What is anxiety?

When we are worried, tense, or fearful, especially about events that are about to happen or that we believe may happen in the future, we experience anxiety. 

Lots of people feel anxious at times and it is a normal response to certain situations. It’s particularly common to experience some anxiety while coping with stressful events or changes, especially ones that can have a big impact on your life. 

While a certain level of anxiety is normal, if you find that anxiety is impacting your ability to live your life as fully as you wish, this can be a mental health problem. 

For example, it may be a problem if: 

  • Your feelings of anxiety are intense or last for a long time 
  • Your fears or worries are excessive in relation to the situation 
  • You avoid situations that may make you feel anxious 
  • Your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control 
  • You regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which may include panic attacks 
  • You find it hard to take part in everyday activities or do things you enjoy 

What are some of the signs of anxiety?

Everyone experiences anxiety differently. You might experience some of the physical and mental effects listed on this page, as well as effects in other areas of your life. 

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense 
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom 
  • Having an increased heart rate 
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation) 
  • Sweating 
  • Trembling 
  • Feeling weak or tired 
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry 
  • Having trouble sleeping 
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems 
  • Having difficulty controlling worry 
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety 

Ways to cope with anxiety

1) 5 Sense Scan

This exercise can distract you from the difficult emotions you are feeling. You can write them down, say it out loud or just go through each one in your head. 

Create a list of: 

5 things you can see 

4 things you can hear 

3 things you can touch 

2 things you can smell or taste 

Take 1 deep breath. 

Do you feel more calm and present? 

2) 4-7-8 breathing 

The 4-7-8 breathing technique can be used to relax when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. 

Find somewhere comfortable to sit. If you can, close your eyes. 

Breathe in through your nose to the count of four. 

Hold the breath to the count of seven. 

Exhale through your mouth to the count of eight. 

Repeat this process four times in total.

3) STOPP exercise 

Take a moment to do this quick and easy exercise which can help ground you and bring you back to the present moment. 

Stop 

Stop what you are doing and just take a moment to pause. 

Take a breath 

Breath in through your nose and then slowly through your mouth. Notice as your breathing moving through your nose and releasing from your mouth. 

Observe 

Recognise the physical and emotional feelings you are experiencing. Are you reacting to anything? What does your body feel like? 

Pull Back 

Remove yourself from your current situation and think of the bigger picture. 
 
Could you look at this situation in another way? 
What would you say to a friend right now if they were going through this? 
Will you be worried about this in a month, 6 months or a year? 

Remember… this feeling will pass. You have made a great step in looking for help – be proud of that. 

Practice 

What have you done in the past that has helped you feel better? Create a wellness toolkit of activities and strategies that keep you calm. 

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