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Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a word that is used a lot. It is often used to describe everything from mild nervousness to debilitating fear. While it is great that there is an increased awareness about anxiety and people are becoming more comfortable talking about it, when a term is used to describe such a wide range of experiences and symptoms, it can cause confusion. So, what exactly is anxiety, what are the signs and symptoms and how do you know when to seek help or support?

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of worry that everyone experiences from time to time. It is a feeling of fear or apprehension about what is to come. Anxiety is part of the body’s natural reaction to a stressful situation or event. When our bodies perceive that we are in danger or there is some threat, it responds by releasing hormones whichanxiety help us to respond to that threat. This response is commonly referred to as “fight, flight or freeze”.

This stress response is designed to be short-term. It gives a burst of hormones, which creates physiological and emotional changes in the body, in order to allow us to better deal with the threat or stressor that is present. Once we have dealt with that issue, our bodies can relax and recover. So our stress response, and the anxiety that is associated with this, can be a positive thing as it gives us energy and focus to deal with a stressful issue that we are facing.

Very often, however, our bodies do not get a chance to rest and recover, which can lead us to feel anxious over a longer period of time. When anxiety is prolonged or very intense, it can end up having a negative impact on mood, motivation, energy levels and day-to-day functioning.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety causes physical and emotional changes. Not everyone experiences anxiety in exactly the same way, so it is important to recognise how it feels for you and what symptoms you experience when you are feeling anxious. Having this awareness can help you to notice when you are feeling anxious, which then allows you to take steps to manage this. Some common symptoms of anxiety include:

Physical Symptoms

  • Increased heartrate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweatinganxiety
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle tension
  • Feeling sick
  • Headaches

Emotional/Psychological Symptoms

  • Feelings of worry or fear
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Overthinking
  • Self-doubt
  • Irritability
  • Avoiding certain people, places or situations
  • Lack of motivation

How to manage anxiety

When you are feeling anxious, it can sometimes feel overwhelming, and it can be hard to know how to manage it. There are lots of things that you can do to minimise the symptoms of anxiety, which in turn can reduce the impact it has on you and how long it lasts. It can be useful to try a few different techniques and find the ones that work for you. Everyone is different, so there is no one size fits all but here are a few ideas of techniques that many people find helpful:

  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Exerciseanxiety therapy
  • Breathing exercises
  • Positive self-talk
  • Talking to friends and family
  • Journaling
  • Sleep
  • Eating well
  • Spending time in nature
  • Doing activities that you enjoy
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake

How do you know when to look for support?

Anxiety is something that everyone experiences at some point. It is generally a response to a particular situation and will ease after a period of time. Often it is something that can be managed through self-care and using some or all of the tips outlined above. However, there are times when additional support may be needed to help deal with and manage anxiety. It might be time to consider getting some professional support if:

  • Your anxiety is having a negative impact on your ability to complete normal day-to-day tasks
  • Your anxiety has been on-going over a long period of time
  • You are feeling anxious in situations where there is no stress or danger
  • You are finding it difficult to control your anxiety

If you need support in managing your anxiety, there is support available. You can speak to your GP, or contact Centric Mental Health via 01 611 1719 or [email protected] to talk to our expert team.

Written by: Ciara Heaslip, MIACP & PSI

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