As part of Stress Awareness Month, we heard from our Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement Associate, Taran Ruprai, about her experience of anxiety and the techniques she has used to manage it.
In February 2020, I was sat at my desk when all of a sudden I felt unsettled. This was followed by a tightening of my chest, shortness of breath and heart palpitations which took control of me; I’d just been introduced to my new friend anxiety.
I’d never before been triggered by anything in particular, I’m always smiling, positive and embracing everything with open arms. That day changed a lot of things for me personally and professionally, as I would constantly be preoccupied about work and feel overwhelmed by everything I had to do. All of this happened quite suddenly, and shortly afterwards we went into lockdown which added to the burden of this new and unwelcome feeling.
After I experienced a panic attack, my manager reached out to me and I had a very open and honest conversation with him about things in my personal life that I hadn’t previously talked about. Primarily, I hadn’t given myself the time to grieve the loss of a loved one. It’s not common in the South Asian Community to talk about mental health, and coupled with being the eldest in my family, I had to bottle up my feelings so I wouldn’t be seen as emotionally weak.
As a result of that conversation with my manager, I downloaded our Employee Assistance app and used it to continue speaking openly with someone; just talking made a big difference. I also learned techniques for how to manage anxiety and focus my energy when it would start to creep up on me, as well as explore its root cause. If my manager hadn’t noticed something was up and asked for a chat, I most likely wouldn’t have addressed it; it’s vital to open up these conversations, both finding someone you can trust to confide in, and looking out for others who may be struggling.
The main signs that come up for me are a tightening of my chest and shortness of breath. When I notice these changes the first thing I do is focus my breathing, as controlling the breaths I take allows me to calm myself down. After this I’ll turn to my favourite pianist, Ludovico Einaudi. His music helps me to feel at peace, and when I have nothing on my mind, I know I’m in control. Regarding my work, I ensure to have certain things scheduled throughout the week, so I don’t get overwhelmed.
Getting outside has also been an enormous help. The first time I went for a run, I got a euphoric feeling called runner’s high, I completed my exercise with the biggest smile from ear to ear and felt great like a weight had been lifted from me. I was in control of my emotions, I felt relieved.
All these small things make a big difference to how I feel when I sense anxiety or signs of a panic attack. I control my anxiety, my anxiety doesn’t control me.