Staff blog: A personal...

Small chair and tree inside a big book; a metaphor for the anxiety tool in this blog.

By our Comms Assistant, Ed Peston

All of us have difficult periods in our lives, and looking back at some bad times that I’ve had, it sometimes feels like they are a precondition for things to subsequently move forward in a new positive way. I had a recent example of this which I thought I would relay, hoping it might potentially help anyone going through a troublesome phase to not give up hope.

I recently had a bad flare up of an autoimmune condition, and was put on steroids to try to combat the symptoms.  Prior to this I had been going through a stressful time, and maybe this contributed to the flare up.   But the steroids themselves had problematic side effects in terms of making me much more anxious and agitated, such that I could barely function at all. I was due to stay on the tablets for 8 weeks and wondered how I would get through this period feeling this way.

One of my main ways of dealing with stress ordinarily is reading, but my mind was racing so much that this was impossible. I would pick up a book, but all I could read was a single sentence before my chaotic thoughts took over.

But suddenly, maybe out of desperation, I tried reading very slowly, and most importantly, reading out loud. And there was something about engaging with the book very slowly with my voice that calmed my mind, my thoughts and my body.

As children, we tend to initially learn to read out loud, and maybe this experience took me back to earlier, calmer times when I would do just that.  Anyway, adopting this reading out loud approach gave me relief from the anxiety, and I was able to turn to this strategy every time the steroid side effects got too much.

Now I am well, and off the steroids, and I have a new strategy that I can use when I am overly anxious for any reason.  Sometimes, something bad can lead to something good.  Hoping your difficult experiences can do the same.

Ed is author of our weekly Barnet Voice for Mental Health newsletter. Download back issues or sign up for future issues.

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