Anxious to Leave, yet Anxious to Stay – How to Limit Anxiety When Leaving the House
There’s lots of situations that makes anxiety pop up to say hello. One of the most overlooked and yet common ones is simply leaving the house.
Is this familiar? It’s Sunday night, already you’re thinking about Monday morning as you have to go to work. The dread starts to set in. You don’t sleep well as you stay up late with wine, trying to put off the inevitable. Your alarm goes off and you feel sick. The thought of leaving the house is terrifying. All the little things start to catastrophise – nothing you own fits, the bus probably won’t be on time and you have no time. You hate your brain, you cry, you shake and ultimately you retreat back to bed. Cue much regret and guilt a few hours later and increased worry about being useless and letting everyone down.
Quite rightly your home is your safe place. When everything in the world seems scary and difficult, locking your door and being surrounded by the people and things that you love is wonderful. However, we have to leave our safe place at times. Whether it’s a doctors appointment, posting a letter or a full time job we have to get out there.
I use a few methods to make any trips out easier – some days I don’t need any help at all but others, it would take the house being on fire to make me leave. Here’s some advice less drastic than arson to help you.
Get everything you need ready the night before
This means a clean, ironed outfit and the accessories to match. Prepare a nourishing breakfast like overnight oats to save time. Plus, remember breakfast is essential after starving your body and mind all night. Anything else you can do to help that morning routine require less thought then do it. This could be putting everything you need for the day in your handbag, washing your hair and writing a list for the morning. Preparation helps settle your mind and it makes getting out of bed less effort. The excuses of ‘but I don’t have’ are eliminated before they start.
Take Control of Your Route
If you are going somewhere new then plan the route you need to follow. If possible go to the destination before you are required there so it is familiar to you. I remember walking to the location of my Group Therapy the day before so I didn’t have to worry about being lost on the day and I knew how long the walk would be. If possible don’t use public transport, or if you have to then get an earlier bus than you need to avoid stress over lateness. Driving also adds extra stress so if you HAVE to drive take quieter roads and take your time. Try and get to your destination using the prettiest route possible, especially if walking there. Take in the sights and sounds on the way and appreciate the world.
Before I leave the house in the morning I always have to have the radio on or music. Before I walk out of the door I put the same music on via my iphone so I have a continuation of sound. Furthermore, walking along with music in your ears helps you shut out the world (when you’re feeling too stressed to be mindful), keeping you safe in your own world.
Breaking for Fun
It goes without saying that you should get up in plenty of time before you need to leave the house, but doing this also means you can take breaks in your morning routine and reward yourself at regular intervals. I often get myself ready and then take some time to sit in the garden with my cats with a coffee. Sometimes on my way to work I’ll go through the park and sit on the benches to watch the world go by before continuing.
Give yourself a reward for going out. For example, after I go to therapy I always have coffee and pancakes at a local café. During work I will treat myself every few hours to surfing the internet, a biscuit with my tea or writing a blog article. And, if I get through a full day of work and have achieved something then I’ll have wine at night. I do feel like I’m constantly dangling an imaginary carrot to get my brain to do things, but it works for me and perhaps one day I won’t need a carrot – that’s the hope.
Sleep (in moderation)
Get a good nights sleep. If I have something big to do the next day then I will avoid my sad filled day naps and try to avoid alcohol. Before bed I’ll keep off social media as sometimes it winds me up and reactivates my brain into thought. I’ve made my bedroom a wonderful place, with a black out blind, fan, water by the bed, blind fold, earplugs, SAD lamp and expensive sheets. But, at the end of the day I spend lots of time there so it should be comfortable. Not everyone needs eight hours so don’t feel bad if you’re awake after six or (like me) you snooze for ten. Everyone is different.
So many people buy something new for a meeting or job interview but I’m the opposite. I like to wear things I’m comfortable in. I don’t need to worry that a new dress might not fit or make me sweat; or that a pair of new shoes might give me blisters. Go out in what is familiar. In addition to this, spray a familiar scent on yourself (sometimes a loved ones perfume/aftershave) or put a special photo in your bag. I know ‘lucky charms’ can be seen as trite but they can also provide comfort.
Ok so this is where I do get a little bit yogic on you all. When you wake up start to think about what you are grateful for. It might be that the sun is shining, or if it is raining then be grateful that the rain is nourishing the earth. It might be that you are grateful for the fact there is milk in the fridge or that your alarm worked – anything, however small. Continue this gratitude as you prepare to go out and continue it on your walk to your destination. It really helps me.
Being mindful in a situation will distract your mind from escalating. As you shower, think about the feeling of the water on your skin and the smell of the soap. As you drink coffee, think about the warmth in your hands, the steam on your face, the smell of the beans and the smoothness of the cup. Focusing the mind takes practise but helps so much.
These tips may work when you are feeling anxiety and depression creeping up on you when faced with having to leave the house. They won’t work every time and that’s ok, people understand. Just this week I had to work from home as I couldn’t bear to go out and my boss was cool about it. So often I’ve missed or cancelled appointments too but most people aren’t monsters and realise life doesn’t run smoothly.
I hope I’ve helped a little. Enjoy your next escape into the world.