man dealing with anxiety by writing how he feels in a diary

How to deal with anxiety

Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress, and most people will experience it occasionally.1 However, it can start becoming a problem when it begins to affect your day-to-day life. Read on for things you can do to help and reduce feelings of anxiety.

Causes of anxiety

It is not sure what causes anxiety, and several factors can affect people in different ways. There are not limited to but can include:2
  • Past or childhood experiences
  • Current life situation
  • New & existing physical or mental health problems
  • Drugs or medication

Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety can cause changes in how you’re feeling physically or mentally and also be responsible for any behavioural changes. It can be challenging to know when anxiety is contributing to how you’re feeling or acting, so keep an eye out for the below signs and symptoms:3

Physical symptoms of anxiety

  • Faster breathing that is hard to control
  • Increased or irregular heartbeat – this may feel more noticeable than normal
  • Headaches and other aches throughout the body
  • Sweating and hot flushes
  • Nausea and loss of appetite

Mental symptoms of anxiety

  • Feeling tense, nervous, and unable to relax
  • Increased worry about the past and future but also the inability to stop worrying about everything (e.g. fear that people can see you’re anxious, people are angry at you, the possibility of a panic attack)
  • Feeling emotional
  • Ruminating on bad experiences
  • Insomnia

Behavioural changes caused by anxiety

  • Problems with your concentration that can affect your work
  • Not taking care of yourself
  • Inability to form or maintain relationships
  • Feeling you can’t enjoy any leisure or downtime
  • Worries about trying new things

The importance of acknowledging anxiety

Acknowledging anxiety can help you understand what triggers these feelings and learn which coping mechanisms work for you. If you’re unsure why you’re experiencing anxiety, keeping a journal and seeking support can help identify the causes.4

Dealing with anxiety

Finding the right support and coping mechanisms can help in dealing with the problem. The below steps are those that might help in managing your anxiety:5

  • Talking to someone you trust can help relieve you of any worries, and a listening ear from someone that cares about you can be of comfort. If you’re unable to speak to someone close, there are free helplines available.

  • Managing your worries can seem impossible and at times, uncontrollable. Writing down your fears and storing them away can help take them from your mind for a time. If you’re worried about avoiding bad things happening, dedicate a specific time for these worries to reassure yourself you have thought about them once that day.

  • Looking after yourself with a good sleep pattern, healthy diet, and regular exercise is known to have a positive effect on both physical and mental wellbeing.

  • Breathing exercises, letting your breath flow deep into your belly, can help manage anxiety too. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, counting to five. Repeat this for up to five minutes.6

  • Keeping a diary lets you track how you feel when you get anxious, and you can pick up patterns on what triggers the feeling.
There are also alternative therapies such as meditation and hypnotherapy that can help people relax and let go of their worries. Supplements can also be helpful.

Things to avoid

Avoid setting yourself unachievable targets if you’re suffering from anxiety, as trying to complete everything at once can add to stress and worries. Focus your time on things that you can change and ignore those that you have no control over. Resist using alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes as coping mechanisms as these can contribute to poorer mental health in the long run.7

Remember, you’re not alone. Most people experience stress, anxiety, and fear throughout their lives.

Last updated: 23 April 2020

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