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Mental Health and Wellbeing

What is Anxiety?

According to the NHS, Anxiety is the feeling of unease, such as fear or worry, which can be either mild or severe.

At some point of their life, everyone will experience anxiety in one form or another, in most cases it will pass once the situation is over. However, some cases might be more severe and may require medical assistance.

Causes of Anxiety

There are various causes to anxiety and each person will experience it differently. If you find yourself in a situation that makes you feel scared or anxious, your body will release stress hormones, such as cortisol or adrenaline. Sometimes, this can be helpful in certain situations; however, they can present with physical symptoms such as sweating or rapid heart rate. This can lead to some people experiencing a panic attack.

It can be helpful for an individual to know what is causing their anxiety, as this can help to find ways to avoid triggers and control their environment to the best of their ability. Various factors can cause a person to experience anxiety, fear or panic:

  • Education - There will be situations in a students’ time in education that can cause them to experience anxiety in one form or another. Exams can be especially challenging, along with making decisions that can affect the rest of their lives.
  • Family – Difficulties and even the breakdown of relationships are a common factor in a person experiencing anxieties, particularly in the cases of divorce.
  • Financial – In the current economic climate, financial fears are rising. Having to deal with unexpected bills and finding ways to pay are leading many people to experience panic and anxiety.
  • Health – Losing someone, experiencing ill health or injury can cause anxiety.
  • Life events – Significate life events, such as buying a house, getting married or having a baby can be incredibly stressful and create a sense of anxiety.
  • Past Experiences – Living with a difficult past or a traumatic event can come with challenges and often a sense of fear over things that may remind a person that. An example could be escaping abuse and noticing certain triggers that can remind you of the past events.
  • Work – Feeling pressure at work or fearing unemployment can lead to some people feeling anxious.

Physical Symptoms

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety can include:

  • Faster, more noticeable or irregular heartbeat
  • The feeling of dizziness or being lightheaded
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Breathlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating or feeling hot
  • Shaking

Mental Symptoms

Mental symptoms of Anxiety can include:

  • Feeling tense or nervous
  • Worrying about the past or future
  • Being unable to relax
  • Feeling tearful
  • Not being able to sleep
  • Fear of the worst happening
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Intrusive memories that can be traumatic
  • Obsessive thoughts

Changes to behaviour

Changes to behaviour can include:

  • Difficulty looking after yourself
  • Worrying about trying new things
  • Compulsive behaviours, such as constantly checking things
  • Not being able to enjoy your leisure time
  • Struggling to maintain relationships or form new ones
  • Avoiding situations or places that may cause anxiety.

Panic Attacks

If a person experiences a sudden and intense sense of anxiety and fear, it may possibly be a panic attack. Panic attacks can often include other symptoms, such as:

  • A racing heartbeat
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded; as though you may faint
  • A feeling that you are losing control
  • Shaking, trembling or sweating
  • Rapid breathing or a shortness of breath
  • A tingling sensation in your lips or fingers
  • Feeling sick or nauseous

Panic attacks can vary in length, but usually last between 5 and 30 minutes. They are not dangerous and they should not harm you, but they can be very frightening.

Thing you can do to help with anxiety, fear and panic

  • Try to talk to people around you about your feeling. If not a friend or family member, speak to medical professionals or a counsellor. If you need someone to talk to, you could also try speaking to the Samaritans; call free on 116 123
  • Use calming breathing exercises. These can be found here on the NHS website
  • Exercising can help you relax your mind. Try activities such as running, going for a nice walk somewhere open, swimming and yoga. Yoga can help to keep your mind healthy and relax your body.
  • If you find you are struggling to sleep, look into alternative methods for aiding you getting a restful sleep. Make sure that you create a restful environment, which is dark, cool, quiet and comfortable. Stay clear of anything that maybe a pick me up for you, such as alcohol and caffeine. If you find that you are just tossing and turning, try getting out of bed and finding something to relax you until you feel ready to return to bed.
  • Make changes to your diet. Eating a healthier diet with regular meals help to keep your energy levels stable.
  • Consider seeking peer support, particularly with people to use their experiences to help each other. Peer support helps you to see that plenty of other people have been through the same thing and may have various ways of dealing with the negatives you might be facing.
  • Listen to mental health audio guides, that can be found on the NHS website here

Things that are best to avoid when dealing with anxiety

  • Do not focus on things that you cannot change. Focus your energy and time on helping yourself feel better.
  • Tell yourself that you are not alone. Most people will have an experience with fear or anxiety at some point in their life.
  • Don not try to do everything all at once. Set yourself small and achievable goals to work towards, remember, big journeys start with small steps.
  • Try not to completely avoid situations that make you anxious. Building up time spent in worrying situations can help to gradually reduce your anxiety.
  • Try not to use addictive substances such as, Drugs, Alcohol and Gambling to relieve anxiety. These factors can contribute to poor mental health.