Anxiety is a seriously debilitating condition which affects one in six adults. Anxiety is usually connected to feelings of constant fear and a never-ending sense of dread. Both can be almost impossible to manage. Anxiety affects work, social lives and relationships.
Anxiety is more than just an inconvenient human emotion; it evolved to help us respond quickly and effectively when under threat. Thinking the worst is a part of the evolutionary survival strategy and acting accordingly can save our lives because anxiety can force us to plan ahead and put in place a ‘plan B’.
When anxiety rears its ugly head, it’s usually not because a real threat. More usually, anxiety is present when there’s nothing wrong… It’s easy to become the victim of an overactive imagination, seeing normal everyday occurrences as a threat. Feelings of worry and anxiety can suddenly appear from nowhere, and for no logical reason.
A lot of people are plagued by low-level anxiety. In fact around 75% of people report feeling anxious some of the time, and almost 25% admit it’s even stopped them going out.
To try to combat the rising numbers of people showing symptoms of anxiety, the Government and NHS supported Every Mind Matters is trying to help people address symptoms before they develop into a mental disorder. Every Mind Matters offers advice on how to manage the kind of anxious feelings most of us experience from time to time, but if left unchecked, can develop into full-blown mental illness.
Here are some things you can do to reduce the risk of anxiety:
Focus on your breathing: Breathe in for three seconds, hold your breath and count to five, then breathe out again for three seconds. Continue doing this for about a minute, by which time your anxiety will have reduced.
Focus on different parts of your body: first your hands, then your feet, then your arms, legs, tummy, shoulders, even your face muscles. Tightly clench each part for a couple of seconds and then relax it. You’ll notice the difference immediately.
If your mind feels overworked or confused — especially if it feels anxious — chatting to someone (on the phone or WhatsApp) will help improve your mood.
Immersing yourself in a hobby is always a winner! It doesn’t matter what it is — painting or building model aircraft… in fact anything that focusses your attention on something constructive, will help. Believe it or not, joining a choir is a great remedy because you’re interacting with others and singing always makes you feel better!
Going for walks in the country can help to put things in focus. Walking releases the ‘feelgood’ hormones that boost our mood and helps to reduce anxiety.
When we’re anxious, we don’t always recognise exactly what it is we’re anxious about, so take a few moments to identify what it is that’s making you feel anxious. Writing down a list of your worries in order of seriousness can help you find the real cause of your anxiety. Then estimate the likelihood of it happening. The answer will usually be zero!
If you’re feeling anxious because you’re putting off getting something done, or because a problem seems too big, try to break it up into smaller tasks. Start by writing down just a few lines or ‘header points’ to guide you on your way.
Eating healthy food also helps. Avoiding caffeine is good because caffeine compounds anxiety. The same goes for alcohol. Alcohol might provide short term relaxation, but in the long term, it actually increases anxiety levels.
There are effective treatments to help manage symptoms of anxiety. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that ‘retrains’ your brain to be less anxious. You work closely with the therapist to explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. People usually need between 10 and 12 sessions to get on top of their anxiety, but one session of hypnotherapy is a more powerful tool and can provide instant relief.