Anxiety is more talked about these days, which you would think would lower the number of young people affected by this mental health issue. But with social media and other factors that can cause stress, anxiety is still more common than you think.
Young people and anxiety
Half of mental problems start by the age of 15, and 75 per cent develop by age 18. In fact, 12.8 per cent of young people aged five to 19 meet clinical criteria for a mental health disorder.
There are so many factors involved in developing an anxiety disorder, such as genetics, traumatic events, perceptions of yourself and lots more. The seed of insecurity can often be planted before the age of seven. It can be something as simple as name-calling in the playground, which can lower self-esteem and cause stressful feelings.
Anxiety and me
My personal anxiety disorder started around age 25 and went on until I was 29.
But looking back I’m sure I had bouts of anxiety and low self-esteem connected to food and body image around age 14 to 19, which let’s face it, is a tough age for everyone. We didn’t have social media back then, so I can imagine in today’s modern world the pressures to look ‘Insta-perfect’ can be tough!
Mental health problems weren’t talked about back then, so I didn’t actually understand what I was experiencing. I just knew I was in a bad place and not sure how to change things.
The healing process
The way I started to heal my anxiety was to finally face up to things and go to the doctor after four years of having social and generalised anxiety disorder.
He advised medication, which I personally, chose not to take, but he also sent me on a six-month course of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).
Alongside this, I had NLP therapy, hypnotherapy and found a life coach. I was prepared to suffer no more! I started doing yoga, meditating most days and practicing breathing techniques.
At the time, I lived with friends in central London and started to boycott nights out for nights in meditating. I swapped a girls’ Vegas holiday in favour of going solo to a yoga retreat.
My mental health was so important to me and I became obsessed with making it better. I also changed my diet to mainly organic and vegetarian, almost totally cut out alcohol, which previously I used to drink a lot, so I ended up having a complete lifestyle change. I was determined to be happy and healthy by age 30!
The key factors for healing anxiety
When you have an overactive mind, filled with anxious and negative thoughts about yourself, meditation is the key to untangling your mind. I describe anxiety as a knotted ball in your brain.
I had headaches every day for years and once I started meditating, the headaches slowly disappeared. Meditation is an amazing tool and it’s totally free! There are many apps such as Calm or Headspace which may be easier for new meditators.
I love The Honest Guys on Youtube. I have been meditating for eight years now and still do their mediations on most weeks.
If you prefer unguided meditation, find a quiet spot you won’t be interrupted, sit on a chair with your feet on the ground, take a few deep cleansing breaths, and then focus on relaxing every part of your body, starting at the feet and end at the top of your head. If thoughts pop into your mind, just observe and try not to judge or be involved in the thoughts, as that’s all they are, just thoughts and not reality.
Sounds crazy, but the whole time I had anxiety and all the different therapies I tried, no one ever mentioned the importance of breathing!
When you have an anxiety attack coming on (I used to have up to 20 a day at my worst), without realising, you hold your breath. When you hold your breath, your heart beats faster, you feel dizzy, you burn up and break out in a sweat.
As soon as you feel the anxiety attack building, practice a simple breath technique such as the 4, 2, 6 (Inhale for four seconds, hold for two and exhale for six). This breathing cycle regulates the amount of oxygen you take in so that you do not experience the fainting, tingling, and giddy sensations.
These are just simple techniques, but I also recommend something called transformational breathing which is a powerful healing tool for clearing stuck energy and negative emotions.
When I first started my journey, I used to burn frankincense resin in my room while I meditated. I’d read that it was a sedative and the calm feeling it gave me instantly relieved the feelings of anxiety I had.
It was through this discovery that I started learning more about aromatherapy and a few years later I developed a brand based on aromatherapy and emotional wellbeing.
I would highly recommend burning candles, using an atmosphere mist or diffusing oils, just make sure they are 100 per cent natural to get the therapeutic effects.
My go-to aromatherapy oils for stress and anxiety are lavender, frankincense, cedarwood, bergamot and ylang ylang. If it is sleep you have trouble with, lavender and frankincense are a great combination.
Yoga has also played a key role for me in having good mental health. For that hour and a half on the mat, I can calm my mind and move stuck energy around my body.
Before we started Made By Coopers, we spent three months travelling around India, practicing yoga every day, mainly Hatha, and over the years I have tried many different types such as Vinyasa flow, Ashtanga, hot yoga, Hatha and lately I have been doing Iyengar.
Given the time, I would love to get back to doing it most days like I used to, but running a business and looking after two small children, yoga has taken a temporary back seat and I just do one or two classes a week at the moment.
I still believe it is an important part of good mental wellbeing, so would recommend giving it a try if you don’t already.
No quick fix
With anxiety, the thing to remember is, there is no quick fix. It is a life’s work to learn the tools and techniques to deal with stressful times. The more you practice meditating and looking within, you will learn how to look at things differently and not react with irrational thoughts. Life will become a lot easier.
Stressful situations are still going to be there, but there are ways to not become emotionally involved. In the words of Buddha: “Don’t let the behaviour of others disturb your inner peace.”
To find out more about Made by Coopers Apothecary, visit: madebycoopers.com