Everyone feels anxious at some point in their lives as a result of life’s stresses such as work, exams or money problems. Anxiety is part of our body’s natural defences – a reaction to feeling under threat, which dates back to our caveman days, known as the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. The right amount of anxiety helps keep us safe, and give our best performance in that exam or interview. But for some people, the feeling of anxiety doesn’t go away and can start to get in the way of their day-to-day life.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety disorders can affect you both mentally and physically, as the body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol when it feels under threat. Some people may find they only have one or two symptoms, others can experience many more.
Mental symptoms of anxiety can include:
Feeling tense, nervous or ‘on edge’
Being unable to relax
Feeling a sense of dread
Feeling as if you can’t stop worrying
Having fears or worries out of proportion to the situation
Thinking about a situation over and over again
Loss of concentration
Loss of self-esteem
Physical symptoms of anxiety can include:
Shaking or trembling
A fast, hard or irregular heartbeat
Muscular aches and pains
Pins and needles
Finding it hard to get to or stay asleep
Changes in sex drive
Whatever it is that makes you anxious, here are 10 ways to help you cope with your day-to-day fears and anxieties.
1. Breathe through panic
If you start to get a faster heartbeat or sweating palms, the best thing is not to fight it.Stay where you are and simply feel the panic without trying to distract yourself. Place the palm of your hand on your stomach and breathe slowly and deeply. Reassure your body that it has nothing to worry about, that it's like a faulty fire alarm going off, when it doesn't need to. The goal is to help the mind and body get used to coping with panic, which takes the fear of fear away.
2. Take time out
It's impossible to think clearly when you're flooded with fear or anxiety. Take time out so you can physically calm down.
Distract yourself from the worry for 15 minutes by walking around the block, making a cup of tea or having a bath.
3. Face your fears
Avoiding fears only makes them scarier. Whatever your fear, if you face it, it should start to fade. If you panic one day getting into a lift, for example, it's best to get back into a lift the next day.
4. Imagine the worst
Try imagining the worst thing that can happen – perhaps it's panicking and having a heart attack. Then try to think yourself into having a heart attack. It's just not possible. The fear will run away the more you chase it.
5. Look at the evidence
It sometimes helps to challenge fearful thoughts. For example, if you're scared of getting trapped in a lift and suffocating, ask yourself if you have ever heard of this happening to someone. Ask yourself what you would say to a friend who had a similar fear.
6. Don't try to be perfect
Life is full of stresses, yet many of us feel that our lives must be perfect. Bad days and setbacks will always happen, and it's important to remember that life is messy.
7. Visualise a happy place
Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm. It could be a picture of you walking on a beautiful beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood. Let the positive feelings soothe you until you feel more relaxed.
8. Talk about it
Sharing fears takes away a lot of their scariness. If you can't talk to a partner, friend or family member, call a helpline such as the Samaritans (116 123, open 24 hours a day).
9. Go back to basics
Lots of people turn to alcohol or drugs to self-treat anxiety, but this will only make matters worse. Simple, everyday things like a good night's sleep, a wholesome meal and a walk are often the best cures for anxiety.
10. Reward yourself
Finally, give yourself a treat. When you've made that call you've been dreading, for example, reinforce your success by treating yourself to a massage, a country walk, a meal out, a book, a DVD, or whatever little gift makes you happy.
If you’re still struggling to cope with severe anxiety then please contact me on 07401 331521 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also see my available appointments and book here- Dovetail Counselling Service Booking