My name is Katie Buckingham and at the age of ten, I developed a series of anxiety disorders. These caused problems for me for many years and because of the stigma attached to mental health problems, I was afraid to disclose what I was experiencing for fear of what people would think of me. It was because of this stigma that I was unable to get the support I needed early.
Once I finally recovered at 17, I made it my mission to raise awareness of stress and anxiety and to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health problems so that others won’t have to go through what I went through. I began delivering mental health awareness workshops in schools and colleges and developed educational resources for teachers. I attended the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy and this is where set up Altruist Enterprises, an award-winning company which provides training to help organisations prevent and identify the early signs of stress in the workplace and help support staff more effectively.
Over the years, I have learnt many techniques in order to help manage my stress and anxiety levels. I would like to share them with you.
1) Talk About Problems
After all, a problem shared is a problem halved, right? We can get so caught up with our own worried thoughts that we start to become irrational. I often find that worries that seem rational in my head sound silly when I say them out loud. Talking helps you to share your thoughts and clarify what you are going through. Gaining an outside perspective can help you think about things differently – they may offer a solution that you hadn’t even thought of.
Exercise releases endorphins and helps relieve feelings of stress with regular physical activity being associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety. Exercise is actually just as effective for mild depression as anti-depressants are.
For me, football has really helped maintain positive well-being, it helps clear my mind and let go of negative feelings. There is also a social aspect to this too – I’ve often found that going out and socialising really helps decrease stress levels.
3) Help Others
Starting a mental health project in order to help others really supported me through my recovery from anxiety. I found that helping others gave me a purpose, increased my self-confidence and generally made me feel good about myself.
There’s science behind it too. Being kind can actually reduce stress and make us healthier. The emotional warmth associated with kindness can produce the hormones oxytocin and dopamine, which reduce blood pressure and make us feel euphoric.
4) Put Things Into Perspective
You may think that the current situation that you are in is the end of the world; however, in the grand scheme of things, is it that bad? I often think, I am one of 7 billion people on this earth, there are 365 days in the year. Is what I am worrying about on this one particular day in the whole of my life really that worth worrying about?
There’s a great song called Sunscreen which says: ‘know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum’. I think about this line every time I am worrying too much about something. Yes, not worrying is easier said than done, but examine the evidence and try to put things into perspective.
5) Be Mindful/Thankful
I practice Mindfulness meditation which is proven to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, but it’s not all of what I mean when I say be mindful. It’s about being aware of the current moment, accepting it and being grateful of it. We often plough through our lives on auto pilot without really stopping to think about the things we have.
I am currently part of a growth accelerator based in the centre of Birmingham. I get free office space, free wifi, free teas and coffees, free printing and free meeting space. It’s in a great location and has a great view of the cathedral and park in front of it, particularly in the autumn. I realise that I am not going to be on this programme forever, but I accept that and am grateful for the opportunity now. Just stopping to take notice of things and savouring the moment can really help support positive well-being.