A Skillsroader (20 years old) shares how their struggle with anxiety impacted their job and friendships, and what helped them to cope.
“Stuck in an anxiety loop”
I think the main reason I used to get anxious before work was because I didn’t enjoy my job. I always dreaded going and then right before my shifts I would panic. I didn’t want to call in sick to get out of it because that also made me anxious. And even though everyone told me to quit since I hated it so much, the idea of handing in a resignation letter would also make me panic. So I was stuck in an anxiety loop, basically.
Work wasn’t the only thing that made me anxious at that time, I had pretty bad anxiety and there was a ton of stuff that would trigger it. The first time I remember getting the anxious feeling that I used to have was after I moved from my hometown to the city, I think the big change is what started it all. We lived in the city for only about six months but when I moved back to my hometown things didn’t go back to normal.
“Having someone in the know definitely helps”
I had developed a bit of social anxiety and even though my friends wanted to catch up with me, it used to make me feel anxious. The worst part about my anxiety is that even though I wanted to do things, I physically couldn’t bring myself to do them. It’s a total mental battle. I wanted to go see my friends and believe it or not I wanted to feel calm enough to work my McDonalds’ shifts without panicking before I got there. The HSC was also another factor of anxiety and the pressure of exams and doing well would scare me. I thought that if I didn’t get good results people would think less of me and I wouldn’t get a good job.
The only person I could talk to about all of this was my mum, since it was basically impossible to hide it from her. She was a huge support and having someone in the know definitely helps, it was good to be able to go to her whenever I felt down.
Some of the least helpful advice is the obvious stuff, like when people told me to just calm down or what I was panicking about isn’t even a big deal. That stuff usually comes from people who have never experienced a panic attack and it just doesn’t help, especially in the moment, it’s the last thing you want to hear.
What did help me was googling around for some methods that could help me calm down in a situation like that. There were two main methods that I used to do to calm myself down. The first is simple and everyone usually says this one, deep breaths. If you focus on taking deep breaths it can help take your mind off of whatever was making you anxious. It doesn’t always work but it can at the very least calm you down a bit more.
The other thing I used to do was take note of things around me, in particular the people. I would look at people shoes and in my head just take note of all the small details on their shoes, from colours, patterns and how old I thought they were. I saw this trick on the internet (I just tried finding it and couldn’t find it now) and if I was panicking in public it was a great way at calming me down. I think the main thing from these methods are that they distract your focus from the thing that’s making you anxious to something else.
“I’ve started to realise that I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff”
I finally worked up the courage to quit my job which eliminated one of the major factors of my anxiety. Eventually, things just started getting better and I started coping with it. I found a job I enjoyed going to, I hang out with my friends every weekend and I’ve started to realise that I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff.
It’s difficult to explain but over time I just started to adjust. It wasn’t where I just woke up one day and was rid of anxiety, it was a slow process, it takes time.
One of the only times I get anxious nowadays is when I have to do some sort of public speaking. To cope, it’s still the same thing, deep breaths and adjust my focus to something else around me.
To anyone who is going through a similar thing, it does get better! If you learn some coping mechanisms that work for you in the meantime, that’ll help you get through the rougher times. Try and recognise and eliminate as many things as possible that make you anxious. It takes a long time and is definitely a process. But what you feel is normal and more people than you realise experience it at some point in their lives.
Are you struggling to cope? Talk to someone you love and trust, or find help here:
Main image: Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash
- Online support forum Beyond Blue: www.beyondblue.org.au, 1300 22 4636. You can also email them, or chat to them online.
- Kids Helpline’s motto is “Anytime. Any reason.” They focus on ages from 5 to 25 and help you access support groups and peers going through similar tough stuff, so don’t be afraid to use them: https://kidshelpline.com.au/ or 1800 55 1800
- Lifeline focuses on crisis support and suicide prevention: www.lifeline.org.au/ or 12 11 14