Here at The Hessian Collection, it's our aim to enlighten our girls with motivation, confidence, and empowerment. We believe in the importance of addressing and discussing internal concerns such as anxiety, to help others on their journey. Today we have the gorgeous Rebecca Portugall chatting with us about how to overcome anxiety.
First off, that is a huge compliment - thank you! I really value being on a platform dedicated to uplifting others. I firmly believe in confidence and being the person behind your own success. To begin, I was born in South Africa and moved here to Australia at the age of 9, the transition itself was a challenging time but is definitely something I am grateful for. I’ve grown up within a small nuclear family, completed my HSC and graduated last year with a Bachelor's Degree in Business majoring in HR and Marketing. For the last year and a half, I have been working full time as a recruitment consultant and have been loving it! I have a very close family and a small group of friends who I really value - I find I feel the greatest amount of joy in fostering these relations and my personal achievements, I personally think it is so important to value yourself and be kind. But my overall health and mental health have been pivotal in shaping who I am today.
When did you discover you had Anxiety and what were your symptoms?
I discovered at the age of 9 when I had been in Australia for only a couple of months, we had moved from South Africa (SA) due to the high level of crime - it took a long time to digest that I was in a new “home”. I came from SA where we lived in a mansion on 2 acres of land, with 3 metre walls, electrical fencing, security guards and panic buttons. It was an environment where you were constantly on alert in an effort to protect yourself and home. In Australia it contrasted heavily, we moved to a smaller home which has no security systems or guards, just a front door lock and a tiny street wall which came up to the height of my knee. it made me feel vulnerable - one night It became all too much; that is when I had my first anxiety attack which became something that occurred every night for 3 years when the sun started going down. My initial symptoms were a 1- 2-hour episode of panic characterised by irrational thinking where I “felt” my chest closing, I would be hyperventilating, feel disoriented and dizzy, had heart palpitations and a dry mouth. I was convincing myself I was in danger of dying and I would be a distraught mess. These episodes varied in severity and have been something I’ve battled for 10 years - it comes in waves and I have had to manage as I’ve gotten older. The symptoms I now have comprised dizziness, shortness in breath, lack of appetite, inability to sleep and heart palpitations.
How you did you come to understanding where your anxiety stemmed from?
It has been a huge process and probably one that is ongoing, my anxiety changes as I grow up and that is the challenging aspect of managing it. At 13 I went to the Macquarie anxiety clinic where I completed a 10 step program - this had a huge impact on correcting my irrational thoughts and fears about the likelihood of things harming me (relating to activities such as catching transport, phobias of germs, and catastrophic events). More recently, when I went to Europe 2 years ago, I suffered my worst episode yet - I was a shell of myself, I had lost 13 kilos, couldn’t sleep, suffered hormone imbalance and had multiple attacks a day. I came home early from the trip and saw a psychologist, nutritionist, and GP all in one day to really pinpoint how I could manage it. At this point, I had withdrawn from reality. I became irritable, isolated and in a way depressed.
Through learning about it, I understood I suffered from “fight or flight” - which is a psychological reaction to a perceived harmful event (stems from leaving SA) the effect of this raised my cortisol levels, decreased my appetite and heightened my nervous energy. Essentially I was running on nothing which further impacted my psychological ability to think rationally - it was cyclical as they all inadvertently propelled each other. My panic thoughts drive fight of flight mode - this decreased appetite and raise cortisol - as a result, I suffered a lack of essentials (food and sleep) which altered the operation of my cognitive thoughts in my frontal lobes which control my body and anxiety. It was all a vicious cycle.
What helps in your day-to-day activities to alleviate the pressures of Anxiety?
There are 4 things I do to alleviate the pressures of anxiety and it really is so simple, but so important and effective for me.
Eating and drinking enough!
Exercise - it is a huge stress relief!
Do something artistic (painting/coloring) = this activity relaxes me and allows me to be consumed mentally in something creative. It helps me disengage from anxious thoughts/triggers.
How do you deal with attacks when they come on these days?
I saw a psychologist for about a year, who assisted me in breaking down my thought patterns and how to think about them rationally. Fortunately, I haven't had one in 7 months! I am a lot more vocal nowadays which I find helpful, I know that when a sensation or an actual attack comes I should go through the following:
Tell someone around me, let them know how I feel. This prompts the flow of conversation which occupied my mind but also enables me to rationally map out my thoughts. I consider the likelihood and probability of what i making me anxious
Eat something - this can simply stabilize my blood sugar and oldy enough confirms my chest isn't closing so I am immediately a lot calmer
Busy myself - a lot of my attacks are due to negative thoughts which I convince myself of. I mentioned earlier I became isolated and depressed which really made me feistier in my anxious patterns. Being busy and social eliminates the capacity to do this and fulfills me in other ways she has contributed heavily to breaking out of my pattern of attack
What advice would you pass on to people wanting to make the healthy transition you have?
Invest in yourself! dedicate time to understand and better yourself, and everything else will slowly fall into place. Society has a way of complicating things and making people feel less than. Everything that challenges you is temporary- change starts with you and your mindset, you will never be fixed but it can always be managed, you just have to find the best way which works for YOU! Be assertive because without empowering yourself you won’t be able to successfully build a sustainable life which fulfills you and bring you happiness.
Take care of, you!
Thanks for chatting, Bec!
Bikini Featured - St Tropez String/ Baby Pink & Lavender and Monte Carlo String/ White
Rebeccas's Instagram: @RebeccaPortugall
Photographer: Lyndon Marceau - @Marceauphotography