I was talking to Anne about my life outside writing (or what used to be my life outside writing, of which more in a minute) and she wanted me to post something about it on the blog. Part of my other life is that I’ve been involved, for some years, with various charities that help people cope with anxiety disorders, and I’ve worked with quite a few people as a mentor trying to help them overcome panic, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder.
The techniques used are a combination of commonsense and cognitive behaviour therapy. The commonsense is stuff like getting enough sleep, eating well, cutting down caffeine and nicotine (which both make anxiety worse), taking aerobic exercise and learning relaxation and breathing techniques.
The CBT works by changing both behaviour and thinking (which is the cognitive bit).
It is fair to say that people with anxiety disorders are being plagued by irrational worries, whereas someone with breast cancer has a perfectly rational set of worries. Still, the techniques could be useful for someone trying to stay calm and maintain their quality of life while dealing with their breast cancer.
The other thing that can happen is that sometimes people develop an anxiety disorder as an aftereffect of a traumatic event, so that someone could make a good physical recovery from breast cancer but find that their mental health was affected by what they’d been through. Again, the techniques could be useful.
I’m currently involved with an anxiety charity called First Steps to Freedom, which runs a helpline every day, including weekends, from 10 am to 10 pm on 0845 120 2916. Anyone can phone for help and support with their anxiety, although the main focus of the charity is anxiety disorders.
And of course after more than 10 years of doing this voluntary work I found myself writing about it. The book is called Free Yourself from Anxiety, by Emma Fletcher and Martha Langley (Martha is my pen name). It’s on Amazon, and most libraries in the country seem to have a copy.