First off, contributing factors, what I believe has contributed towards my anxiety or made it worse in some way. From therapy and counseling over the past 3~ years I have worked out and come to realise what has contributed towards my problems, and I believe understanding your problems play a large part in helping you deal with them.
My dad's side has a history of depression and anxiety issues, not much I can do about that, just bad luck I guess.
Now I really take caffeine seriously, too much caffeine can cause heart problems, worsen anxiety issues, and deprive you of sleep. I believe those of us with existing mental problems are also more sensitive to it than others. From 15-20 years old I used to have about 2 cans of relentless and a few cans of coke a day, given that I may be sensitive this would put me a fair bit over my limit. A few years ago I decided to cut it down, and now I only have about 2 cans of coke a day. Both my parents have said I'm a lot more calm nowadays, I sleep a lot better and I feel less on edge.
I won't go into details, but I’ve also had involvement in both legal and illicit substances, which I believe have likely worsened my existing problems.
Back in secondary school me and a lot of my close friends were bullied on a daily basis for about 4 years. There was basically no where in the school that had a teacher presence to prevent it. I'm talking verbal and physical abuse to all of us. Why? Basically because we were geeks and didn't really like football in an all boys school, though I will say this was an ex grammar school that specialized in sciences.
The school was called Richard Hale, I feel I may as well name and shame. One rather silly accident of throwing stuff around a classroom, because the teacher allowed it to happen, then escalated into me getting into a fight. Then, me being a geek and the other guy not, you can imagine how that went for me. I couldn't go out into the town without half a dozen people giving me verbal abuse, threatening to lynch me and so on. I don't know to this day whether they did genuinely try to lynch me, but I actively avoided places where they openly said they would. In some cases the teachers instigated some of the bullying on me and my friends, siding with the bullies.
I did talk to my head of year at the time and he did lessen the bullying on me, but I don't think he had the powers to do much more. I will also say here that my brother who has autism and dyspraxia saw no end to the bullying at that school, and my mum told me other kids with similar learning difficulties also had lots of bullying problems.
Stuff at Home
So I mentioned that my brother has autism and dyspraxia, which meant that he was often quite difficult to deal with when he was younger. My parents would drink easily a bottle of wine between them a night, and then some more. I also noticed my parents were struggling with money, as a result I ended up pushing myself to do a lot in an attempt to do them proud, now I look back I may have done a bit too much, considering my mental issues.
My parents then broke up, although there wasn't much shouting and no fighting at all, it was still pretty hard to deal with.
Now, the other half, the nicer half - what I've tried and what has helped
I'll try to include all manner of stuff in here, what the GP has recommended, what my therapist has recommended, and other things I thought I’d try.
Through this I learnt a lot about how and why I feel like I do, I also learnt some breathing exercises and analysed my thoughts. Though it was useful, I didn't feel like it helped me significantly. I know other people have had a lot of success with counsellors though.
Therapy (mainly CBT)
It seems a lot of places are pushing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy nowadays. I recommend everyone at least to try this, it involves you working with a therapist in analysing your thoughts and feelings, and trying to disprove negative ones. To me it feels therapy is a bit more involved and engaging, and as such has helped me more.
I think since I have worked with 3 different therapists I’ve managed to take away a lot of different stuff, such as breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and ways of thinking about things that somehow help a lot. I find they also help me make reasonable goals, which allow me to deal with something better and progress in my recovery.
Relaxation techniques and breathing exercises
I was skeptical at first, but I think if you put some time aside to do these they can really help when you are feeling really anxious, I also think practicing these makes them more effective.
A tasty warm drink, caffeine free, with lots of good stuff in it! I like my herbal teas, I find they perk me up quite a bit.
I have a ceramic burner, just put a few drops of whatever oil I want into the top with some water, then put a tea light underneath. Now I don't know whether or not it helps for sure, but if nothing else it's very pleasant having your room smell of orange, lavender or eucalyptus (think cough sweets).
Again, I was skeptical, but my current therapist highly recommended I try it. Where I go they put 5 needles in each ear, in various places. It's worth nothing that these needles are absolutely tiny, and only go skin deep, so they really don't hurt much going in.
I was blown away with just how much it helps me relax, basically you sit there for however long you like, from 10 minutes to an hour, but I feel so relaxed, the time flies by! Even though normally I fidget a lot and can be quite restless. It also helps me with cravings, and I sleep a lot better if I’ve had acupuncture recently.
Group Based Services
These can be funded and ran in different ways, but essentially these are open to anyone who feels they need help, normally you can find out about these via your GP. I find they have a very friendly atmosphere, despite the stuff people have been through or are currently dealing with. There are services that focus on mental health, drug problems, money problems, or all of them!
Image of herbal tea used courtesy of Calsidyrose via Flickr under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Image cropped and resized.