Anxiety is a natural reaction to a perceived threat that manifests as worry, fear, tension or discomfort. Because we are biologically wired to react to threat by engaging our fight or flight response, many people who experience anxiety may feel an overwhelming desire to escape certain situations – or avoid them entirely.
While feelings of anxiety are totally normal (especially when it comes to stressful life events, social situations or public speaking), there exists a tipping point where anxiety can become a mental health condition. This happens when anxiety feels uncontrollable or inexplicable, interferes with your day-to-day life or lasts for an extended period of time.
There are many physical and mental symptoms associated with anxiety, including:
- Feeling restless, irritable, tense or ‘on edge’
- Experiencing a sense of impending doom or danger
- Fatigue and brain fog
- Muscle tension and twitches
- Increased heartrate and rapid breathing
If left untreated, generalised anxiety can develop into other worry-based disorders, such as:
- Panic Disorder, in which individuals experience recurring panic attacks.
- Phobias, characterised by an extreme or irrational fear of something.
- Agoraphobia, which manifests as fear of social situations, crowds, travelling alone or leaving the house.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), where a person experiences persistent unwanted thoughts, urges and repetitive behaviours.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition triggered by experiencing distressing or traumatic events.
Self-Help Tips to Manage Stress and Anxiety
If you’re experiencing ongoing anxiety, you’ll be pleased to know there are steps you can take to help you regain control.
- Practice meditation and breathing exercises: One of the first and most obvious signs of anxiety is rapid breathing, which quickly leads to an increase in heartrate. By regulating your breathing with meditation and breathwork techniques, you can effectively slow down your heartrate and feel more calm and collected. Learn more about breathing exercises for anxiety here.
- Keep a journal: Putting your anxieties down on paper is a great way to process your thoughts, manage stress, break the cycle of rumination and minimise your worries by focusing on the root cause. Set aside 5 minutes a day to write down what’s troubling you and re-read your entry to see if you can gain any insight into your thought patterns. Need a little inspiration? Listen to our Write off Your Stress podcast for more tips on the power of journaling
- Make time for gentle exercise: Because anxiety is a mental condition, it can be hugely beneficial to focus on something physical as a way of alleviating your anxious thoughts. Try going for a 10-mintue walk or carrying out some simple stretches when you start to feel your anxiety take hold.
- Identify your triggers: Recognising and keeping track of the situations that cause you to feel anxious can be really beneficial, as once you identify your triggers, you can learn how best to cope with them. These triggers might be certain activities, social events, settings or societal pressures.
- Stay present: Those suffering with anxiety often find that their minds are constantly focused on the future, and all of the terrible things that tomorrow may bring. To help redirect yourself back to the present moment, try practicing mindfulness, positive affirmations and daily gratitude tasks in order to appreciate the now and fixate less on the future.
Where to Turn for a Little Extra Help
Tried all of the above and still can’t seem to shake the worry? It might be time to speak to your GP about alternative treatment options, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), medications or referral to a specialist.
If your employer offers Vivup’s Employee Assistance Programme, there are lots of useful resources and workbooks to download. Plus, you can also access a 24-hour telephone helpline for responsive, confidential and totally independent advice should you or a colleague need mental health support.