May is for Mental Health begins on Saturday 1st of May and will focus on the 4 most prevalent mental health issues that face our community. These are anxiety, depression, addiction and ADD/ADHD.
Anxiety is by far the most common condition my clients experience and though it can be debilitating, I like to remind myself and my clients, that all mental illnesses serve a function and have a positive side.
According to Verywell Mind, though anxiety and fear may feel unpleasant or uncomfortable, they actually serve a very important purpose. Anxiety and fear can signal that something is very important to us. You can read more about anxiety below.
There are 7 types of anxiety including General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Phobia, OCD, Panic disorder, and PTSD. The most common is GAD.
Most people feel anxious and worried from time to time, especially when faced with stressful situations like taking an exam, meeting new people, doing a presentation at work or going for a job interview. This sort of anxiety can make you feel alert and focused, helping you get things done faster or perform at your best.
People with GAD, however, feel anxious and worried most of the time, not just in specific stressful situations, and these worries are intense, persistent and interfere with their normal lives.
Their worries relate to several aspects of everyday life, including work, health, family and/or financial issues, rather than just one issue. Even minor things such as household chores or being late for an appointment can become the focus of anxiety, leading to uncontrollable worries and a feeling that something terrible will happen.
Signs that you're experiencing anxiety
Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy.
Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking.
Behavioural: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life.
10 strategies to Reduce Anxiety
Slow breathing. When you’re anxious, your breathing becomes faster and shallower. Try deliberately slowing down your breathing. Count to three as you breathe in slowly – then count to three as you breathe out slowly.
Progressive muscle relaxation. Find a quiet location. Close your eyes and slowly tense and then relax each of your muscle groups from your toes to your head. Hold the tension for three seconds and then release quickly. This can help reduce the feelings of muscle tension that often comes with anxiety.
Stay in the present moment. Anxiety can make your thoughts live in a terrible future that hasn’t happened yet. Try to bring yourself back to where you are. Practising meditation can help.
Healthy lifestyle. Keeping active, eating well, going out into nature, spending time with family and friends, reducing stress and doing the activities you enjoy are all effective in reducing anxiety and improving your wellbeing.
Take small acts of bravery. Avoiding what makes you anxious provides some relief in the short term, but can make you more anxious in the long term. Try approaching something that makes you anxious – even in a small way. The way through anxiety is by learning that what you fear isn’t likely to happen – and if it does, you’ll be able to cope with it.
Challenge your self-talk. How you think affects how you feel. Anxiety can make you overestimate the danger in a situation and underestimate your ability to handle it. Try to think of different interpretations to a situation that’s making you anxious, rather than jumping to the worst-case scenario. Look at the facts for and against your thought being true.
Plan worry time. It’s hard to stop worrying entirely so set aside some time to indulge your worries. Even 10 minutes each evening to write them down or go over them in your head can help stop your worries from taking over at other times.
Get to know your anxiety. Keep a diary of when it’s at it’s best – and worst. Find the patterns and plan your week, or day, to proactively manage your anxiety.
Be kind to yourself. Remember that you are not your anxiety. You are not weak. You are not inferior. You have a mental health condition. It’s called anxiety.