Managing Anxiety: Understanding Anxiety and Finding Inner Calm
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (15-21 May). This year, it’s shining a light on anxiety and its impact on our lives. Anxiety isn’t just your everyday worry or stress. It’s that feeling of unease and fear that can take over at any time. We’ve all been there, right? Feeling those butterfly nerves when you’re about to face a big exam or a nerve-wracking job interview. But when anxiety starts interfering with your daily life and overall wellbeing, that’s when it becomes a real challenge.
Anxiety is a totally normal emotion we all experience. But sometimes, it can get a bit out of control and become a mental health issue. There are lots of things that can trigger anxiety, such as relationship troubles, starting a new job (or losing one), money matters, health concerns or other major life events.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems people face. In a recent survey conducted on stress, anxiety, and financial worries, 1 in 4 adults admitted feeling so anxious that it stopped them from doing the things they love.
But don’t worry! Anxiety can be managed, and that’s what we’re here to talk about during Mental Health Awareness Week. We want to raise awareness and understanding about anxiety, sharing information on things that can help prevent it from becoming a major issue in our lives.
We wanted to share a podcast we’ve been involved with called Somerset Emotional Wellbeing, which recently discussed men’s mental health and specifically how men deal with anxiety. In the episode, Talking About Men’s Mental Health, the hosts Dr. Peter Bagshaw and Dr. Andrew Tresidder are joined by Q Ladipo who was a client at Second Step and Ian Bramley from Stepladder, our Men’s Mental Health Project in Somerset. They sat down together to discuss why men need to talk more about their mental health, finding groups of like-minded people in Somerset and why opening up and talking about perceived weakness is actually a real strength.
“When thinking about men and their mental health, it’s a generalisation but men don’t naturally talk about their emotions and how they are feeling. One of the things we have tried to do is create some context when men can do that. There have been some football teams set up, groups for men to join and sit round a campfire just to chat.”
“The most important thing that we try to get across is to help men understand that what they are feeling is quite common, and something that they can get help with. We want to encourage men to talk to a trusted friend but also to educate that if you are being talked to, to actually listen to the person. Many places where men meet, there is a lot of banter and a lot of flippant behaviour, which creates a negative space that is quite difficult for a man to open up and express their feelings.”Ian Bramley, Steering Group Chair for Stepladder, our Men’s Mental Health Project in Somerset
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety can manifest in various ways, and symptoms can vary from person to person. Here are some common symptoms of anxiety:
- Physical Symptoms: These may include a racing or pounding heart, shortness of breath, chest tightness, trembling or shaking, dizziness, sweating, headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension or extreme fatigue.
- Cognitive Symptoms: Anxiety can affect your thoughts and mental processes. You may experience excessive worrying, racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating or focusing, feeling on edge or restless, a sense of impending doom, or having trouble making decisions.
- Emotional Symptoms: Anxiety often brings about intense emotions. You may feel irritable, on edge, or easily agitated. You might also experience feelings of fear, unease, or a sense of being overwhelmed. Some people may have frequent mood swings or feel a constant sense of dread.
- Behavioural Symptoms: Anxiety can influence your behaviour and how you interact with others. You may become more withdrawn or avoid certain situations or places that trigger your anxiety. Some individuals may experience changes in appetite or sleep patterns, such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing nightmares.
How can I help myself with anxiety?
Living with anxiety can be challenging, but there are strategies you can adopt to cope and reclaim control over your mental wellbeing. By introducing some of these strategies into your daily routine, you can find a sense of inner calm and resilience.
- Understand Your Triggers: Identify the situations, people, or thoughts that tend to trigger your anxiety. Awareness is key to developing effective coping mechanisms. Once you recognise your triggers, you can implement tools to minimise their impact on your daily life.
- Practice mindfulness and deep breathing: Mindfulness exercises and deep breathing techniques can bring you back to the present moment, helping you ground yourself and reduce anxiety. Take a few minutes each day to focus on your breath, allowing it to guide you into a state of calm and relaxation.
- Establish a self-care routine: Prioritise self-care by nurturing your physical and emotional wellbeing. Engage in activities that bring you joy, such as exercising, spending time in nature, practicing hobbies, or indulging in a soothing bath. Remember to allocate time for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.
- Challenge negative thoughts: Anxiety often involves negative and irrational thoughts. Challenge them by questioning their validity and replacing them with positive and realistic alternatives. Cognitive restructuring techniques can help reframe your thinking patterns and bring out a more positive mindset.
- Seek support: Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals for support. Sharing your thoughts and emotions can provide relief and valuable perspectives. Therapy, counselling, or support groups can offer guidance and coping strategies tailored to your specific needs.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Incorporate healthy habits into your life to support your mental well-being. Aim for regular exercise, nourishing meals, and sufficient sleep. Avoid excessive consumption of caffeine, alcohol, or other substances that can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
- Practice stress management: Explore stress management techniques like journaling, creative outlets, or relaxation exercises. Find what works best for you in terms of relieving stress and implement those practices regularly.
- Take small steps outside your comfort zone: Gradual exposure to anxiety-provoking situations can help control your triggers and build resilience. Start with small, manageable steps, celebrating your achievements along the way. Remember, progress takes time and patience.
By integrating these coping strategies into your daily routine, you can take significant steps toward managing anxiety effectively. Remember, everyone’s journey is unique, and it’s essential to find what works best for you.
“I started off with art therapy, I’m no artist so at the beginning I didn’t think art therapy would be of any use to me but one thing I’ve found helps me with my mental health is allowing myself to engage in services that are available to me. Art therapy was really useful for me personally, because it allowed me to get all the thoughts and stresses and problems going on in my head out and display them in a safe environment and process them at the same time, it allowed parts of my brain to be free!”Q Ladipo, Second Step Peer Support Client
Listen free to the full podcast now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts & more (or through your non-Internet Explorer browser using this link Talking About Men’s Mental Health (castos.com)
Our website features a range of advice, helplines and resources that can help you with your mental health and wellbeing – Find out more about Stepladder here.
For local helplines – Visit Men’s Mental Health Helplines for more information