How to cope with anxiety

Learn how to cope with your anxiety
Learn how to cope with your anxiety — Image from Unsplash

I’d like to thank Andrea for letting me guest post How to cope with anxiety on her blog Lifeallday last week. And now I’ll share it with you.

Does your mouth go dry and your your stomach do somersaults at the thought of an interview or a difficult conversation? Maybe you feel nauseous, your heart pounds, and you can’t catch your breath? You might recognise these feelings?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel anxious about sitting an exam or a job interview. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal but some people find it harder to control their anxieties. Their anxiety is more constant and can often affect all areas of their daily lives.

Anxiety lets us know when we might be in danger, at risk or under threat — like a car hurtling towards you at 60 mph. You get a shock, but you manage to jump out of the way — quickly!  However, anxiety disorders occur when our fears and perceptions of danger are greater than they need to be.

This next brief section comes from the NHS website, and is about one specific condition called generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. As soon as one anxious thought is resolved, another may appear about a different issue.

Symptoms of anxiety

Recognise the symptoms of anxiety
Recognise the symptoms of anxiety

GAD can cause both psychological and physical symptoms. These might also occur in all other anxiety disorders but for brevity, we’ll just talk about GAD. These symptoms vary from person to person, but can include:

  • feeling restless or worried
  • having lots of negative thoughts, feeling guilty, angry, or shame
  • having trouble concentrating or sleeping
  • dizziness or heart palpitations
  • feeling like you’re having a heart attack – if you suspect it’s a heart attack, seek urgent help
  • Loss of humour, confidence
  • sweating, sticky palms
  • shaking
  • fidgeting or pacing
  • feeling faint, dizzy or nauseous
  • feeling like you can’t breathe, choking
  • irritability or angry
  • fingers or toes tingling (this happens when the blood runs from your extremities to your heart and muscles, where it’s needed to prepare for fight or flight

What causes anxiety disorder?

Does imbalance of brain chemicals cause anxiety?
Does imbalance of brain chemicals cause anxiety? — Image from Pixabay

The jury’s out on this one. The exact cause is not fully understood, tho’ it’s likely that a combination of several factors play a role. Research has suggested that these may include:

  • over-activity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour
  • an imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood
  • hereditary – you’re more likely to develop an anxiety disorder if you have a close blood relative with the condition
  • having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying, and so on
  • a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis or Multiple Sclerosis
  • having a history of drug or alcohol abuse

However, many people develop anxiety disorders for no apparent reason.

Who is affected by anxiety?

Absolutely anyone. Anxiety doesn’t care who you are, how old, how smart or what colour you are. You might’ve noticed someone constantly drumming their fingers annoyingly or nervously tapping their foot? Maybe you’ve seen that irritating CEO who constantly fidgets during meetings or spits out the nails she’s chewed on for the last half hour? Have a heart next time you see these behaviours — think, they might be feeling really anxious.

Anxiety in me

I’ve experienced mental health problems, including anxiety and I know how terrifying it can feel. The dread when going to watch my sons’ swimming galas because of the steep seating area! I hated all those stairs looking over the pool and had a terrible fear of tumbling down them all. I’d be shaky and my heart would be pounding in my ears. It was the same in the cinema with those damn stairs, and in the dark!

Tube stations soon became a problem too; the further down the escalator went, the more anxious I got. I’d feel like I couldn’t breathe, my mouth was dry, my heart was bursting, and I imagined falling down all the stairs or stumbling blindly onto the train tack.

Vicious circle of stress and anxiety

See, the thing with an anxiety disorder is that once it starts, you get anxious about being anxious. You only have to think about, let’s say, upcoming exams, and your anxiety levels shoot through the roof. And then it becomes a vicious circle of thoughts, feelings, behaviours.

You might think “I’m dreading these exams,” and you begin to feel anxious, afraid, or even angry, so you might choose to go out on a date instead of studying (behaviour). After this, you might think “I’m so stupid, I won’t pass them anyway,” and feel sad, alone, angry and so on.

It becomes a vicious cycle of worry, anxiety, fear, anger at self, inability to cope, avoidance, withdrawal — you get the picture.

Anxiety in men close to home

Men get anious too
Men get anxious too — Image from Unsplash

My two now-adult sons have experienced anxiety and a few panic attacks in the past. They’re both black belts in Karate, they’re club swimmers, they surf, attend the gym, and play football each week. So, although they’re both geeky in a science-type way, they’re not weedy or wussie; nor do they come across as lads who’d have anxiety.

Some family and friends were shocked, like “Wow, I didn’t think they’d have mental health problems.” But younger lads in the family or friends were encouraged by this and sought support themselves. Some went into talking therapy and they’ve all said they’re so glad they did.

So, what I’m really saying here guys is, it doesn’t mean you’re a weak person, anyone can experience anxiety. It doesn’t care where you’re from, what class, faith, creed, race, gender you belong to or what job you do.

As you might already know, anxiety and depression are closely linked so, if you have one, you’re more likely to be experiencing the other. You might also find that some form of agoraphobia, a fear of doing certain things, or going to certain places quite often occurs with anxiety.

How is anxiety disorder treated?

Anxiety disorders can have a significant effect on your daily life, but several different treatments are available that can ease your symptoms. These include:

  • psychological therapies – you can get psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on the NHS; you do not need a referral from a GP and you can refer yourself for psychological therapy service in your area
  • medicine – such as a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • lifestyle changes

With treatment, many people are able to control their anxiety levels and lead normal lives. But some treatments may need to be continued for a long time and there may be periods when your symptoms worsen.

Self-help for generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

There are also many evidence-based activities you can do yourself to help reduce your anxiety, such as:

Lavendar is known to ease anxiety
Lavender is known to ease anxiety
  • see some Tips to help with your anxiety and panic attacks here
  • attending a self-help course in person, or online
  • use muscle relaxation techniques. Try it now. Let your shoulders slump down from your ears, wiggle your neck side to side, unclench your jaw and give it a little wiggle. Uncross your legs and unclench your fists, lay your palms and fingers gently on your thighs and remind yourself that your body cannot be relaxed and tense at the same time. You can practice this on the bus, at work, at home, practically anywhere. Just make sure you do it regularly throughout the day and this will help to calm you down when you most need it.
  • put a few drops of lavender (known to ease anxiety) on a tissue, exhale long and slow through your mouth then slowly breathe the scent in through your nose.
  • try mindfulness or other forms of meditation.
  • exercise regularly or do something fun with family, friends or your partner.
  • go for a long walk, get in touch with nature.
  • try to stop smoking.
  • cut down on the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink.
  • try some of the free mental health apps and tools online.
  • adjust your lifestyle to make it less busy, hectic, and rushed.
  • Learn how to set boundaries and to say ‘NO’.
  • take part in activities that give you pleasure, make you feel competent, or give you a chance to take a break from other, more stressful activities.

Over to you

ClipArt

Of course, the above lists are not all-inclusive, and you’ll find loads more information online, in blogs, and so on. What do you think about anxiety, the effects and impact it has on our daily lives? Perhaps you have some tips you could share? I look forward to your thoughts and comments, and of course, I’ll answer any questions.

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

27 thoughts on “How to cope with anxiety”

    1. Aaaww, thank you Ashley, I really appreciate your opinions. On another note, Have you ever tried TMS for depression- a blogger in the States mentioned it and I’ve asked her does it work?

      Showing off a bit here – my son worked on the TMS research, and I’m going to ask what he thinks of it. I should know really shouldn’t I. But the boys are too sciency for me to read their articles 🙁

      1. It’s not covered by the public health plan here, and it’s less likely to work for people who’ve had ECT and didn’t get well from it, so at this point the potential benefit isn’t convincing enough to outweigh the cost.

      2. Ah, thank you Ashley, and that’s understandable, if it doesn’t work after ECT. I think I’ll ask my son, it might be worth me trying it. Will keep you posted. Have a good weekend x

  1. Anxiety and stress are a big thing right now in my life as you and some other bloggers know. If I couldn’t think it could get worse, it did at the beginning of last week.
    I am noticing my body is getting tense at times now. Today and yesterday has been bad. I have noticed how a lot if tension is in my shoulders, arrms and hands, which is mainly my right side that’s the worst. I have lost count how many times today I have been working on keeping shoulders down, away from my ears.
    I use aromatherapy to help relax, which mainly is at night when going to bed. I think I may need to use it in the day a bit too. But I do drink some relaxing teas too, like cammomile.

    1. Oh no Liz, I’m really sorry to hear you’ve been having a tough time. I feel for you and I get that tension in my neck and shoulders too. I’ve just noticed it and let them down now lol.

      Like you, I’ll use aromatherapy oils too. In fact, I’m just off to get some and I might have a cup of green tea and a drop of cannabis oil too.

      You keep up with the de-stressing techniques and take care my lovely x

      1. Thanks. I shall certainly keep up with my aromatherapy oils. In bed now with my usual that help me to drift. So I won’t be long before I am asleep. A bit later than planned, but hey ho, it’s the weekend. 🙂
        I have been playing with an iPad earlier, lent to me by my friend from downstairs so I could play a game on there for entertainment. Also being playing with the piano app, which was nice. X

      2. I know, I always think that too – it’s the weekend. Like it will be different to any other day lol.

        That sounds like fun – I quite enjoy some online games too. I was playing solitaire earlier. I’m just answering a few comments then I’ll be off to bed too.

        Wishing you well and have a good weekend Liz xx

      3. These games are just on his app. No connection to the internet.

        I like solitaire. There are two solitaires I know and I like both. I am guessing you are on about the card game solitaire? I used to play that a lot years ago, when I had Windows computer. Now I pull a pack of cards out.
        The other solitaire is a grid with marbles on it and the aim of the game is to leave one marble left on the board. And if it happens to be in the middle of the board, then evrn better.
        I haven’t played this game since I was at school. I wish I still had it now. It would be out on the table.

        Have a good night. 🙂

  2. At my worse psychologically, I was extremely anxious. Also during my worst times, I was in great physical health. It just goes to show, that in my experience. Diet and exercise means very little. That’s my experience though, and yours may be different.

    1. I get you Mio. And you’re right, it’s not one size fits all. We just have to do what we feel is right for us.

      When I first became unwell, it was terrifying and I tried almost everything (legal) to get better – apart from seeing a doctor lol.

    1. It certainly does suck! It’s horrendous and anyone who hasn’t experienced it just can’t understand how bad it is. I know how hard it is and how much strength it takes to do the flippin’ coping techniques all day, every day.

      Wishing you safe and well, and have a good weekend. x

  3. This is amazing! I like the section on anxiety and men. I see a lot more anxiety now because of COVID. I see people are also being more open about their anxiety, mostly women. It is good to let men know that they can share their needs as well when it comes to anxiety.

    1. Thank you, I really appreciate your comments. I know and I love that my now adult sons are both great advocates for mental health and seeking help.

      One’s a Research Doctor in the States and the other is now a Physio for our wonderful NHS. If they’re ever feeling that things are getting on top of them, they’ll go to see their guy (counsellor) for a top up lol.

      I haven’t come across your blog yet but I’ll be dropping by in a bit 🙂 Caz

      1. It sounds like you have two successful sons! You must be proud. I think it is great that your sons always keep track of their mental health needs and reach out for help when needed.

  4. Really interesting read Caz, I’ve struggled with anxiety on and off for around 10 years now, so it’s comforting to read articles like this that normalise so many elements of it. I was particularly interested to read that it can be hereditary, I wasn’t aware of that, why would that be the case? Is it perhaps learned behaviour or something else?

    1. Hi Jess, it’s a horrible disorder isn’t it. TBH I never thought I’d overcome it when I was going through it. But persistency and practice with all the coping skills really helped.

      Any mental illness can be hereditary, according to research (particularly on twins). Of course, as the saying goes, is it nature or nurture? So I also believe there’s an element of learned behaviour.

      But having said that, why would only one in my family (me) have panic attacks? My family might be particularly odd as mum had probably what’s called no postnatal depression. My brother has bipolar, my younger sister has borderline personality disorder, I had the lot lot. Although my elder sister wouldn’t admit to it, I do believe she has depression too.

      So like researchers say it can be any amount of reasons and while it’s interesting, I don’t give a damn when mine all came from, I just wanted rid of it lol.

      I hope you and your little family are all safe and well Jess xx

      1. Thanks for elaborating Caz, I always learn a lot from your posts 😊

        It’s interesting to think about it all but ultimately I echo your feelings I just want it to go/stay away. I’m lucky in that it hasn’t ever completely overwhelmed me so hopefully it won’t but yes when it gets bad it can be horrible.

        I always sympathise with people that struggle with things like this because it’s so misunderstood and underappreciated.

        All safe and well here yes, hope you are keeping well also 😊 xx

  5. Lavender is great for anxiety! I’ve never had it to the point where I couldn’t remember the last time I was relaxed, but during my worst anxious times I used to carry a bottle of lavender scent with me. A few sniffs usually started me on a calming trajectory instead of an anxious one.

    1. I found it helpful too. Just before our nursing exams I was sniffing my lavender tissue lol and a girl nearby asked what it was, then asked if she could have some oil. After the exams she looked out for me to tell me how it really worked and how she’d sailed through the exams. Possibly placebo effect, but she loved it lol.

      Like you mentioned, when you can catch the panic and stop it – it’s so much better 🙂

  6. What helps me to remain calm is the Bible. A scripture that comes to mind is taking from 1 Peter 5:7-While you throw all your anxiety on him,(Jehovah God), because he cares for you. Stay safe everyone!❤️

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