It’s normal to feel worried from time to time – it happens to everyone
But if these feelings don’t go away, they can overwhelm you and be upsetting, and that is not OK.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety comes from stress. It’s a difficult feeling to understand, but you can learn to manage anxiety to feel calmer again.
Here are some things that can make you anxious:
- An upcoming event
- Big changes in your life
- Experiencing something upsetting
- Having lots of different worries over a long time
- Family fights, or mum and dad splitting up
- Pressure to do well at school work and in exams
- Problems with friends or at home
- Body changes because of puberty
- Problems with a boyfriend or girlfriend
- Fitting in
- Earthquakes and other natural disasters
When you feel anxious you might:
- Feel sick or have 'butterflies' in your stomach
- Feel your heart beat faster
- Find it difficult to breathe normally
- Get shaky hands
- Find it hard to talk to people
- Become easily upset
- Feel tense
- Start to panic
- Find it hard to do school work
- Have trouble sleeping
- Feel really tired
- Have a small worry grow, and get bigger and bigger in your head
- Fear something really bad is going to happen
- Eat less or more than usual
This is when anxiety doesn’t go away, whatever you do. This can make you:
- More self-consciousness
- Unable to concentrate
- Be more restless and irritable
- Feel unwell
- Feel nervous, shaky or dizzy
- Want to avoid people, places and social situations
- Feel depressed
- Have panic attacks (link to definition below)
- Experience post-traumatic stress (link to definition below)
- Develop phobias (link to definition below)
Ways to manage anxiety
Talk about it – tell someone you trust how you feel and ask them for advice.
Breathe deeply – breathing deeply can help you to feel calmer. Here’s what you can try:
- Sit or lie in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
- Gently breathe in deeply through your nose and slowly count to 5, and feel your stomach rise.
- Take a little pause, then slowly breathe out through your mouth, counting to 5 again. You might want to close your eyes. Loosen your shoulders and relax.
- Continue breathing in and out for a few minutes counting “1…2…3...4…5”
Laugh – laughter is the best medicine. It helps you to relax and feel better. Call a friend, think about a funny memory, or watch a funny video or a movie.
Distract yourself – do something you enjoy to take your mind off things.
Get active – exercise can help you to get rid of the nervous energy so you can sleep better at night.
Active problem solving – analyse the problem. When did it start? What’s bothering you the most? How do you feel about the problem? How do you want to see it resolved? List the pros and cons for solutions. Rank them to help you make a decision.
Get your confidence back – try to remember nice things people have said about you. List all the things you’re good at. Read over the list whenever you need a confidence boost.
Positive self-talk – if you get negative thoughts about yourself, such as “I suck at maths. I’m going to fail tomorrow’s test”, try changing them to something positive, such as “I’ll give it my best shot and find out what I need to do to improve next time”. If you’re nervous about going to an event, remind yourself of the positives, like “It will be fun and I will enjoy myself”, or “It’s not going to be as bad as I think. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. I’ll be okay”.
- Anxiety is just a feeling – it won’t hurt you
- Everyone gets anxious
- Talking about it can help
- Anxiety can be managed
- It will pass
Other types of anxiety – panic attacks, post-traumatic stress and phobias
A panic attack can feel scary. Many people get panic attacks and although they feel terrifying, they’re not dangerous. In a panic attack:
- Breathing is fast and shallow – you feel like you can’t catch your breath
- Heart rate increases – you feel your heart beating really fast almost like having a heart attack
- The body gets shaky – you feel ‘out of it’
Panic attacks come on quickly and usually pass in 15 to 20 minutes. When you feel better, make an appointment with a counsellor, doctor or psychologist who will help you manage your panic attacks.
The Phobic Trust 0800 14 ANXIETY (0800 14 269 4389)
0800 Healthline (0800 611 116) to speak to a nurse
EMERGENCY: If you need help someone who is having a panic attack, CALL 111 and ask for an AMBULANCE.
Post-traumatic stress (PTSD)
When your anxiety is about something horrible that happened in the past, like a car crash, abuse, assault or a disaster such as an earthquake, it’s called post-traumatic stress.
Post-traumatic stress can cause:
- Nightmares and sleeping problems
- Re-runs – going over and over what happened in your head
- Severe anxiety and nervousness – some people become paranoid
- Numbness and feeling emotionally flat
If you think your anxiety is post-traumatic stress, you need to get professional help. Talk to your doctor, or call us at 0800 WHATS UP – we’re here to help!
We all have things we are scared of or don’t like. When we become terrified of something that’s not scary to other people, it’s called a phobia. Some really common phobias are:
- Enclosed or small spaces
- Being in Crowds
- Seeing blood
- Speaking in public
It’s normal to try to avoid the thing or situation that freaks us out. We often know our fear is irrational but it makes no difference.
Phobias can be very distressing and can get in the way and stop us doing things we want to do.
Don’t worry! Phobias can be treated, and with the right help can disappear quickly.
Refer to a trained professional, like a counsellor, doctor or psychologist.
The Phobic Trust supports people with phobias – call them on 0800 14 ANXIETY (0800 14 269 4389), or give us a call at 0800 What’s Up – we’re here to help.