Anxiety is an emotion I’m sure we are all familiar with. It’s an emotion we feel for both positive and negative reasons. For example: getting anxious before starting a new job or worrying on the day of your driving test is completely normal and to be expected! But when the anxiety begins to take over our life, when we feel anxious all the time or for no apparent reason, that’s when the anxiety has become a clinical problem and we start to feel out of control.
Anxiety is common to all of us, but our perceptions and responses to these feelings can differ. Anxiety is commonly associated with mental health, but it can trigger very physical sensations. Physical symptoms of anxiety include a raised heart rate, sweating and shallow rapid breathing (to name but a few). Most of the time anxiety is a short-lived experience, with the feelings passing after the source of anxiety has passed or been overcome. It can serve a useful purpose too as it alerts us to things we might need to worry about and allows us to evaluate and be prepared for potential threats.
Have a read of our case study for anxiety and depression.
For some it’s not so simple. Anxiety is now recognised as one of the most prevalent mental health problems in the UK and there is good evidence to suggest that it’s still under-diagnosed and under-treated. This may be because there are a lot of people just ‘putting up with’ their symptoms and not asking for help. Anxiety can take over your whole life, it can be debilitating and sometimes we are too embarrassed or scared to ask for help. Men are less likely to seek help than women are. Whatever your age, background or gender, it is really important to seek help. Anxiety which is present for long periods of times can really affect other aspects of your well-being and it’s really draining to be constantly worried. A lot of the time anxiety affects our sleep patterns too.
Find out more on our mental health page.
What causes anxiety?
The most common causes of anxiety are reported as being:
the welfare of a loved one
How do I manage anxiety?
There are several helpful ways to start to manage anxiety and its’ symptoms. For example, staying active, eating a healthy balanced diet, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (talking therapies) and practicing Mindfulness are all recommended.
Staying active is the key to a balanced life, we all hear it, don’t we? But staying active is not only good for our physical health, it’s also vital for our mental health too. According to Sport England participation in physical activity and sport has been shown to be effective in reducing depression, anxiety, psychological distress and emotional disturbance. If the gym isn’t for you though, you could try running or going to a yoga class. Even walking the dog counts. It’s important to set small goals and try to reach your target each day.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT):
When someone is distressed or anxious, their self-esteem and self-concept can be negatively affected. Talking therapies, like CBT, can help some people to understand the link between negative thoughts and emotions. Altering our behaviour can enable us to manage anxiety and feel more in control. CBT is recognised as one of the most effective methods of non-pharmacological (non-medical) treatments for a number of mental health problems. Over time, CBT can enable a person to spot negative thought patterns or triggers and stop them in their tracks. CBT is available on the NHS but can also be obtained privately.
Mindfulness focuses on changing the relationship between the anxious person and their thoughts, rather than challenging the thoughts themselves. Mindfulness focuses on meditation and living in the present ‘here and now’ moment. Rather than avoiding unpleasant feelings, the person remains present and fully experiences them, this is to observe their reactions in a different way.
Mindfulness can be a really great way to incorporate ‘gratitude’ moments. This involves reflecting on and writing down in a journal what you are grateful for before you go to bed each day. This is not only great to look back on, but also positive for self-reflection before sleep.
Anxiety can be treated
Anxiety can often be treated effectively through a combination of self-help and professional support. The first step is acknowledging the problem, and the next step is to tell someone close to you who you trust. For more information visit our resources page.
At KMA we frequently see clients who have anxiety, often alongside other health conditions, illnesses or disabilities.