Friday, 2 March 2018

What is anxiety and what can you do about it?

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a common emotion, which exists to keep us safe from harm. However for many of us, it is something we experience excessively, which can have a massive effect on our lives. It is a complex problem that I have spent a long time trying to tackle. If you are new to the not-so-wonderful world of anxiety, or just want to know what you can do about it, then read on.

The science.

Acute anxiety is a normal response to dangerous situations. Our bodies release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, preparing you to fight or run away – the fight or flight response. This response was extremely useful back when we had to worry about being attacked by wild animals. It's not so useful now when you're at work or trying to enjoy yourself at a social event.

Anxiety can provoke a range of physical and mental symptoms. Here are just a few.


  • A fast heartbeat or palpitations
  • Chest tightness, faster breathing
  • Butterflies in your stomach
  • Sweating or chills
  • Feeling sick
  • A panic attack


  • Worrying to excess
  • Feeling stressed and unable to relax
  • Worrying something bad will happen
  • Immediately jumping the worst case scenario

What you can do to help.

As a starting point the best thing you can do is to talk about it. It is so common to feel alone but you might be surprised at how many people feel the same way. Talk to friends and family or seek out support online – there are many helpful forums and communities.

Visit your GP, they will be able to tell you what help is available in your area. This might be counselling, or cognitive behavioural therapy which helps you change unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviour. In some cases medication can be helpful but this depends on your individual situation.

Mental health charities can be a brilliant support. 

I have had some excellent counselling provided by Mind, who have branches throughout the country.

Anxiety UK is another fantastic charity, offering private therapies at reduced rates and phone services you can call for advice. They have many volunteers working for them that have direct experience of anxiety.

Self help is another good starting point, check out the self help section at your local library. It's also worth taking a look at your general lifestyle. Exercise, a healthy diet and a good nights sleep are all a step in the right direction.

Mindfulness meditation is another good option. It enables you to feel more present in your life and be aware of your thoughts and feelings. This can help you put things into perspective and take a step back when you feel overwhelmed.

There are even apps to try on your phone. Check out my previous post on one called Headspace
Sadly there are no quick fixes – believe me I've looked, but please don't despair if you are struggling. There are people out there who want to help and understand what you are going through. For me, seeking out like minded people has been invaluable to my ongoing recovery, I hope some of these suggestions help you on yours.

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