If you’re overwhelmed by racing thoughts that make it difficult to sleep, it could be a sign of anxiety. Beyond Blue explains what you need to know, and how to get help. We all feel anxious sometimes. Whether we’re worried about work, concerned about a loved one or nervous about a first date, anxiety is just a […]
We all feel anxious sometimes. Whether we’re worried about work, concerned about a loved one or nervous about a first date, anxiety is just a normal part of life. For some of us, though, these feelings of anxiety can be persistent and overwhelming. They can intrude on their lives in a way that makes it hard to get through the day.
Many people don’t realise that anxiety is the most common mental health issue. Anxiety affects one in four people in Australia at some point – one in three women and one in five men. It might sound strange that someone can have anxiety without knowing it. But it happens, often because the symptoms of anxiety are misinterpreted. For example, traits such as a tendency to worry are often explained away as being part of a person’s personality. It may be that people view their anxiety as a reaction to a particular situation, such as work stress or becoming a parent for the first time.
Anxiety can even be mistaken for physical health problems, such as a heart condition.
Recognising the symptoms of anxiety A good place to start is learning how to recognise the symptoms of a mental health issue. Along with difficulty sleeping, the core symptoms of anxiety are:
• Worrying about everything that could go wrong or badly
• A racing mind that won’t calm down
• Feeling tense or on edge
• A racing heart
• Rapid or shallow breathing
• Avoiding (or escaping from) situations that make you feel anxious.
Treatment for anxiety The good news is it can be treated. More serious cases of anxiety might warrant treatment by a therapist but increasingly popular are the suite of online treatment options designed to help people help themselves (with some gentle support along the way).
10 strategies to try
- Slow breathing. When you’re anxious, your breathing becomes faster and shallower. Try deliberately slowing down your breathing. Count to three as you breathe in slowly – then count to three as you breathe out slowly.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Find a quiet location. Close your eyes and slowly tense and then relax each of your muscle groups from your toes to your head. Hold the tension for three seconds and then release quickly. This can help reduce the feelings of muscle tension that often comes with anxiety.
- Stay in the present moment. Anxiety can make your thoughts live in a terrible future that hasn’t happened yet. Try to bring yourself back to where you are. Practising meditation can help.
- Healthy lifestyle. Keeping active, eating well, going out into nature, spending time with family and friends, reducing stress and doing the activities you enjoy are all effective in reducing anxiety and improving your wellbeing.
- Take small acts of bravery. Avoiding what makes you anxious provides some relief in the short term, but can make you more anxious in the long term. Try approaching something that makes you anxious – even in a small way. The way through anxiety is by learning that what you fear isn’t likely to happen – and if it does, you’ll be able to cope with it.
- Challenge your self-talk. How you think affects how you feel. Anxiety can make you overestimate the danger in a situation and underestimate your ability to handle it. Try to think of different interpretations to a situation that’s making you anxious, rather than jumping to the worst-case scenario. Look at the facts for and against your thought being true.
- Plan worry time. It’s hard to stop worrying entirely so set aside some time to indulge your worries. Even 10 minutes each evening to write them down or go over them in your head can help stop your worries from taking over at other times.
- Get to know your anxiety. Keep a diary of when it’s at it’s best – and worst. Find the patterns and plan your week – or day – to proactively manage your anxiety.
- Learn from others. Talking with others who also experience anxiety – or are going through something similar – can help you feel less alone. Visit reputable Online Forums to connect with others.
- Be kind to yourself. Remember that you are not your anxiety. You are not weak. You are not inferior. You have a mental health condition. It’s called anxiety.