What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal feeling that people experience from time to time.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to situations that we see as threatening to us. This can trigger what we call the ‘fight or flight’ response. This creates physiological changes in our body such as increased heart rate, feelings of nausea and breathing faster. Sometimes we may not be sure why this is happening. Feelings of anxiety can sometimes build up and become stronger, almost like a sense of panic. When this happens, it can feel very overwhelming.
A little bit of anxiety is normal and some people finds this can help keep them focussed on tasks and activities. Anxiety becomes problematic when it affects the things we do or our day to day life. When people experience anxiety they can often avoid situations that make them feel anxious, try to avoid thinking of things that make them feel anxious and constantly think about the things that are making them anxious. This is unhelpful and can often make the symptoms of anxiety feel worse.
What does anxiety feel like? (this list in not exhaustive)
Anxiety can affect the way we feel, the way we think and the way we behave.
- Tight muscles/chest
- Feeling dizzy
- Feeling nauseous
- Heart racing
- Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
- Feeling irritable or tearful
- Constant worrying
- Find it hard to concentrate
- Over analysing thoughts (‘they ignored me because they don’t like me’)
- Catastrophizing (‘if I can’t do this, I’m not good enough’)
- Being jumpy or feeling on edge
- Avoiding activities or tasks
- Always being on the lookout for danger and threat
What keeps anxiety going?
Sometimes anxiety can interfere with day to day activities. You may be feeling anxious about a potential threat. You may become more aware or alert to potential threats and your body may respond by displaying the symptoms of physical anxiety.
Strategies for managing symptoms of anxiety:
There are many skills and strategies that can be learnt to help manage the symptoms of anxiety, some are given below:
Problem Solving Approach:
If you are aware of a reoccurring anxiety, it can be helpful to think about things you can do to help manage the situation. Think about if you can do anything to manage this worry, can it be broken down in to smaller achievable goals?
(e.g. if you are feeling anxious because you are taking too much on in work, take time to break down the worry and think about things you can do to help manage the worry. This could be arranging a meeting with your supervisor to think about your duties, list your duties and highlight the more important and make an order of completion, take regular breaks).
Reduce Physical Symptoms:
It can be helpful to recognise the signs of early tension and use relaxation techniques to help manage the physical symptoms associated. Relaxation techniques include:
Progressive muscle relaxation is a method of relaxation that helps to relieve tension in the body.
Square breathing is breathing technique used to slow down breathing and is useful as a stress reliever.
Safe place imagery is a visualisation technique that can be used to help you relax at any time. It can be a place you have been to before or a place that you have visualise din your head.
Controlled Breathing is a breathing technique that can be used to help your body and mind return to a relaxed state.
Distraction is a technique that will redirect your mind off of current emotions. There are very many things you can do to distract yourself such as reading, chores, leisure activities and hobbies or going for a walk.
Mindfulness is a meditation technique that involves being present in the moment. Mindfulness is noticing what is going on around you in a calm way allowing your thoughts to come and go. The aim is only to concentrate on here and now. Mindful colouring can be focussed way of being mindful. You can download and print PDF colouring pages here.
Set a worry time
We know that trying not to think about things can make us think
about them more. It may help to set a time aside each day to
think about worries. When the worry pops in to your head during the day make note of it and come back to it during your worry time.