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  • Writer's pictureJulie Burn

Tired of Anxiety holding you back?

According to the UK charity No Panic, anxiety and depression are the most common mental health issues in Britain today, with 7.8% of the population affected, and women twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with the condition. So why are many of us anxious and what can we do about it?


Anxiety is actually an evolutionary hangover, from thousands of years ago, says James Clear, author of New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits. Experiencing anxiety literally saved our lives on many an occasion: A lion approaches, so we feel stressed and anxious, we flee (phew, anxiety gone). A storm approaches, we feel anxious, we seek shelter, find shelter (again phew, anxiety relieved). In his article "The Evolution of Anxiety: Why We Worry and What to Do About It" Clear calls this an Immediate Return Environment, in that the solution to our anxious state happens relatively quickly:

Threat - Stress - Action - Relief


Luckily for us, our worries today don't involve us trying to avoid becoming lunch to a ravenous 420lb carnivore. Today we find ourselves worrying about our jobs - either keeping the one we've got, or hoping to find a new one. We worry about money, relationships, health, and often ourselves; how we fall short somehow, not being 'enough' in today's comparison culture. Clear calls these Delayed Return Anxieties. They cause us concern in the present moment, yet may not satisfactorily be resolved until some point in the future. The downside of this vague 'some point in the future', means we live in an almost constant state of uncertainty, resulting in, yes, you guessed it...anxiety.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), is by far the most common form of anxiety. Its main symptom is over- thinking, so our worries spiral out of control, and we are left feeling hopeless and stuck.


If you believe you have GAD or if your GP has diagnosed this condition, there is much that you can do to help yourself:


Talking Therapy

Often a GP will refer you for counselling before going down the medication route and this can be very helpful. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been found to be one of the most effective treatments for GAD as it hones in on those problematic, anxiety-provoking thoughts, encouraging you to question their validity and hopefully diminish their power over you.


Mindfulness

Mindfulness is present moment awareness, where we encourage our mind to focus on the here and now. Usually our minds are ruminating on some past event, "Oh why did I say that to Lucy? She'll think I'm such an idiot!" (which can make us depressed), or rushing ahead to some imagined point in the future, "I'm dreading this job interview. I just know I'm not going to get it" (which can make us anxious) .

Many counsellors, myself included, can teach you simple mindfulness techniques that will help you still those problematic thoughts. Present moment awareness can help you find peace and inner calm.


Exercise

Exercise has been proven to help your body release endorphins, those feel good chemicals. I can't emphasise enough how vitally important exercise is to your mental health, and I speak from personal experience, and from seeing many clients benefit from an active lifestyle. Getting out in the fresh air for a vigorous walk or run can be life changing, but any form of exercise is good. So pull on those trainers and go for a run, cycle with a chum, or hit the gym.


Avoid Alcohol

I might not be very popular for suggesting this one but alcohol has been proven to worsen anxiety. Whilst many of us think of alcohol as a stress-reliever because of the initial relaxation we feel after a glass or two of wine, alcohol is not a crutch to manage your anxiety. Whilst you may be able to blot out your worries after a few drinks, unfortunately those same worries will be with you again the following morning, with a nice accompaniment of hangover to boot.


Medication

Many people worry about going down the medication route but If you have tried counselling and many of the other suggestions mentioned above to relieve your anxiety, yet are still suffering, there are many medications available that may lessen or relieve your symptoms. Your GP may recommend a course of antidepressants or beta-blockers, both commonly used in treating anxiety, and they often don't need to be used long-term. So if you are struggling, make an appointment with your doctor and see what help is available.


We all get anxious from time to time. It is common and natural, but if you are living in an almost constant state of anxiety and it is having a detrimental affect on your life and relationships, then help is out there.


Please get in touch if you would like to book a counselling session to talk about your anxiety issues and to learn techniques and tools to manage it.


Some useful websites:

www.nopanic.org.uk - is a registered charity helping sufferers, and carers of those suffering, with anxiety, including panic attacks, OCD and phobias.

www.Mind.org.uk - the mental health charity, provides support and advice for a range of mental health problems, including anxiety.







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