Understanding Anxiety

by | 1 May 2023 | Mental Health, Wellbeing

Anxiety doesn’t need to be a diagnosed illness to have a detrimental impact on life.


What is anxiety?

A level of anxiety is necessary as part of our threat response system needed for survival.  It is also natural to feel apprehension about something significant. This can be related to a positive event, as well as something we are concerned about.

However, high levels of anxiety, particularly persistent levels, have a significant impact on overall health and everyday life.  An anxiety disorder is much more than that feeling of being a bit nervous about something.  On a recent training course one attendee described it as ‘anxiety turned up a thousand times’. Therefore, it is a logical theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2023.

  • 6% of people have a diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (MIND)
  • 22.5% of people surveyed by the Mental Health Foundation described living with a high level of anxiety in 2022.
  • Women and young people experience the highest levels (Anxiety UK)


What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety disorders have a wide array of physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioural symptoms.  These include shortness of breath, headache, dry mouth, muscle aches and pains, mind racing, confusion, difficulty concentrating, avoiding situations, etc.

Whilst Generalised Anxiety Disorder is most frequently diagnosed, there is a range of disorders under the anxiety spectrum, and these may co-exist. This includes panic attacks, phobias, acute anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety.  There is also a clear link between stress, anxiety disorders and depression.

What are the causes of anxiety?

The mix of factors that lead to anxiety will vary by person and the triggers will differ at different stages of life, influenced by a variety of reasons. Sometimes there may be a significant thing in our life causing anxiety, often there is no specific reason we feel highly anxious. At present reports are showing that financial worries are creating anxiety for many people (Mental Health Foundation).  This isn’t just directly due to money worries but is also linked to limiting access to ways we look after our wellbeing as a protective measure.

Mental Health Awareness Week provides an opportunity to increase awareness of anxiety, encourage people to share their experiences, and take steps to manage our own levels of anxiety.

Basic tips for managing anxiety

Know that recovery from anxiety disorders is possible and likely with practice and resources. Hope and optimism are important factors in recovery. Take a holistic, proactive approach to overall wellbeing. In my view this is always the most significant thing we can do for our physical, social, and psychological health. Looking after our whole self increases our resources and resilience to cope when we face challenges. Remember the basics:

  • Sufficient, quality sleep
  • Connecting with others
  • Getting outside in fresh air and nature
  • Regular exercise and activity
  • A healthy diet


Strategies for managing anxiety

Develop a range of strategies to deal with moments of high anxiety and draw on them when needed.

  • Breathing techniques – focus on slow, deep breaths with longer on the exhale. Taking a couple of minutes to breath slowly is a powerful technique.
  • Grounding techniques. It may be encouraging someone to clasp something tightly and release – maybe the arm of the chair where they are sitting.  Another method is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique where you identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
  • Mindfulness techniques


Identify your anxiety triggers

  • Notice when your feelings of anxiety increase.
  • Take time to reflect on times when you have felt anxious, what specifically was happening, where were you, who was involved, what was the specific fear?
  • Use your awareness of the triggers to identify specific actions you might take. Often these are simple practical steps we can take with thought and planning.
  • It is important not to avoid situations that induce anxiety but to find techniques to manage and reduce the anxiety.


Identify your support network

Consider who in your life can support you in managing anxiety.

  • Make them aware of triggers and signs that you may be experiencing high anxiety and agree what they can do to help you in that moment.
  • Speak openly about it. If you are experiencing high anxiety the data shows you are far from alone.  Feeling less alone in managing it and creating a support network around us will be vital for recovery.


Note: If symptoms are severe it is important to seek professional help.

We deliver a range of courses on mental health and ill health, including MHFA England accredited training.  Please get in touch to learn more. 

Contact us below for more details

To learn more please contact us on 01202 612 326 or through the options below. We’ll discuss details and how we can help you or your organisation.


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