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Push through Anxiety or You'll Seize Up

Anxiety wants to isolate you. It wants to clamp you down. It wants to shut you up. You have to carefully, slowly, push your way through. Keep going.

Arthritis can be an incredibly painful condition and those who suffer from it should be admired. They push through the pain using coping strategies and medication because if you don’t mobilise those joints, they could seize up and the pain would be worse. In short, use it or you’ll lose it. Anxiety is a similar beast.

Anxiety wants to isolate you. It wants to clamp you down. It wants to shut you up.

There are days where it is exhausting just to open the curtains. There are days you can get to the local shops and back. But whether it is agony in your knee or a burden on your mind, you have to try.


In 2015, I worked at the UK and Eire HQ for a large multi-national manufacturer. After five years with the company, I was forced to leave – after I tried to kill myself. It took a long time but I'm getting better. Each step is a little push.


RuPaul quite rightly says “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else”. That same love can be applied to care and support; if you don’t help yourself, how the hell can you help anyone else?

The CDC (a department of the US government) encourages those with arthritis to take up their SMART challenge. I think the same can be applied to Anxiety and mental health in general:

Start low, go slow.

Modify activity when symptoms increase, try to stay active.

Activities should be “joint friendly.”

Recognize safe places and ways to be active.

Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist.

"To help yourself, you must be yourself. Be the best that you can be. When you make a mistake, learn from it, pick yourself up and move on."- Dave Pelzer

Start low, go slow.

Find an activity you can dip in and out of. Maybe something you can do for 10 minutes and take a break. Something where you can slowly build up and join in gradually.. Don’t expect to run a 5k on the first day. Consider activities like a walking club, singing for fun club, maybe part of the backstage team at your local drama club or even just volunteering at a care home or school.

Modify activity when symptoms increase, try to stay active.

If you all becomes too much (whether joints or pressure on your mental health) you can slip away for a while. If you can run 5k, you might not be able to do it every week. If you can’t run the 5k, do a little run instead. If you feel like going to singing or yoga this week is hard or you are already drained, maybe ask the leader if you can come for the first half and see how it goes. Sometimes the hardest part is getting over the first hurdle and once you are there you have the support and fun you really need.

Activities should be “joint friendly”.

For mental health, perhaps this is open to your interpretation. It might be that joining the local Drama Club provides you with the same ‘escapism’ it gave me or the idea of being on stage isn’t your thing, there are many groups like ‘Men In Sheds’ and ‘Library Games Club’ where you can be part of team taking part in casual activities. There is something to be said though for joining a sports activity and while it wasn’t for me personally, something like Netball or Lawn Bowls could be brilliant for physical and mental health. Being part of a team, a supportive team, can be very rewarding whether you win or lose.


Recognize safe places and ways to be active

For me this links in with the above activities but this also includes safe places where you can get support. Does you library offer a local drop in service? Is there a local Mind? Some cafes also offer a mental health afternoon. If there isn’t, could a chat with your local Costa manager help set on up? Another aspect of this is where would you go in an emergency? Or a time of crisis?

If you are in the UK, I really recommend an app called “Hub of Hope” which does a great job of signposting you to local services whether it is in a crisis such as Samaritans or more routine support. They have a website also at: https://hubofhope.co.uk/

Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist

Have you recently spoken with your GP? Have you been referred to a NHS Mental Health services or to a community service?

Many areas now accept self-referral so if you find talking to your GP hard, taking the first step to NHS support can be as simple as filling out a form. There is a long wait in most areas. Sometimes month just to have an assessment appointment before your referral makes it way to the right team. I understand that the long wait puts people off. I completely get the “why bother” feeling especially when you think you are stable. In reality, you might be slowly declining – for anxiety you might be slowly isolating yourself more and more – and it’s so gradual you don’t realise until there is a crisis. Refer yourself at the start and even if it’s only a light level of support… preventative is better than reactive.

I know the above might seem daunting but with mental health, you do have to practise and gently push yourself. If you don’t, it makes it harder to even accept or use the help you can get.

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."- Dalai Lama


Read more of my story on my website: www.MattStreuli.uk


For Further Support (in the UK):

•Mind, the mental health charity, provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. They won't give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect. www.mind.org.uk
I'm proud to be a member and Media Volunteer.

•Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am - 6pm, Monday – Friday)

•In a crisis: Samaritans are open 24/7. Call free from any phone on 116 123

Actor & Mental Health Writer. As seen on BBC News, talkRadio, The Guardian Newspaper, Mind Magazine, Sky News, LBC Radio and BBC Two. Also works for NHS.

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