The Mental Health Foundation runs a national awareness week in May each year. The aim of the week is to increase people’s awareness and understanding of mental health problems by providing information on how they can recognise the symptoms, and what to do to help. The week is also aimed at putting mental health and wellbeing at the heart of government policy, and ending the stigma around talking about mental health.
This year’s theme is anxiety, so we’ll be taking a look at the symptoms of some common anxiety conditions, then looking at some of the steps we can all take to help manage our anxiety levels and improve our general wellbeing. We’ll follow up this blog with one that talks about anxiety in the workplace, and how best to manage it. But, first things first.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience from time to time – in fact it can be quite useful to us. Anxiety can alert us to danger or help us focus on a day-to-day event, such as a presentation or an exam – or even a driving test!
When is anxiety a concern?
There is a point where anxiety becomes unhelpful and difficult for the person experiencing it. When this happens it can make a person feel very tense and worried, they may start to behave differently and will find it much harder to go about their daily lives.
What causes anxiety?
Lots of things can lead to a build-up of feelings of unhelpful anxiety: exam pressures, relationships, starting a new job, etc. Big life events can trigger bouts of anxiety and so can the hormonal changes that occur during (and before) the menopause.
What is anxiety like?
There are many different types of anxiety condition: Obsessive Compulsive disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), to name just a few. Not everyone who has an anxiety condition will experience the same symptoms, and some may also have other mental health conditions at the same time.
Physical symptoms could be anything from sweating and heavy breathing, to hair loss, extreme tiredness, and stomach aches. The mental symptoms of anxiety can involve racing thoughts and difficulty concentrating. Someone might also experience trouble sleeping and changes in appetite. It’s important to understand that anxiety can present in a lot of different ways.
How common is anxiety?
The Mental Health UK charity statistics on anxiety suggest that in the UK a little over 1 in 10 of us will be living with an anxiety condition at any one time and amounts to over 8 million people. That statistic demonstrates how widespread anxiety conditions are, and how important it is to be aware of the signs that someone may be living with an anxiety condition and may need support.
What can we do to help manage our anxiety levels?
This year the Mental Health Foundation has suggested 9 top tips for managing anxiety which are:
- Breathing – when having anxious thoughts try the 4-7-8 breathing technique
- Keep moving, exercise can really help
- Keeping a diary of feelings
- Challenging negative thoughts
- Getting support for money worries
- Spending time in nature
- Connecting with others and talking about how you are feeling
- Quality sleep and rest
- Trying to have a healthy diet
The Mental Health Foundation have also produced a handy poster that you could display in your business to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.
We hope that this has given you a better idea of what anxiety is, and some of the ways in which you can spot it help to prevent it. In our next blog we’ll talk more specifically about the role anxiety plays in the workplace – and how you can support your employees.