What is Anxiety
Anxiety is commonly described as feelings of worry; we all experience nerves and worry in life, perhaps when sitting exams, or preparing for a job interview and during these times anxiety can be perceived as normal. However, it’s when we are unable to control those worries and they begin to affect day to day life that’s when anxiety can start to cause some issues.
Anxiety is related to the ‘fight or flight’ response; this is our normal biological reaction to feeling threatened.
What Causes Anxiety
Everyone’s presentation of anxiety is different and so are the factors that contribute to it; including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. As well as stressful experiences, trauma, and ongoing stressors can all contribute to anxiety disorders. It’s often a complex interplay of these elements. Certain medical conditions can also contribute to the anxiety presentation.
Symptoms of anxiety can vary and can be experienced in our thoughts, feelings and some physical sensations. Common anxiety thoughts include excessive worrying, fear of the unknown, perfectionism and a heightened focus on potential negative outcomes. These thoughts can help contribute to a cycle of anxiety resulting in increased emotional distress.
Anxiety behaviours can look like avoidance of activities or situations, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, pacing and difficulty making decisions.
Physical symptoms include increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. These symptoms are the result of our body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to perceived threats even if there are no threats present.
Managing anxiety involves various strategies and there is no one strategy so having a variety in your toolkit can be helpful.
- Practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation. Deep breathing techniques help activate the body’s relaxation response.
- Establish a routine, prioritize self-care, and ensure adequate sleep. A consistent schedule can reduce thoughts or feelings around uncertainty.
- Cognitive-behavioural techniques can help reframe negative thoughts.
- Physical activity is also beneficial; exercise releases endorphins which are our natural mood boosters. Exercise also helps to promote better quality sleep, reduces muscle tension, and provides a healthy stress outlet.
Safety behaviours can help manage anxiety these include constantly checking on things to manage their anxious thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
If you’re experiencing persistent anxiety, seeking professional help is advisable. Mental health professionals can provide personalised guidance.
You can visit the GP, discuss your symptoms and they will explore treatment options. This can include medication, lifestyle changes and/or perhaps a referral to talking therapies.
They offer a safe supportive space for you to explore and understand the root causes of anxiety, develop coping strategies, and work towards positive change
Treatment for Anxiety
Treatment for anxiety may include therapy, medication, or a combination. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) helps address thought patterns, while exposure therapy tackles fears gradually.
Medications may also be prescribed. Lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and stress management, can complement these approaches. Consultation with a mental health professional is essential to determine the most suitable treatment plan for individual needs.
Living With Anxiety
Living with anxiety involves developing coping strategies and seeking support. Consider these tips:
1. Understand Your Triggers: Awareness can be a crucial first step. Identify situations or thoughts that trigger your anxiety.
2. Practice Relaxation Techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can help manage anxiety.
3. Regular Exercise: Physical activity can reduce stress and improve mood. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s walking, jogging, yoga, or any other form of exercise.
4. Healthy Lifestyle: Maintain a balanced diet, get sufficient sleep, and limit caffeine and alcohol intake, as these factors can impact anxiety levels.
5. Establish a Daily Routine: Create a structured daily routine to provide a sense of stability, which can be reassuring for individuals dealing with anxiety.
6. Seek Support: Share your feelings with friends, family, or a mental health professional. Supportive relationships can make a significant difference.
7. Mindfulness and Acceptance: Learn mindfulness techniques to stay present in the moment and accept your thoughts without judgment. Mindfulness practices can help manage anxiety.
8. Set Realistic Goals: Break tasks into smaller, manageable goals to reduce feelings of overwhelm. Celebrate achievements, no matter how small.
9. Professional Help: Consider therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which can provide effective tools for managing anxiety.
Remember that everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique, and finding what works best for you may involve some trial and error. If your anxiety significantly interferes with your daily life, consulting with a mental health professional is advisable.
his is a wonderful new series where we hope to bring you concise information about various mental health issues. You will be able to find more on other conditions in our Mental Health Fact File section. don’t forget to join the conversation on social media. You can find us at TikTok, Instagram, Threads, Facebook and Twitter and Dr Ravi Gill on Instagram.
Dr. Ravi Gill
Dr Ravi Gill is a Health Psychologist, registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and a Chartered Member of the British Psychological Society (BPS). After completing a bachelor’s degree in Psychology Ravi went on to complete a masters in Psychology Health and Behaviour, a further Masters specialising in Health Psychology and completed the Professional Doctorate Programme in Health Psychology.
After completing her Doctorate, Ravi worked in the private sector carrying out specialist assessments and evidence-based psychological therapy to adults living with a mental health diagnosis and presenting with a range of comorbidities (e.g. anxiety/depression and/or physical health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, Parkinson’s) to help them progress from high intense living towards step down living. Ravi has worked in the field of mental health since 2011 and has experience working with patients with complex mental health difficulties such as paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorder and psychosis as well as relational problems such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
Ravi is an experienced clinician, having worked with a variety of client groups including early intervention services, adult mental health and older adults in both the private sector and the NHS. Ravi has special interests in working with people with a dual diagnosis of mental health and physical health complexities. She has designed and delivered interventions to professionals to help improve physical health outcomes of those with a mental health diagnosis.
Ravi currently works within the private sector within Occupational Health Services for the Metropolitan Police Service. The main focus is around treating trauma and Ravi contributed to the development of a psychological monitoring programme for officers in high-risk roles; this programme provides regular wellbeing checks to ensure the their job role is not having a negative impact on their mental health. This programme also helps to identify early risk factors associated with a trauma presentation.