The cause of anxiety can usually be credited to a certain situation or event that’s about to happen to us. But it can also be heightened by a lack of control over situations or events that might, or might not, happen in the future. Anxiety is our body’s way of coping when we feel that we’re under threat or, more commonly, when we worry too much about situations or events that are beyond our control.
As well as how we feel mentally, such as feelings of dread or fear, anxiety can also show in physical symptoms, including shortness of breath, increased heartbeat, or feeling sick. It’s normal to experience anxiety from time to time, especially when you’re living through a stressful life or work situation. But not letting it take us over or allowing it to develop into a long-term disorder is key to how we cope with anxiety.
One specific event that affected everyone in some way is the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which has seen the need for ‘lockdown’ – the state of enforced isolation that’s been required to prevent the virus spreading. While necessary, this imposed restriction has had a deep effect on many people which has seen a rise in depression, stress, and anxiety.
Psychologists from Ulster University have worked with colleagues from the University of Sheffield to create a joint research study. This has shown how lockdown measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 have affected people’s mental health.
In a sample of 2,000 people across the UK, it shows the level of anxiety rose after lockdown was introduced at the end of March 2020. The study also showed how higher rates of anxiety were linked with younger people, those with existing mental health problems, and those on a lower income.
Anxiety as a mental health problem
While lockdown is a specific event to have to deal with, most everyday occurrences of anxiety may only happen now and again, being triggered by specific stressful events. However, it’s equally as important to understand that, left to develop, anxiety can become a bigger mental health problem. Signs that that’s happening might include:
– if your anxiety lasts for a long period of time or is very powerful
– if you start to purposefully avoid situations that you know could trigger your anxiety
– if your anxiety is out of proportion to that situation
– if you regularly have anxiety symptoms
– if your feelings are causing you distress or are hard to control
If anxiety and symptoms like this start to affect you long term, have a negative impact on the way you live your life, and cause you great distress, then you should look to your Doctor or helplines for support, help, and guidance.
Clearfocus Training also offers a dedicated course if you want to know more about anxiety and effective ways to help you cope. Find out more by reading our course page on Overcoming and Understanding Anxiety.
How to stop anxiety
If you’re living with anxiety, mild or otherwise, it’s important to find coping strategies that will help you manage and reduce the effects. In most cases, your day to day worries or fears can be calmed by practising some tried and trusted techniques to help you cope. These can include:
– Deep breathing: No specific breathing exercises needed, but just a series of slow, deep, and regular breathing in and out to slow your mind and body down.
– Doing an activity: To stop thinking about what’s worrying you or causing your anxiety, do something else such as listening to music or a podcast, reading, or watching television to help shift your focus.
– Exercise: Walking, running, swimming, cycling, and yoga are great ways to help you relax and release natural endorphins to let out any pent up tension or anxiety.
While these, and other, techniques will help you, if your anxiety is more acute, then you can start to introduce some larger attitude and lifestyle changes. Together, they should help you lessen the triggers and reduce the stress you’re feeling. These can include:
– Know yourself: Learning about yourself, your fears or anxiety, and your triggers is a good way to start addressing the issues. If you list these out, you can set yourself small, daily goals to help you understand your fears.
– Facing your fears: By avoiding the situations or events you’re worried about, your fear about them will grow and you won’t be able to overcome it. Slowly facing your fears can be an effective way to manage your anxiety.
– Eat healthy: A healthy diet with well-balanced meals, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, can be helpful in reducing anxiety. Reducing your sugar intake, avoiding or limiting alcohol and caffeine will also help improve anxiety symptoms.
Tackling anxiety together
Tackling anxiety can be a struggle, but it’s crucial to remember you’re never alone in your fears. Understanding yourself, your body, and your anxiety will help you in the long term by both addressing and managing the signs and symptoms, letting you live your life as you want, without fear.
Our 1-day Overcoming and Understanding Anxiety
course will help give you a greater awareness and understanding of anxiety and how it can affect you – and others. But it will also cover the symptoms, triggers, and coping strategies, as well as wellbeing, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques.
Aimed at anyone wanting to understand and support others with anxiety issues, whether on a personal or professional basis, the course will be delivered by our fully qualified mental health training professionals in a group with a maximum of 15 people.