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What is Anxiety

Reading time: 4-6 minutes

Stress and anxiety don’t always have to result from dramatic incidents in life. We live in a society where smaller daily pressures like exams, school life, family and the online world can all accumulate to make us feel like things are out of control.

However, feeling stressed or anxious doesn’t mean that you aren’t handling things!

While everyone can feel anxious or nervous at various points throughout their lives, some people can feel like this for longer periods of time or in stronger ways. This can interfere with your day-to-day life or prevent you from doing the things you enjoy. While this may be referred to as an ‘anxiety disorder’, you don’t need a formal diagnosis to be impacted by these feelings.

What can it feel like?

Stress and anxiety can make you feel tense, worked up, or on edge. You might feel like your body is full of pent-up energy, as the things that are making you feel stressed or worried are sending your body into overdrive.

This would come in useful in very dangerous situations, as your body would use this energy to fight or flee whatever risk you are facing. so your body doesn’t get a chance to release that energy so easily.

This can lead to a number of reactions. One of these would be a panic attack - a sudden physical response to fear which can be scary to experience at the time. We have a whole page on panic attacks, which tells you more about what they are and things you can do to manage them. Other responses to stress and anxiety include:

  • Stomach ache
  • Tense muscles
  • Headaches
  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Dizziness
  • Change in appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Tearfulness
  • Worrying more than usual
  • Snapping at others
  • Self-harm 

What might help?

There are lots of small things that can ease feelings of stress and anxiety. It can be really useful to get in the habit of doing them frequently, even if you’re not stressed at the time, as they often make things easier to manage when they do come up.

  • Explore different ways to relax. This could be going for a walk in the park, having a bath, or reading a book – everyone’s different and finding a few things that you can turn to when you need can really help.
  • Limit things like caffeine, sugar and other drugs. These can make it harder for your body to figure out it’s natural ‘rhythm’ and we can sometimes become overly-dependent on things like this.
  • Try to be ‘in the moment’. If you find your mind running away from you or a spending a lot of time worrying about things that aren't necessarily in front of you, finding something to 'bring you into the moment' can help to interrupt those thoughts. You could try things that let you focus your attention on something else, such as doing something creative, listening to music, using something like a fidget toy that can connect you to objects around you, finding something in the place you're in to focus on, or meditating.
  • Look for ways to reduce the cause of stress. If it’s something within your control (perhaps like school work) then try to make an action plan and break down the things that you can do into smaller, easier steps. Being able to cross these off as you go can really help you feel like you’re making progress. There's some more ideas for ways to manage a big workload on our page on burnout too.
  • Switch your phone to “do not disturb” at bedtime. Let your brain unwind slowly and switch on ‘night mode’ to change the screen colour if you can (it removes the blues in the screen that your brain interprets as daylight).
  • Keep active. This doesn’t have to be intense - going on a brisk walk or taking the stairs instead of the lift can help! We've got a page around ideas for this here too.
  • Talk to others. Connect with other people, tell them how you’re feeling, and let them know when you’re stressed or anxious!

Where to go for more support 

There are lots of resources out there to help you manage your stress and anxiety. If feelings persist or interfere with your everyday life, you may also find it helpful to talk to someone about it.

  • Seek support from 42nd We provide a number of face-to-face services, all of which offer something slightly different depending on what you want to get out of the support. If you want to chat to someone online via text, you can register for ongoing online support with one of our workers via our online support portal. We also hold weekly drop-in sessions so that you can speak with a worker without an appointment. Overall, though, every service provides you with someone who will listen, acknowledge your feelings, and work with you to develop ways to manage your stress and anxiety. You can read about our services here.
  • Talk to your GP. If feelings of stress or anxiety are disrupting your life, it might be useful to tell a GP. After asking some questions, they may suggest some forms of treatment that might help you. They may also be able to tell you about support groups for people experiencing stress and anxiety.
  • Childline has plenty of information on coping with anxiety. If you’re under 19 and are feeling overwhelmed or just want to talk to someone, you can also phone them on 0800 1111.
  • Download a mindfulness app. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that’s centred around awareness and being in the present. It can help you to focus on the here and now, rather than worrying about what might be. There are plenty of free apps out there dedicated to mindfulness, such as Headspace, Calm, Smiling Mind, WellMind, MindShift and WhatsUp?. The Headspace YouTube channel also has some great videos about mindfulness if you’re curious!

By: Ruby Guyler 

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