Everybody gets anxious sometimes. There are so many reasons for us to feel this way: work, school, relationships, or money.
We've all worried about these at some point but if you are feeling anxious for longer and more often, this could be a sign that these feelings are getting out of control and your mental health is at risk.
This year, Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing on anxiety. There will be more pressure on the government to create laws to help people suffering from poor mental health. Lots of information will be provided to increase awareness of the problems that come from anxiety and what people can do to help themselves or others. Check out www.mentalhealth.org.uk for more details about mental health and Mental Health Awareness Week.
What can we do to help manage anxiety?
When feelings of anxiety are overwhelming it's sometimes hard to know what to do about it. Below are 9 tips from the Mental Health Foundation.
1. Focus on your breathing
Try to focus on your breathing. When you pay more attention to your body, it can help you control anxious thoughts.
1. Find somewhere comfortable to sit. If you can, close your eyes.
2. Breathe in through your nose to the count of four.
3. Hold the breath to the count of seven.
4. Exhale through your mouth to the count of eight.
2. Get moving
Exercise is a good way of dealing with anxiety. This can be gentle exercise like yoga or stretching, or something more vigorous like running and swimming. Something social, like an exercise class, is good because having people around can help distract you.
3. Keep a diary
Sometimes when we are anxious, it’s tempting to ignore those thoughts. It’s a good idea to write down these thoughts so that you can start to understand what’s worrying you. Don’t worry if what you write doesn’t make sense, it’s the act of writing that’s important!
If you are feeling anxious throughout the day, consider making some “worry time”. Use this time to write in your diary. This can help you put those thoughts behind you and move on with your day.
4. Challenge your thoughts
Anxiety can make us ‘ruminate’ This is when we think about something over and over. When you catch yourself ruminating try to write down the thought and challenge it: is this problem likely to happen? Have you had similar thoughts which have not become true? Try to get in the habit of challenging the thoughts and stop them from overwhelming you. Friends and loved ones can help to snap you out of rumination too.
5. Get support for money worries
Worrying about money is really common. You could be anxious about bills or repaying debt. There are benefits available that you could be entitled to: check out www.gov.uk/browse/benefits. You can also speak to an organisation such as Citizens Advice or StepChange.
6. Spend time in nature
Spending time in nature has can help us feel calmer and less stressed. You could think about tending some flowers in a window box or going for a walk in the park. Any amount of time doing this is good for us, but the longer the better!
7. Connect with people and talk about how you feel
Anxiety can make you feel very lonely and isolated. Reaching out to friends and loved ones means you can either tell them how you feel or just let them distract you. Volunteering can be really rewarding too: helping others has been shown to improve mental health. Talking is really healthy. Sometimes saying what’s worrying you out loud can take away its power over you.
8. Try to get some quality sleep or rest
Getting a good night’s sleep can seem impossible when your head is full of worries but there are some things that can help.
Try to keep yourself busy during the day, exercising your body and your brain. If anxious thoughts keep you awake, write them down in your diary. Try reading a book to distract yourself. A hot drink like warm milk or herbal tea can help but avoid anything with caffeine or alcohol (both disrupt sleep).
9. Try to eat a healthy diet
When we are feeling anxious it’s really tempting to snack and eat junk food. Similarly, alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs might seem like a way out, but these are all addictive and are likely to make the problem worse, not better.
A healthy diet means our blood sugar is more under control. This has a beneficial effect on both your energy levels and your mood. Watch out for caffeine: it’s in fizzy drinks and chocolate as well as tea and coffee.
Mental Health Awareness Week is the perfect time to talk to your family and friends about your mental health or the subject in general. You might find that someone you know well is struggling, and I’m sure they’d appreciate you asking!