If you yourself do not struggle with anxiety, you’re likely to know someone (or several people) who does. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year”. Anxiety can affect anyone - from carers, to doctors, to nurses and patients - although women are twice as likely to be affected as men.
It’s difficult to determine whether the number of those affected by anxiety is rising or whether we are all just far more open about talking about it. However, the ADAA also say that researchers have found that using social media obsessively can cause anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impulsive disorder, problems with mental functioning, paranoia, and loneliness. With social media use increasing daily across all age groups, this sparks fear for our anxious minds and raises questions about how we will all cope in the future.
So what exactly is anxiety? The NHS website explains that anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. “Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or job interview. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal. But some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives.”
It is when feelings of anxiety begin to affect your daily life and begin to cause you distress that you should go to talk to your GP about it and get some professional help. Symptoms for anxiety can include feeling restless or worried, having trouble concentrating or sleeping and dizziness or heart palpitations.
If you are hoping to develop ways to manage anxiety - whether you’ve been to see your GP yet or not - here are some tips that could help you:
1. Talk it out
Mind the Mental Health Charity suggest that talking to someone you trust about what's making you anxious could be a relief. “It may be that just having someone listen to you and show they care can help in itself. If you aren't able to open up to someone close to you, the Samaritans and Anxiety UK both run helplines that you can call to talk to someone.”
2. Breathe through it
The NHS advise that if you are feeling anxious, the best thing is not to fight it. “Stay where you are and simply feel the panic without trying to distract yourself. Place the palm of your hand on your stomach and breathe slowly and deeply. The goal is to help the mind get used to coping with panic, which takes the fear of fear away.”
3. Move more
When coping with anxiety, WebMD say that if you’re feeling anxious, you should try exercising. “Exercise is an important part of physical and mental health. It can ease your feelings of anxiety and boost your sense of well-being. Shoot for three to five 30-minute workout sessions a week. Be sure to choose exercises you enjoy so you look forward to them.”
4. Get a good night’s sleep
WebMD also say that if we are feeling anxious we should pay attention to our sleep. “Both quality and quantity are important for good sleep. Doctors recommend an average of 8 hours of shut-eye a night. If anxiety is making it hard for you to fall asleep, create a routine to help.”
5. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol
Another one from WebMD! “Both caffeine, which is an “upper,” and alcohol, which is a “downer,” can make anxiety kick into overdrive. Cut back or avoid them if you can. Remember, coffee and soda aren't the only things with caffeine." Watch out also for diet pills, tea, chocolate and some headache medicines.
6. Try to accept your anxious thoughts
The Priory Group suggest that a good way of coping with anxiety is to sit with it. They say that “anxiety, although uncomfortable, is a normal emotion and no matter how much you want to get rid of it, we all feel anxious from time to time. Accepting anxiety, can be just like accepting that sometimes we feel angry, or sometimes we feel sad and sometimes we feel happy, and just like those other emotions, anxiety will pass. However, if your anxiety is long term and affecting your day-to-day life you shouldn't just accept it in order to feel better, you should seek support.”