For people with anxiety leaving the comfort zone of your house can be extremely challenging to deal with. After I had a mental breakdown I struggled to leave the house to go anywhere, but the good news is it will get easier. I used graded exposure therapy a lot to allow me to get back to living the life I was before, for example on nights out, going back to uni and going shopping.
Graded exposure is a technique that has really helped me, it involves setting a goal, which for me was going to work like I normally did. You break this down into a lot of steps, you start at the beginning and only progress to the next stage when you are 100% comfortable with the stage you are at. I started by taking diazepam three times a day at work then reduced the dose every week until I didn’t need it. Then I added driving to and from work and now I am fully comfortable with going to work. When you think how I was being sick at the start because I didn’t want to go to work, getting back into being able to go to work is a great achievement. You can apply this technique to literally anything that you are scared of doing, whether this be driving, taking the train or going into town by yourself.
Having someone with me throughout completing this challenging things helped me beyond belief so I recommend involving someone in your exposure therapy. Not only will this make you calmer about trying it, but it will also motivate you and force you to continue with it until you reach your desired result. You need to keep going with it – you can’t give up. Every time you have doubts remember how far you have came and how far you can go. In addition, make sure the person helping you with this therapy will not let you quit.
Don’t worry if you have setbacks, it does not mean you have failed. It solely means you have more work to do. For example, I worked extremely hard at achieving my goal of being able to ride the train alone at peak times, but I had a set back and now don’t feel comfortable with doing that anymore. However, I understand why this is and recognise that I can fix this problem, I will just have to keep working at it. Personally, the hardest thing for me was people not understanding how I could go on the train the week before and not the week after.
When I leave the house what I always have in my bag:
- A bottle of water
- Chewing gum
- Reliever Inhaler
- My phone filled with games
- A hair tie
- A bracelet or watch to fidget with
- Chocolate bar incase I get light headed
This has resulted in me taking huge bags with me everywhere I go, but I find having all these items really help make me calm down as I feel prepared for every situation. I would recommend working out what you need in an anxiety attack and putting it in a small purse which you can transfer to every bag you use.
You can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf