What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal, human feeling of fear or panic. When we face stressful situations, it can set off our brain’s in-built alarm bell system, which tells us something isn’t right and that we need to deal with it. Our brain wants the difficult situation to go away, so it makes us feel more alert, stops us thinking about other things, and even pumps more blood to our legs to help us run away.
Most of us worry sometimes – about things like friendships or money – and feel anxious when we’re under stress, like at exam time. But afterwards we usually calm down and feel better.
But when you’re not in a stressful situation, and you still feel worried or panicky, that’s when anxiety can become a problem.
Celebrity vlogger Zoe Sugg (Zoella) revealed that she often suffers from anxiety, so she’s had some professional help to learn tools and techniques that help her manage it and live a calmer life.
The symptoms of anxiety
You might start out just feeling generally anxious, but if your symptoms get worse or last longer than they should, it could be time to get some support. Symptoms include:
- feeling nervous, on edge, or panicky all the time
- feeling overwhelmed or full of dread
- feeling out of control
- having trouble sleeping
- low appetite
- finding it difficult to concentrate
- feeling tired and grumpy
- heart beating really fast or thinking you’re having a heart attack
- having a dry mouth
- feeling faint
- stomach cramps and/or diarrhoea/needing to pee more than usual
- sweating more than usual
- wobbly legs
- getting very hot
If you experience any of these symptoms above, it doesn’t mean you definitely have an anxiety problem. But if any of them are affecting your everyday life, it’s a good idea to tell someone you trust about how you’re feeling.
What to do about anxiety
Feeling constant anxiety can be a sign that something in your life isn’t right, and you may need some help figuring out what that is.
Talk to your GP
If they think you’re suffering from anxiety, whether mild or severe, they can suggest different types of treatment that might help and can offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing.
There are three main ways of treating anxiety. You might try one, or end up using a combination, depending on what works best for you.
There are quite a few things you can do yourself to help manage your anxiety.
You could try mindfulness and meditation - there are helpful apps such as Calm and Headspace which you might find helpful in managing your anxiety.
Your GP can tell you where to find local support groups. You can also look online at Anxiety UK for tools, tips and information on support networks.
See below for more tips from our Activists and bloggers on how to manage anxiety.
Our Activists and bloggers share their advice and tips for dealing with anxiety:
"Finding a physical way to get your worries into the open can really help. I’ve found that imagining my anxious thoughts physically leaving my brain and floating off into the sky really helps me."
"(If you find seeing family and friends difficult), try to remind yourself that there’s no danger with your family or friends, and that you are safe with them."
"If you’re not ready to speak to someone yet, write a letter to yourself explaining how you’re feeling and why. Be as open and truthful with yourself as you can be. Then, a few days later, you could read it back to yourself and imagine that someone else wrote it and think about how you would help them."
"Sometimes all you need to do is stop and focus on your breathing. I have learned many techniques over my time in counselling, and finding one that works for you is important. If you look up ‘calming breathing techniques’ you’ll be able to find many of your own. I breathe in for seven seconds and out for 11 seconds, which just helps me to stop and focus."
"The best advice I can offer is to ask for help. Anxiety is a very isolating experience, but you really are not alone. And as stressful and anxiety-inducing as seeking help can be in itself, talking to someone and receiving support is the only way to overcome it."
"Doing something that you enjoy is a good way of taking your mind off of things. I get anxiety over things that may not even happen, and so having things in my life that I enjoy doing reduces the amount I worry."
For more advice and tips on managing anxiety, have a look at our blogs:
2. Talking therapy
Talking therapy can help you get to the root of what is causing your anxiety. With cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), you work with a therapist who helps you understand your thoughts and feelings, and then helps you explore ways to change how they affect you. You also learn practical techniques to help you relax and cope better in everyday life.
Medication might help you manage some of your symptoms and your doctor might suggest you try taking medication alongside talking therapy.
Where to get help
- provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis - just text YM to 85258
- all texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors
- texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus
- No Panic are the people to call if you are suffering from panic attacks, OCD, phobias, and other related anxiety disorders.
- helpline: 0844 967 4848 (Daily 10am – 10pm; charges apply)
- youth helpline for 13 - 20 yr olds: 0330 606 1174 (Mon - Fri 3pm – 6pm; charges apply)
- having a panic attack? Crisis number with recording of a breathing technique: 01952 680835 (24 hr)
- email: [email protected]
- if you're under 19 you can confidentially call, email or chat online about any problem big or small
- freephone 24h helpline: 0800 1111
- sign up for a childline account on the website to be able to message a counsellor anytime without using your email address
- chat 1:1 with an online advisor
- if you're under 25 you can talk to The Mix for free on the phone, by email or on their webchat. You can also use their phone counselling service, or get more information on support services you might need.
- freephone: 0808 808 4994 (1pm - 11pm daily)