I had almost made a complete recover from my anxiety in the past and, perhaps ignorantly, thought I would never let myself get so ill again. When things are going well, it can be easy to take it for granted. Perhaps some people would rather intentionally push the memory of harder times from their minds and I couldn’t blame them.
Alas, my own anxiety later returned worse than ever and took a strong grip of me for several years. I don’t mean this little story to sound pessimistic, but I want to make it clear how I came to learn the importance of keeping an eye on my mental health even when it seems well. Therefore in the last few weeks of attending therapy, I wanted to discuss this in detail with the therapist. There are different way to go about this and my therapist suggested weekly check-ins with myself at a fixed time and day each week. She recommended using these check-ins to ask yourself how you are feeling and identify if you are slipping into any old habits or creating any harmful new habits.
When you do identify things aren’t on track then it is also important to think about how you are going to deal with it. This might be simply making more time for dedicated relaxation, changing something in your lifestyle, putting extra effort into therapy if you are attending it or booking an appointment with a doctor.
So, these weekly check-ins were my maintenance plan and in theory I think this structured approach can be very effective. However, sometimes I would forget and over time it evolved into a more relaxed approach. Nowadays I find myself generally being more in tune with my thoughts so I notice changes as they are happening, whether it is appreciating the good or acknowledging the low. I don’t think there is necessarily a right or wrong way to approach monitoring yourself, but I believe it is an important part of recovery. This was proved by a case in point recently.
As a result of my reduced anxiety, I have been able to go out and enjoy myself more. I had a sociable, fun and booze filled festive season, but it was interspersed with a few episodes of sudden and strong anxiety. Thankfully each time they happened I noticed these were out of character with my current anxiety patterns. I identified that they coincided with increased consumption of alcohol and a reduction in participating in activities I enjoy like climbing and running. I am grateful I have identified the causes as I am now taking action to reduce my drinking and dedicate more time to my favourite activities.
This is what is working for me. I think the important thing for anyone else in a similar position is to monitor yourself in a manner that works for you so that you keep doing it in the long term.