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Without doubt, when stress and anxiety disrupt your life and relationships, it's a problem…

In the current climate, with Covid-19 restrictions in place, lockdowns and job losses, it’s completely understandable that people have a sense of fear, apprehension and anxiety at times.

However, if these feelings are prolonged, over a sustained period of time, and they start to overwhelm people, then the problem becomes a whole lot worse.

Individuals can suffer from anxiety for a variety of reasons, and it can start to affect your relationships with your partner; your family; your children or your job and, ultimately, your wellbeing.

Here are the some common signs and symptoms to look out for as potential stress indicators:

  • Feeling nervous, restless and tense

  • Having a sense of impending danger,panic or doom

  • Increased heart rate. breathing rapidly, sweating, trembling and/or feeling weak

  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry

  • Feeling nausea and dizziness, difficulty sleeping, insomnia and muscle tension

Of course, we must also recognise that there are different types of anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

  • Social phobia

  • Panic disorder

  • Agoraphobia phobias

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD)

As a qualified, professional counsellor, I have found that one of the most common questions people with anxiety ask themselves is "What is the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder?" And, whilst it's true that not all ‘problem anxiety’ qualifies as an anxiety disorder, the answer isn't always that simple.

The reality is that if you feel as though your anxiety is causing a problem in your life, then it may be beneficial to seek help. Some anxiety in life is normal and unavoidable, but anxiety that disrupts your quality of life, for a period of time, is a different problem.

I always find that, no matter what type of anxiety you're dealing with, it can usually be helped by the following strategies:

  • Establish what your specific type of anxiety

  • Accept that your anxiety is a problem.

  • Understand the causes and triggers of your anxiety

In fact, understanding the causes and triggers of your anxiety is key to early detection and the forming a plan to counteract your anxiety. Triggers can be obvious, but also include things that you don’t even realise are exacerbating your anxiety, such as;

  • A health diagnosis - these can be very upsetting or difficult, such as cancer or a chronic illness and can be a trigger to anxiety or make it worse.

  • Caffeine - most people enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in the morning, to wake up, but it may actually tigger or worsen anxiety. Try cutting back or substituting non-caffeine optons or herbal teas

  • Skipping meals - when you don’t eat, your blood sugar levels drop and that can cause you to feel jittery and weak, which can trigger anxiety.

Just a further note about diet:

Remember, food affects your mood and eating a healthy, balanced diet is very important, as it provides you with energy and nutrients.

If you struggle to make time for three meals a day, try healthy snacks to prevent low blood sugar, which leads to feeling nervous or agitated, worsening your anxiety levels.

  • Thinking negative thoughts - when you are upset, potentially negative words you say to yourself (and thoughts) can trigger feelings of anxiety. If you tend to use a lot of negative words when you think about yourself, it’s vital to learn to refocus your language and feeling - working with a therapist can be very beneficial in this process.

  • Financial concerns - worries about debt and struggling to pay bills is a common worry. Even more so now, people’s money fears, job uncertainty, threat of redundancy and/or unexpected bills, can easily be trigger of anxiety.

  • Conflict – this could be relationship problems and persistent or reoccurring arguments. Such conflicts can all trigger or worsen anxiety but, by talking with a therapist, you can learn how to manage the feelings that conflicts cause.

  • Stress – stress takes on many forms and many levels and the daily stress of sitting in traffic or missing a train can seem trivial. However, if they turn into longer term stress, which then leads to long term anxiety, worsening symptoms and other health problems, then we need to tackle these stresses sooner, rather than later. Stress can lead to skipping meals ,drinking alcohol and, therefore, not getting enough quality sleep – all of which have a significant and proven impact on anxiety.

Finally, I wanted to touch on why working with a therapist can help you identify and tackle your anxiety.

A good therapist can help you learn to recognise the sources of your stress (causes and triggers) and teach you how to handle them, when they threaten or start to become overwhelming or problematic. They can help by:

  • Breaking down causes and triggers into smaller, more manageable pieces

  • Changing your lifestyle to help you manage stress and become more anxiety free.

So, if you believe you worry too much or suspect you have an anxiety disorder, then maybe it’s time to seek help from a therapist?

I can help to ease your symptoms and help you cope with your anxiety triggers.

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