It feels as though anxiety is prevalent at the moment. We hear such a lot about it in the media, particularly as a result of the huge changes which have been imposed on us by Covid-19. But what is it? And what can we do if it has become such an issue that it affects our daily lives?
Anxiety can be described as a feeling of unease, worry, fear or even dread.
A little anxiety can be a good thing. It can help us to be cautious about things that might cause us harm and ultimately, it can keep us safe. Some of us might get a tightness in our stomach when we are about to try out a fast-moving theme park ride or feel as though our hearts stop if we look at a steep drop!
Anxiety starts to become a problem when things which haven’t previously, or shouldn’t feel like a threat, suddenly do. These feelings might prevent us from doing things we love, mixing with others, going to work or school, trying something new. They can also affect the way we feel about ourselves. Left unchecked, anxiety can leave us lacking in self-confidence, being overly hard on ourselves and developing unhealthy thought patterns and behaviours.
This can lead to a downward spiral of wanting to withdraw and avoid those things that contribute towards feelings of anxiety. But it can also make our worlds smaller. Often, we can see there is a problem when our feelings of anxiety act as a barrier to doing the things we want to do or perhaps even those things we need to do.
Anxious feelings can also have a very physical impact. It can be difficult to switch off our thoughts, to relax and get to sleep. It might be the case that sleep is interrupted and it feels impossible to drift off again. Anxiety can have an impact on eating patterns, leading to having very little appetite, or sometimes to overeating. In more extreme cases, it can contribute towards physical conditions which can be further restrictive in terms of how we live our lives.
There is hope. Anxiety thrives within secrecy, feelings of guilt and shame and a lack of understanding. Talking about what you are experiencing is a huge first step in feeling understood and supported. If what’s written here strikes a chord with you, it is important to know that you are not alone in feeling this way. If you feel that you are experiencing anxiety, there are a number of ways to get support:
- Talking therapies. By speaking to someone who understands and can support you to work through what you are experiencing, it can have a positive impact and reduce the anxiety you feel. It can also give you strategies to deal with anxiety when it becomes intrusive.
- There are a number of books and online resources which you can use for self-help in order to manage your anxiety.
- A visit to your GP might be useful to explore how it is affecting you and what help can be offered through the NHS.
- There are a number of apps which are available to help deal with the effects of anxiety. Some involve meditation and mindfulness; others aim to help you to relax and can be more suited to using before bed.
However anxiety affects you, by letting someone else know how you are feeling, you are taking a first step to breaking the downward spiral and putting support in place for yourself.