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Coping with anxiety

coping with anxiety

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Occasional feelings of anxiety are something that most people are familiar with. Coping with anxiety is not an easy task and takes time and tools to make the whole thing a lot easier to cope with. Anxiety is a combination of tension, worry and uncertainty together with a mind that is overly busy and either repetitively focused on one particular thing or nervously darting between every aspect of life.

When is it normal?

It is very normal to feel anxious about certain events, exams, driving tests, interviews, starting something new are all classic examples of situations that evoke a feeling of being unsettled. Once the event has passed the anxiety will often subside. However for some people anxiety is more of an ongoing companion and at times it can be overwhelming and will interfere with day to day functioning.

Living with ongoing anxiety, sometimes called GAD or generalised anxiety disorder, a person may experience more extreme symptoms such as easily feeling weepy or in need of reassurance, unable to relax or concentrate, irritable with people close to you or just with life in general. These intense feelings can lead to headaches, difficulty with digestion and insomnia, panic attacks and phobias, and over an extended time period of this level of emotional stress can affect friendships, work life, relationship, and family life.

What causes anxiety?

As with most psychological experiences the cause of anxiety is not yet fully understood and can be attributed to a variety of factors. These include a chemical imbalance in a persons body, a particular type of personality that is more prone to worry, current events that are causing stress or having a history of difficult experiences that have not been fully understood and processed. Also, when experiences that have previously caused high levels of anxiety are repeated, the new experience can trigger old feelings.

Whilst living with ongoing anxiety can feel exhausting and overwhelming, the good news is that there are several things that you can do for yourself that are known to significantly reduce the challenging symptoms. The first and probably most important step that you can take is to regularly reassure yourself that feeling anxious does not make you a bad person or a bad inadequate parent, and that even if you don’t fully understand why you feel like you do there are always good reasons behind anxiety. Secondly remind yourself that you are not on your own. Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are experiencing something similar to what you are going through right now, which is why there are national support groups and numerous websites giving information on how to cope with feelings of anxiety.

Woman with anxiety

What can I do to help myself?

On a practical level it’s helpful to look at diet and exercise. A simple step is to reduce the amount of caffeine that you have each day by cutting down on tea, coffee and any energy drinks. Processed sugar is another substance that gives your body a quick high followed by a big low which like caffeine is demanding on your bodies nervous system. Cutting down or stopping smoking and alcohol will also reduce the amount of extra jittery feelings that they can both create.

  • Physical exercise is a great way to work out some of the excess hormones like adrenalin that are produced during times of increased anxiety. Exercise that is aerobic such as running, cycling, circuit training is most affective but even walking or some gentle gardening will be beneficial.
  • Good sleep is one of the best remedies that we can give ourselves for any sort of stress. If sleep is hard to come by, try using some natural remedies to encourage switching off before bed. Chamomile tea is great aid to relaxation as is lavender oil either in a warm bath or in an oil burner.
  • Simple breathing techniques such as breathing in for four counts and out for seven will slow your mind down and help your nervous system to settle, these can be done throughout the day or as you are lying down ready to sleep.
  • Treating yourself to a regular massage or a yoga class is a great way to give your muscles a good stretch and a tactile reminder that it is ok to let go, and developing a simple meditation practice is something that will support you into greater levels of calm by helping you to be in the present moment rather than worrying about what’s ahead. Lastly and not least, sharing what is going on with a trusted friend or a therapist is a powerful way to diffuse overwhelming feelings and give you a feeling of not being alone.
  • Facing up to feelings of anxiety can ironically sometimes make things feel worse before they feel better. Be gentle with yourself, give yourself plenty of time to put things into place slowly and always acknowledge every step that you take along the way. Life is uncertain and unpredictable and part of being human is to learn to be with a certain degree of being out of control. By taking steps into some of the above areas of life you can feel more of a sense of self-care and in control of what is possible.








About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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