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Thursday, 18 May 2023

Mental Health Awareness Week: What can we do to cope with feelings of anxiety?

Posted in Blog

Mental Health Awareness Week: What can we do to cope with feelings of anxiety?

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (15-21 May 2023) is anxiety. Anxiety is often described as a feeling of fear or unease – and it’s something everyone experiences at times. Feeling anxious is a perfectly natural reaction to some situation​​s.

Anxiety can help us to focus or take extra care when needed, but if it gets too much or goes on for a while, it can affect our daily life. Managing anxiety can be challenging, but there are several strategies that can help.

Here, Leo Bell, Wellbeing Lead at NHS Sutton Talking Therapies (formerly Sutton Uplift) shares some things you can try when you’re feeling anxious.

Focus on your breathing: When you’re having anxious thoughts, try focusing on your breathing to help calm your body and mind. Take slow, deep breaths in through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. It can help you control the thought.

Challenge your thoughts: Negative thoughts can contribute to anxiety. Challenge them by asking yourself if they are based on facts or just irrational fears. Is what you’re worrying about likely to happen? Are you being realistic? Have you had similar thoughts which have not turned into reality? This can make it easier to challenge the thoughts and stop them from overwhelming you.

Identify triggers: It can be helpful to identify what triggers your anxiety so you can avoid or prepare for those situations.

Practice relaxation: Try relaxation techniques such as meditation or connecting with your senses. Mind charity has a really helpful list of relaxation exercises and how to do them here. Some of these exercises might not work for everyone – find what works best for you.

Get moving: Exercise can help to reduce anxiety and improve your mood. Any amount of exercise can help – try walking, jogging or yoga. It doesn’t have to vigorous, but it needs a bit of concentration so it takes your mind off the anxious thoughts.

Get enough sleep: Getting good quality sleep is really important, but it can be hard if your head is full of worries. If your anxious thoughts are keeping you awake, get up and sit in a comfy place and do something relaxing, like reading a book or listening to quiet music. Wait until you’re feeling sleepier before going back to bed.

Avoid easy distractions: Using alcohol, drugs, sugary treats or even social media to manage anxiety can be counterproductive and may lead to addiction or a worsening in anxiety-related symptoms.

Connect with others: Reach out to trusted friends, family or support groups. If you’re able to talk to people about how you're feeling l it can help to reduce your anxiety. Sometimes saying what’s worrying you out loud can take away its power over you.

Challenge yourself gradually: It can be helpful to gradually expose yourself to the situation rather than avoiding it altogether (e.g. say hi to the barrister rather than going to a party full of people you don’t know).

Ask for more help if you need it: If your feelings of anxiety are not going away, are having a negative impact on your life, or often prevent you from doing things you need or want to do, seek support. Speak to your GP or healthcare professional about support available in your area.

NHS Talking Therapies offer effective and confidential treatments for common mental health problems like anxiety, stress and depression. Help is available in person, by video, over the phone or as an online course. You can refer yourself directly without a referral from a GP, or a GP can refer you.

Click on the borough you live in to find out more and ask for help online quickly and easily. 

Remember that managing anxiety is an ongoing process, and different techniques work for different individuals. Be patient with yourself and explore different strategies until you find what works best for you.