Saturday, 23 July 2011

Anxiety and Mindfulness

About 6 and a half years ago after I had my second baby I started experiencing severe anxiety. It was all consuming, and terrifying. Absolutely constant. I tried to alleviate the feelings I was experiencing by running away from it. I found that the only time I didn't experience the symptoms as much was when I was busy, so I started going to as many playgroups and other similar activities that I could, and spend most of the rest of the time walking around shopping centres. It seemed that as long as I was out and about I was OK, but when I was at home with nothing to distract me, I was a wreck. I couldn't sleep, because as soon as everyone else was in bed, was the only time in the day that my mind was alone, so it seemed to go out of control with all the terrible thoughts that I had tried to escape during the day. Most of my anxiety revolved around something happening to my family. We were struggling on one income living in Sydney, so I didn't think I could afford to see a psychologist, but I happened to come across an advertisement that Macquarie University was running a study to test how different therapies worked on people with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I signed up straight away, and once properly diagnosed I was assigned to the Mindfulness Group. Despite having done a degree in Psychology, I hadn't heard much about Mindfulness and was intrigued. It was my one hope, so I tried as hard as I could in this course, and at the end of it I felt as close to cured as possible. In the years since, in times of stress, I have felt the black cloud of anxiety loom, but I have felt that I had a weapon to fight it with.

At the same time I was also experiencing really bad headaches. I had had migraines since early adolescence, and could cope (ish) with them, but these were a type of headache that I hadn't experienced before and were in addition to the migraines. I felt it was too much for me to take. I saw a doctor who very gently asked if I had also been experiencing any anxiety. I was surprised by this question, as it hadn't occurred to me that the two were connected in any way. I told her how I had enrolled in the study, and she thought this was a good idea.

At the end of the mindfulness course, not only had the anxiety subsided, but the new headaches that the doctor thought were related to anxiety were gone, AND miraculously the migraines also disappeared almost completely.

Last week I wrote about my allergies which have really been getting me down. One of the symptoms is a virtually continuous headache. I have decided to go over my mindfulness notes from my course, and see if practising the techniques, and see if it helps. So, I have decided to help keep me motivated I am going to share it with you, and try and write a bit each week (daily would be better, but I am not sure I can promise that!) about mindfulness. Mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in many things apart from Anxiety, such as depression, weightloss, stress, and just generally good for you regardless, so I really encourage you to read along and give some of the techniques a go. Like anything, it is about starting small and building up - practice! And most importantly, be kind to yourself!


  1. Sounds fascinating Susannah, and I will definitely be reading along with interest regarding 'mindfulness'. I am trying hard today to be mindful of 'me' while I sit here in my pyjamas drinking a hot chocolate at midday while Mr FGB has the kids ... we need those days sometimes...

  2. Oh Emma! Lucky you! enjoy it!

  3. Hey. I'm sorry I'm always reading these posts like, a week late!

    Thanks for this post. I've never done any course on mindfulness, but I'm quite sure it is key to dealing with GAD and post-natal anxiety, and I'm interested that you mention migraines as well. And weight loss!

    I'm pretty sure I've had GAD since early adulthood, which manifested as post-natal anxiety after my first baby. I'm on medication which helps immensely but mainly I see it as a platform from which to do the actual WORK on reducing anxiety (through CBT and other techniques). Thanks for the reminder that I need to keep working on living in the present. I've had migraines on and off, and I know they are related. Also weight - after my second kid I lost a heap of excess weight and it was largely by tuning in with my actual appetite. Again, mindfulness! Do you have any recommended reading on the subject?