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. They can also 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 may also find it helpful to have some techniques you can use when you're feeling really anxious or having a panic attack. These are techniques that can help you to feel calmer. If you're not sure where to start, have a look at these ideas from our bloggers:
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.
Blogs, tips and advice
"Finding a physical way to get your worries out in the open can really help. I’ve found imagining my anxious thoughts physically leaving my brain and floating into the sky really helps." Georgie
"(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." Luke
"Write a letter to yourself explain how you feel and why. Be as open and truthful with yourself as you can be. A few days later, read it back imagining someone else wrote it to think how you would help them." Molly
"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." Georgie
"If you look up ‘calming breathing techniques’ you’ll find many of your own. I breathe in for 7 seconds and out for 11 seconds, which helps me to stop and focus." Georgie
"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." Jasmine
"Doing something you enjoy is a good way of taking your mind off of things. I get anxiety over things that may not even happen, so having things that I enjoy reduces the amount I worry." Georgie
For more advice 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.
YoungMinds Crisis Messenger
Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.
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.
Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.
Text: YM to 85258
Opening times: 24/7
Supports people struggling with panic attacks, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and other anxiety-related issues.
Offers a specialist youth helpline for people aged 13-20. The opening hours are 3pm - 6pm, Monday - Friday; 6pm - 8pm, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Call 01952 680835 for a recorded breathing exercise to help you through a panic attack (available 24/7).
Information about call costs here.
Phone: 0300 772 9844
Email: [email protected]
Opening times: 10am - 10pm, 365 days a year
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
Phone: 0800 1111
Opening times: 9am - midnight, 365 days a year