Mental Podcast Show

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week 
15 – 21 May 2023 is Anxiety.

The Mental Health Foundation, the charity which has hosted the annual Mental Health Awareness Week since 2000, explains why Anxiety is the chosen theme:

“Anxiety is a normal emotion in us all, but sometimes it can get out of control and become a mental health problem. Lots of things can lead to feelings of anxiety, including exam pressures, relationships, starting a new job (or losing one) or other big life events. 
We can also get anxious when it comes to things to do with money and not being able to meet our basic needs, like heating our home or buying food. 
Focusing on anxiety for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week will increase people’s awareness and understanding of anxiety by providing information on the things that can help prevent it from becoming a problem.”
Andy, from North Powys, tells us what anxiety feels like to him, and shares tips 
which help him cope with anxiety in his day to day life.

To start off, could you give us a brief introduction to yourself and your situation?

I’m male – aged 63. I work part-time at a supermarket in Newtown. I have worked in a more intense, demanding IT job in the past, working in London, so my present job does not stretch the “grey matter”. Therefore, I have too much time on my hands to think and ponder over life, health and current news. 

I have struggled with depression over the last 13 years in Wales, being stuck in the house for many hours with not much going on. The “black dog” analogy and Silvercloud have both been useful to me, as is sharing with others that I trust and doing some volunteering and being part of a local church.

Tell us more about what anxiety feels like to you?

Anxiety is a feeling where my world is closing in on me. I don’t feel motivated to do anything or start anything new. It feels like I’m watching others having more fun but I cannot get enthusiastic about anything I am doing currently. I don’t look forward to doing anything and stop making any future plans.

What can bring on a feeling of anxiety in your experience?

My feelings of anxiety can be triggered by bad news on the TV, the weather, someone’s negative story or words to me, or it just appears out of the blue like random thoughts from nowhere. Sometimes they are nagging and recurring negative thoughts about my health or the future.

What helps you with your anxiety if you are at home alone?

I find it is helpful to me to limit the amount of TV news I watch to a short time, once per day. During Covid, I was watching TV news daily, and taking in every “blow by blow” announcement. This had a negative effect on my mental health. 

On big news subjects like the economy and wars and disasters, there is a constant commentary by journalists, who like to sensationalise every subject, dwelling on the negative side. I need to remind myself that what I’m listening to, is not fact, but comment or opinion. If I try and “wait and see”, and ignore it, it probably won’t happen (e.g. gas supplies exhausting and lights going off in winter in the UK). 

Having a faith, I do pray regularly, and God does take my cares and worries away. I find relaxing music (e.g. Christian songs by Hillsong) and reading the Bible (e.g. Psalms) soothes my soul and relaxes me when I am stressed or feel pain.

Cycling on the dunes at Newborough Forest on Anglesey

Tell us more about activities outside the home that can help with your anxiety

I like going out every day for a short walk with my camera, to maybe capture a new view or something natural like a bird or a flower in my favourite places like a park with trees, or along a river. Nature calms me and provides re-assurance in uncertainty. 

I also like to go out to a pub or a warm space, meeting people and socialising, to drink a coffee or read my book. It’s nice to see people and be out of the house. I like to go out for a motorcycle ride on a sunny day, as it is just me and machine in my space away from the hub-bub of life.

What was your experience of SilverCloud online Cognitive Therapy like?

I have found the “black dog” cartoon useful to me. It’s a very clear picture to me of what might be going on in my mind where the dark voice, or Black Dog, is speaking loudly to me. I sometimes find myself listening to it. The “black dog” is sometimes silent and sometimes barking away loudly and hard to ignore. 

I have completed the online Silvercloud course as my employer allowed me to have access to it for a limited time two years ago and I found it helpful and useful to me. Silvercloud (online mental health support) allowed me to study a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) course online at my own pace and there was a personal guide allocated to me.

If the current Cost of Living Crisis has had an impact on your mental health, tell us how and why

Having time at home does mean that I feel the cold virtually every day. No one likes to return to a cold house. So, turning down the heating makes me feel “down” and putting it on and then looking at the smart meter also makes me feel “down” about the potential monthly cost of heating my house in terms of the gas and electricity bill. I have to stop myself constantly looking at the smart energy meter. Some people hide it away.

At the Menai Bridge, Anglesey on holiday

Which non-medical approaches work best for you when dealing with anxiety?

I find getting out of the house regularly helps me. I find activities like volunteering (e.g. driver for community cafe in the Covid lockdown period, and doing litter-picking as a Keep Wales Tidy Litter champion) and being part of a local church, attending large and smaller group meetings, helps me. 

I also find being outside in the natural environment, having a good book to read at doctor’s waiting rooms or in the pharmacy, or cooking a new recipe helps me. It is important to try something new from time to time.

Do you attend a support group, and if so what do you find beneficial?

I regularly work at a large supermarket, which provides laughs and lots of “ups and downs”, but it has sustained me as a key worker allowing me to regularly get out the house three times a week, even during the lockdown Covid period. My workplace provides continuity, an income and a social life. 

I also find attending a weekly church meeting on Tuesdays is helpful to me, as everyone is a similar age at a similar life stage, sharing with each other how they are feeling about their health concerns and family worries too.

What is the one key thing which really helps you if you’re feeling anxious?

Try to tell yourself – “What if it doesn’t happen?” Or, “I’m better off than some others,” or “it might not be as bad as I have imagined, so wait and see”. Avoid over-thinking or worrying, as it achieves nothing and is damaging to your health. I am a “Work in Progress”. This is an ongoing battle as I am an anxious person. I am not “out of the woods” on this and there is always room for improvement and the need to seek help and share more with others.

Views from the motorbike above Newtown

Many thanks to Andy for telling us how anxiety affects him.

You can find support for anxiety in many different ways as Andy pointed out. 

Here are some links to sources of support in Powys:

Silvercloud CBT

Anxiety UK

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