Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from Monday 15 – Sunday 21 May 2023. The Mental Health Foundation’s official theme for this year is ‘anxiety’.
Anxiety is a common experience that can affect anyone at any time. Although it is a normal emotion in us all, sometimes it can get out of control and become a mental health problem. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as stress, trauma, or genetics, and it can lead to significant distress and impairment in daily life.
Anxiety can arise from various sources such as exam stress, relationship problems, job transitions, or major life events. Additionally, financial concerns, including meeting basic needs like food and heating, can also trigger feelings of anxiety. Fortunately, with the right techniques, anxiety can be managed effectively.
By focusing on anxiety for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/mental-health-awareness-week) are looking to increase people’s awareness and understanding of anxiety by providing information on the things that can help prevent it from becoming a problem. At the same time, they will be keeping up the pressure to demand change – making sure that improving mental health is a key priority for the government and society as a whole.
Anxiety is a natural response to stress or danger. It is a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come, and it can manifest in physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Some common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feeling restless or on edge
- Experiencing a racing heartbeat
- Sweating or trembling
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling irritable or easily annoyed
- Experiencing muscle tension or pain
- Feeling easily fatigued
- Having trouble sleeping
While it is normal to experience anxiety from time to time, chronic or excessive anxiety can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults or 18.1% of the population every year.
Research on anxiety disorders in the UK reveals:
- That in any given week, about 6 in 100 people in England are diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, according to Mind.
- Over 8 million people in the UK are estimated to be experiencing an anxiety disorder at any given time, as reported by Mental Health UK.
- Shockingly, less than half of those diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder access treatment, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
These statistics highlight the prevalence of anxiety disorders and the need for increased access to mental health support
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, including:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): People with GAD experience excessive worry about everyday things, even when there is no clear reason to worry. This can lead to physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, and stomachaches.
Panic Disorder: People with panic disorder experience sudden, unexpected panic attacks that can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
Social Anxiety Disorder: People with social anxiety disorder experience intense fear and anxiety in social situations. This can lead to avoidance of social situations, which can interfere with daily life.
Specific Phobias: People with specific phobias experience intense fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation, such as spiders, heights, or flying.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): People with OCD experience intrusive, unwanted thoughts or images (obsessions) that can lead to repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): People with PTSD experience intense fear, helplessness, or horror after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. This can lead to intrusive memories, nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event.
Techniques for Managing Anxiety
If you are experiencing anxiety, it’s important to seek professional help from a mental health provider. They can help you determine the underlying cause of your anxiety and develop a treatment plan that works for you. However, there are also several self-help techniques that can help you manage your anxiety on a day-to-day basis and we explore some of those below.
Breathing Techniques are an excellent self-help tool for managing Anxiety. Explore some of these when you are feeling anxious, and find those techniques that work best for you:
- Diaphragmatic breathing: This is a deep breathing technique that involves inhaling through your nose for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 2 seconds, and exhaling slowly through your mouth for 6 seconds. Repeat this for several cycles until you feel more relaxed.
- Box breathing: This technique involves inhaling deeply through your nose for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 4 seconds, exhaling slowly through your mouth for 4 seconds, and then holding your breath for another 4 seconds. Repeat this cycle for several minutes until you feel more relaxed.
- 4-7-8 breathing: This technique involves inhaling deeply through your nose for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat this cycle for several minutes until you feel more relaxed.
- Paced breathing: This technique involves breathing in and out at a slow and steady pace, focusing on counting the duration of each inhale and exhale. Start by inhaling for a count of 4, holding your breath for a count of 2, and exhaling for a count of 6. Gradually increase the duration of each inhale and exhale until you reach a comfortable pace.
Several breathing techniques are explored in the daily exercises in our Journalise.Journal 101
Other useful techniques to help manage anxiety include the following:
Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. This can help you reduce anxiety by focusing your attention on what is happening right now, rather than worrying about the past or the future. There are several mindfulness techniques you can try, such as meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation. Mindfulness is explored as part of our daily exercises in our Journalise.Journal 101
Get Moving: Exercise is a great way to reduce anxiety. It can help you release tension and increase endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Caffeine and alcohol can both increase anxiety, so it’s a good idea to limit your intake. Try switching to decaf coffee or herbal tea, and avoid alcohol if you are feeling anxious.
Connect with Others: Whether it’s seeking support from friends and family or joining a support group, making meaningful connections with others can help us to feel less alone, more resilient, and better equipped to handle life’s challenges.
How Journalise Journals can help in coping with anxiety
Writing down our thoughts and feelings can provide a release valve for pent-up emotions and help us to gain clarity on our concerns. When we put our worries on paper, we can see them more objectively and gain perspective on our situation. This can help to reduce the intensity of our feelings and give us a sense of control over our thoughts.
Additionally, journaling can help us to identify patterns in our thinking and behavior. By tracking our moods and reactions to different situations, we can gain insight into what triggers our anxiety and what coping strategies are most effective. This can help us to develop more effective coping strategies and better manage our anxiety over time.
Finally, journaling can be a useful tool for cultivating gratitude and positive thinking. By reflecting on the good things in our lives and expressing gratitude for them, we can shift our focus away from our worries and toward the positive aspects of life. This can help to boost our mood and improve our overall sense of well-being.
Overall, journaling can be a valuable tool for managing anxiety. Whether it’s writing down our worries, tracking our moods, or cultivating gratitude, journaling can help us to gain insight, reduce stress, and develop effective coping strategies.
Journalise Journals support you in this journey of self-discovery through our daily check-in page, and our daily prompts and exercises which will help you explore and understand those patterns, triggers and reactions, and will explore many of the tools and techniques that can further support you in managing anxiety. See our Journalise.Journal 101
Additional resources and support
- Mind: Mind is a UK-based charity that provides information and support for anyone experiencing mental health problems, including anxiety. They offer a range of resources on anxiety, including self-help tips and advice, as well as information on how to access professional support. Visit their website at https://www.mind.org.uk/ for more information.
- NHS: The National Health Service (NHS) provides free mental health services for people living in the UK. They offer a range of treatments for anxiety, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication. Visit their website at https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/ for more information.
- Anxiety UK: Anxiety UK is a UK-based charity that provides information and support for people living with anxiety disorders. They offer a range of resources, including self-help guides and online support groups. Visit their website at https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/ for more information.