How to deal with anxiety
Anxiety, fear and worry affects all of us at some point in our lives. So, learning how to deal with anxiety is vital.
If you suffer from anxiety, there are many things you can do to get it under control, from overhauling your diet to getting more exercise and ‘me time’.
However, before you make a start, it’s essential to understand what anxiety is and how it can affect your life. So, in this blog, we consider how to deal with anxiety.
WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety is the feeling you experience when you are worried, afraid or tense, either about a particular issue or situation or about things in general. It is your natural response to fear, threat or change and can affect your thoughts and feelings, and your body.
Anxiety is a general term used to describe the symptoms caused by several medical conditions, including panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder. It affects around five per cent of the UK population every day. While it affects men and women in more or less equal numbers, the condition is most common in those aged between 35 to 59.
People with anxiety feel its symptoms most days and find it difficult to relax. Most people feel anxious at certain times. It’s how you react to stressful events or changes which could have a significant impact on your life.
When you feel under threat, hormones are released to make your brain and body feel more alert. Once the threat has passed, different hormones are released to calm you down and help your brain and muscles to relax.
However, the thoughts that come with anxiety can last a long time. Anxiety can become a long-term problem if you are frequently in a state of worry, which can make it difficult to relax, sleep or switch-off. If not appropriately addressed, this can affect your relationships and performance at work, make it harder to focus and concentrate, and prevent you from feeling happy, fulfilled or enjoying life.
DO I HAVE ANXIETY?
Anxiety can manifest itself in many ways. It affects people differently. If you think you may be suffering from anxiety, speaking with a doctor or other healthcare professional is recommended, as they will be able to signpost you to the support you need.
Some people, for example, might suffer some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. For others, it may have a more significant impact on their mental wellbeing.
Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety to look out for include:
PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY
- Strong, quick or irregular heartbeat
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Increased headaches
- Chest pains
- Lack of appetite
MENTAL SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY
- Increased tension or nervousness
- Inability to relax
- Feeling tearful
- Feeling restless or unable to sleep
Anxiety can also have an impact on your behaviour. If you are struggling to enjoy your leisure time or having difficulties switching off after work, you might be suffering from anxiety.
Likewise, if you have difficulty looking after yourself, are worried about trying new things or struggling with relationships, it’s worth getting yourself checked out.
WHAT CAUSES ANXIETY?
Many things cause anxiety. Worries about work, relationships, school, your health and financial security can all trigger feelings of fear, stress or discomfort. While some people might experience only mild feelings of worry or fear, in others, it can be more severe.
If these feelings become more constant, it can have a significant impact on everyday life. Although everyone’s anxiety ‘triggers’ are different, some common causes include:
- Overactivity in the parts of the brain responsible for emotions and behaviour
- An imbalance of hormones which control and regulate mood
- Genetics – you’re five times more likely to suffer anxiety if you have a close relative with the condition
- A history of trauma, including domestic violence, child abuse or bullying
- Suffering from a painful or chronic long-term health condition
- Alcohol or drug misuse
Too much caffeine and sugar and regularly placing yourself in stressful situations can also trigger short-term anxiety in some people.
HOW TO STOP ANXIETY
If anxiety is harming your overall health, there are several things you can do to reduce its symptoms. The first place to start is to see your GP. They will be able to assess and diagnose your condition and point you in the direction of the best places to get support.
These can include counselling and psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, or medical help, such as anti-depressants. If you are prescribed medication, you should take these only under the direction of your doctor.
There are also many things you can do to help relieve feelings of stress and anxiety.
Overhauling your diet
Foods that are high in processed sugar and fat can have an impact on your mood and mental wellbeing. While junk food might make you happy while you are eating it, it can cause a slump in mood afterwards. Excess sugar, meanwhile, can overstimulate the parts of our brain associated with mood and behaviour, causing spikes and crashes.
While the occasional treat can help enhance your mood and prevent cravings, getting more whole foods and fresh fruit and vegetables will help improve your physical health, which can have a knock-on impact on your mental wellbeing.
Aromatherapy is a great way to give your mind, body and spirit a quick tune-up. By harnessing the essences, fragrance and healing power of natural essential oils, aromatherapy can help you to destress, keep calm and relaxed.
There are many plants, herbs, spices and botanicals that are known for their therapeutic properties. The essential oils produced by these plants have exceptional, health-enhancing properties. They can stimulate your nervous system and trigger a hormonal response which can help you to achieve a better emotional balance.
While exercise can help you get your body in better condition, it can also benefit your mental health too. It can help you unwind after a stressful day, take your mind off your worries and tire out your body if you are feeling restless.
Exercise also releases endorphins, natural hormones which help stimulate the brain and lift our mood. Whether you’re hitting the gym or heading out into the country for a long walk, taking regular exercise can help you get your anxiety under control.
Cutting out alcohol, smoking and caffeine
Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine are all stimulants. They make your nervous system work overtime, and while they can cause feelings of temporary happiness or euphoria, the effect doesn’t last for long and can cause a crash in your mood as their effects wear off.
Long-term, they can all do damage to your nervous system and change the way your body responds to them. So, cut back where you can.
Smoking can lead to other severe health conditions. And while the odd tipple or coffee is fine, regularly drinking too much coffee or alcohol can have a long-term impact on your physical and mental health.