Everyone suffers with anxiety to some degree at times. Yes – everyone! Even those people who seem uber confident and appear to have the world at their feet. We have become masters of disguise and in reality we all have our doubts and worries and those pesky little thoughts which play on our minds and keep us awake at 3am in the morning!
It’s perfectly normal to have some fears and anxious thoughts and these often coincide with big life shifts and milestone events, such as moving house, sitting exams, coping with bereavement and job losses. Anxiety can also crop up on a daily basis through stresses at work, financial worries and health issues and there’s a multitude of other factors which like to fuel and contribute to the anxiety monsters hunger!
“In March 2023 the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) worked with Opinium to conduct an online survey of 6,000 UK adults aged 18+ to look at anxiety in the UK population ‘Uncertain times: Anxiety in the UK and how to tackle it’ (www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/mental-health-awareness-week/anxiety-report):
Nearly three-quarters of the population (73%) had felt anxious at least sometimes in the previous two weeks, with one in five people (20%) anxious most or all of the time.
Some groups of people are more likely to be affected by anxiety than others. Nearly all young people (18 to 24 years) in our research (86%) had felt anxious in the previous two weeks. For over half (58%), this had stopped them undertaking day-to-day activities.
Other groups more likely to report feeling anxious were:
- Single parents (89%)
- LGBTQ+ people (89%)
- Carers (84%)
- 18 to 34-year-olds (86%)
- People from a minority ethnic community (84%)
- People with a long-term physical health condition (LTC) (82%)”
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and has their own personal triggers… but what do you do when you start to feel this way on a daily basis? When those little niggles and feelings of unease, begin to grow and gradually start to take over your day and prevent you from doing the things you love?
We all know the feelings too well… your heart starts to race, you begin to sweat and you have difficulty concentrating. The more you try to ignore it, the more the anxiety grows and refuses to subside… and that’s when the panic sets in. The best thing to do in these situations is to stop and ground yourself. Try to acknowledge what you are going through and try not to run away from the feelings, however intense and uncomfortable they may be.
The aim is to find ways to soothe your mind and help ease it back on track. Whatever works for you, whether it’s listening to a calming meditation, getting outside in nature, going for a brisk walk, playing your favourite soundtrack or putting pen to paper and journalling your thoughts. Another way to keep anxiety at bay is by making healthy lifestyle choices, for example reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake, having a regular sleep pattern, maintaining a nutritious diet and keeping well hydrated.
The science bit…
When we are feeling anxious, our nervous system is on ‘high alert’. This goes back all the way to prehistoric times when our ancestors had to be on the constant look out for danger and we were in ‘Fight or Flight’ mode. Luckily for us we no longer have to watch out for woolly mammoths or sabre tooth tigers, but in today’s society we are constantly worrying about other uncertainties in life such as the cost of living crisis; how to pay the bills and put food on the table, look after our loved ones and protect our planet. In his article ‘The Evolution of Anxiety: Why We Worry and What to Do About It’ (www.jamesclear.com/evolution-of-anxiety), James Clear (Author of the book ‘Atomic Habits’) goes into great detail about what scientists call the ‘Immediate Return Environment’ and describes the things which have an immediate impact on our life and can be solved in the present moment and the ‘Delayed Return Environment’ and the things that can’t be solved instantly and he discusses in detail the implications of living in both environments and how anxiety affects these.
So in a nutshell, we need to learn to be kind to our minds and accept anxiety as part and parcel of everyday life and instead of trying to fight the beast we need to learn to tame it and embrace it and only then will we start to live in harmony with our anxiety.
Where to get help if you are struggling with anxiety:
Don’t suffer in silence and always reach out for support if you are struggling with anxious thoughts on a regular basis.
If you do find you are in a crisis situation and need urgent help:
· Call 999 and ask for an ambulance
· Go straight to your local A&E or ask someone to help if you are unable to get there yourself.
Listed below are contact details for several other places you can reach out for help and advice:
Anxiety UK – National charity helping people with anxiety
Helpline: 03444 775 774
Text support: 07537 416 905 (open Mon-Fri 09:30-17:30)
Mind – National mental health charity supporting mental health
Infoline: 0300 123 3393 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Samaritians – 24 hours a day confidential advice.
Freephone 116 123 or email email@example.com
Shout – UK’s 24/7 Crisis text service for mental health
Just text SHOUT to 85258
Papyrus – Prevention of young suicide
Hopeline247: 0800 068 41 41
Head of Wellbeing and Office Manager