Understanding anxiety

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No human is designed to be 'on' all the time. Unfortunately, our current environment makes this almost impossible. So it’s no surprise that about 22% of women and 15% of men feel anxious all or most of the time.

Chloe Brotheridge, hypnotherapist, anxiety expert, and author of The Anxiety Solution and Brave New Girl, runs through how to spot the signs.

Our world is a relatively safe place. Unfortunately, our DNA hasn't caught up to this fact. Your body still responds as though you’re defending yourself against rival tribes and wild animals (as your cave-dwelling ancestors did). And with the hectic pace of current life, we rarely switch off. It's rare to meet someone that doesn't profess themselves to be ‘busy’ or 'stressed'. A stack of unopened emails, a critical deadline, or a last minute meeting with your boss can feel as adrenaline-drenched as a genuine life or death situation.

You might consciously know that muddling your words in a presentation isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But your nervous system has other ideas, creating the same gut-churning fear that your ancestors might have experienced at the possibility of being kicked out of their tribe. But where do normal levels of stress and worry tip over into anxiety?

What’s ‘normal’?

The truth is that everyone experiences stress. Some short-term fear and anxiety is normal, even helpful. After all, it's only psychopaths and dead people that never experience fear. The question is, is anxiety holding you back? Is it impacting your quality of life? And is it time to take some action to change things? Here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • Finding it hard to concentrate or focus as your mind jumps from task to task.

  • Feeling a sense of dread or foreboding like something terrible is about to happen.

  • Worrying uncontrollably or having intrusive thoughts that you can’t seem to switch off.

  • Being irritable or snappy with your loved ones for no clear reason.

While anxiety is often thought of as a mental health issue, many of the symptoms are physical. Common physical symptoms include:

  • A racing heart – kind of like you’ve just run up 3 flights of stairs, only it's just because you've introduced yourself to someone new at a networking event

  • Feeling restless or fidgety

  • Feeling physically exhausted, drained or rundown

  • Trouble switching off or unwinding before bed

  • Stomach issues like constipation, diarrhoea, or even IBS

  • Feeling dizzy, ungrounded, or ‘unreal’

  • Shakey hands

  • A dry mouth

  • Feeling sick and nauseous

  • Headaches

  • Muscle pain and tension

  • Tingling in your hands and feet

The 'NHS Mood Quiz' is a simple quiz that can help determine whether you’re experiencing anxiety or depression. Much like the questions you'd be asked by your GP, the quiz asks about your energy levels, sleep, self-esteem, and how often you worry about things.

Anxiety busters

The next step is to speak to your doctor about any concerns. Regardless of your level of anxiety, there’s always something you can do to change things. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Talk about it — know that you're not alone and the simple act of saying how you're feeling to a friend, doctor, or therapist can be really therapeutic.

Find ways to relax (and make it the priority) — meditation, exercise, and being in nature are all proven ways to lower your anxiety levels.

Disconnect from technology — consider having some boundaries when it comes to your phone, whether that’s using an actual alarm clock or switching your phone to aeroplane mode for a few hours.

Written by Chloe Brotheridge


Instagram @chloebrotheridge

Twitter @CBrotheridge