by Nazia U., MSc Psychology Student & Jessica P., BSc Psychology and Counselling Student and volunteers
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural, emotional response to an encounter that worries or panics you, for example, a job interview or an exam. It’s a part of the human experience and most of the time, it can be managed or even used to propel oneself forward like studying even harder for that exam and you are once again calm and okay. However, one may feel panicky and worried for no particular reason or worried about something for longer than usual, and this is when anxiety can be a real problem. It can feel like there is this sense of impending doom, a series of inevitable events that will stress you out. Or, that everything is super overwhelming and/or out of control. Anxiety can also manifest itself in physical ways too, for example, wobbly legs, dry mouth, migraines, stomach aches, sweating, chest pains and more. Anxiety can have serious implications on one’s everyday life, body and mind. Anxiety is a diagnosable mental illness that 1 in 4 people experience. Considering it is a common mental illness, anxiety can often be generalised or minimised from mental illness to just nerves which often prevent people who experience anxiety to speak about it. So, it’s very important to speak up about our experiences of anxiety to help others, whether they experience it or not, to understand it better so we can be kinder to one another. Most importantly, you should seek professional support if your anxiety is affecting you. If you needed a sign to get help, this is it!
BreatheUni’s topic of the week is anxiety.
To work towards eliminating or lessening the stigma around anxiety, Nazia will speak about her experience with anxiety.
My personal experience with anxiety has been a whirlwind. Now as a 23-year-old adult, I can say that it is possible to manage anxiety. I have always been an anxious person however, I would say that I was suffering severely from anxiety during my teens. My anxiety consisted of the constant feeling like everything was going to go wrong, whatever I did was wrong and always second-guessing myself – something that I am still working on. I would think about my future (career, friendships, relationships, university and everything else tbh) and my legs would go like jelly because it all felt very terrifying! Now, I look back and I feel so proud of myself. I have navigated myself through so many new situations despite that crippling anxiety. I found courage even when my mind told me not to bother. Being kinder to myself and talking to the people around me and a therapist really helped me to put my anxiety into perspective. I can’t help the fact that I have anxiety but I can help myself. I can do breathing exercises, talk and write about what is worrying me and be nicer to myself when I am going through it. It sounds too simple but it helped me from being an overthinker who panics about the littlest things to a person who can muster the courage to do what she needs to do. Having anxiety is a process and a journey which can be very exhausting but it can also teach you something about yourself and life. With self-love and patience, you can get through it. You can work through that overwhelming anxiety and you can own it. With time and support, you will be able to control the anxiety, it won’t control you!
If you have experienced anxiety then you know that it can be crippling and downright exhausting. It can come in waves that feel so long and pass as though nothing happened. Whilst it isn’t something that can be ‘cured,’ anxiety can be managed. Jess has a few tips that may be helpful in coping with anxiety:
– Negative thoughts can really affect your mind by perceiving a situation to be much worse than it actually is. A way to overcome this is to question your thought pattern. Challenge your fears and take back control of your life, don’t let it defeat you.
– Breathing can become fast and irregular due to anxiety. A way to deal with this could be to focus on your breaths. Try breathing in, holding it for 5 seconds and then breathing out for 4 seconds. Try doing this for around 5 minutes so that you can slow down your heart rate.
– Going for a walk peaceful walk can help prevent anxious thoughts. Put in your headphones and try your best to relax. Sometimes getting fresh air can make you feel more at ease and lessen the feeling of being smothered.
– Write down what is making you anxious. Putting it on paper can get it out of your head and make it less overwhelming.
– Reaching out to friends and family can really help with relieving the effects of anxiety. Sometimes talking to a familiar face can take a lot of weight off of your shoulders. Or even just having a conversation about something different can allow you to be free of negative thoughts.
– Don’t let your anxiety control what you do. You have the strength to live your life to the fullest.
– Take care of your body as well as your mind. Eat healthier, get a sufficient amount of sleep, be physically active and take time to rest.
– Make a plan of the things you need to do. Then break it down into manageable chunks. Having a plan to follow may lessen the feeling of being overwhelmed.
I struggle with anxiety myself and I know it can be really hard to manage sometimes. However, the tips above help me to ease the effects of anxiety, so I hope they can help for you, too.