Most of us feel anxious at one time or another, whether we’re about to go into a job interview, we have a health scare, or there’s something else that makes us feel like we’re under threat. This is completely normal. What’s not normal is when anxiety impacts upon your day to day life and causes you distress.
The ‘fight or flight’ response
The body has its own mechanism that has protected us from danger since we were cavemen and women having to run away from dangerous animals. The so-called ‘fight or flight’ response prepares the body to stay and fight or to escape from the danger by releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones make us more alert, increase our heart rate to pump more blood to our working muscles, make us breath faster, and divert blood away from the digestive system and extremities to the muscles. This is great if you’re actually in danger, but not so great when it happens in response to something that’s not dangerous. The ‘fight or flight’ response is what’s happening when you experience a panic attack.
When does anxiety become a problem?
If anxiety is affecting your ability to live a normal life from day to day, it’s a problem. You should seek help if:
- You feel very anxious and the feelings don’t go away
- Your anxiety is way out of proportion to the situation(s) that trigger it
- You avoid things that might trigger your anxiety
- Your anxiety is causing you distress and you can’t control worrying
- You experience panic attacks
- You find it hard to have a normal life and you just don’t enjoy life anymore
What is it like to live with anxiety?
Everyone experiences anxiety differently and triggers can vary, but there are some common things that almost everyone with anxiety knows and experiences, like:
Your rational mind knows that your thoughts are irrational
If you’re able to rationalise things, you’ll know that not everyone is looking at you, or thinking things about you when you walk down the street, or because your boss hasn’t replied to your email, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you and that you’ll be fired. The problem is that anxiety seems to block logical thought, and when you get into a cycle of worrying and catastrophic thinking, it’s very hard to stop.
Anxiety has physical effects
Because the body is in a constant state of fight or flight, if you suffer from anxiety, you’ll be familiar with its side effects, like a racing heart, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, dizziness, sweating, and nausea. It can also cause headaches, fatigue, and muscle tension. Some people have even gone to hospital with their symptoms, believing they were having a heart attack.
Sometimes there’s no big reason why you’re anxious
The thing about anxiety, is that while you might think that being in crowded places, having to speak in public, or some other stressful situation is needed to trigger it, the reality is that even the most seemingly trivial thing can set it off.
Your mind never stops
An anxious mind doesn’t see life as something to be enjoyed, it sees it as a series of hurdles or problems that you have to avoid or get over. Once you’ve ‘survived’ one thing, you start thinking about what terrible things might happen in the future and before you know it, your mind has created its own terrible story, which only makes you feel more anxious.
Everyday life can be a challenge
On bad days, anxiety makes you feel like you just want to stop the world and get off. Just getting up and facing the day can take everything you’ve got. Just remember that on those days, it’s especially important to look after yourself and don’t be self-critical if you don’t manage to do everything you wanted to do.
Look after yourself
Following on from the last point, don’t push yourself too hard when you’re having a tough day. Make a list of things that comfort you when you’re anxious and make sure you try at least a few of them if you’re having a bad day. Things like having a relaxing bath, going for a walk, or spending time with a good friend can all help bring some comfort.
How can you help yourself?
Talk to someone
Talking to a good friend, your partner, or a family member can really help lighten the load, but if you find it hard to open up to people who are close to you, you can speak to your GP, or call a helpline like those run by the Samaritans or Anxiety UK.
If you can’t stop worrying, try to manage it
If worrying is making your mind race, especially at night, keep a notebook by the side of your bed and write your worries down. You might think that writing them down will make you focus on them more, but you’re getting them out of your head, which is helpful.
Look after your physical health
Get enough sleep, eat healthily to keep your energy and blood sugar stable, and take regular exercise which can reduce stress and give you something else to focus on other than your worries.
Try breathing exercises
It might seem far too simple, but just doing some deep breathing can calm your nervous system down and make you feel more in control.
Would you know how to help someone with anxiety?
Our Mental Health First Aid course will teach you how to:
- Spot the early signs of a mental health problem
- Feel confident helping someone experiencing a mental health problem
- Provide help on a first aid basis
- Help prevent someone from hurting themselves or others
- Help stop a mental illness from getting worse
- Help someone recover faster
- Guide someone towards the right support
- Reduce the stigma of mental health problems.
Who can attend?
This course is available to anyone over the age of 16.
You can register your interest by using our contact form. This will send an email to the instructor running the course who will get in touch to confirm your place. Just simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07917062257.