ugly face at my front door in the first place! It’s a deep longing that keeps me awake at night, wondering how different my life could have been if I’d never become unwell. In many ways it’s heart-breaking but it’s also a great motivator to improve and get life back on track before any more precious time gets wasted.

Z – Zest (for life)

Nothing zaps your enthusiasm for life like an eating disorder. They’re a breeding ground for low mood, minimal energy and a total lack of motivation or interest in doing things that you used to enjoy. If you’re not careful it can reduce your life as much as it reduces your food intake or body shape. Slowly but surely, I have noticed that desire to truly live a fulfilling life again coming back to me with the strong will to kick the ED into touch for the last time.

Let’s all keep going – we’re so worth this!

G x

Surviving a second lockdown

This week, I had the privilege of guest writing for the wonderful Sistem magazine again – this time with a light-hearted piece titled ‘My top five tips for surviving a second wave of Covid‘.

There’s far too much fear and negativity surrounding the possibility of a second lockdown this winter, so I took a humorous and reflective view of the lessons we’ve learned so far this year and how I’ll use them again if forced.

Do you agree? Take a look and see what you think…