Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear that is a normal response to a range of different situations and can present slightly differently for people.
Anxiety Signs and symptoms
Our body’s natural response to danger is to trigger the “fight or flight” response. We might call this our ‘fear’ response. It is perfectly normal to experience and helps us survive! Fear is nearly always triggered by an external stimulus or event.
By contrast anxiety is when we feel the same heightened response but there is no external stimulus. Instead we are fearful about what we perceive might occur, or something that we anticipate will occur. For example, we might feel as anxious thinking about giving a talk in front of a group of people, days, weeks or months before we actually give it. Just thinking about a fearful situation can stimulate our anxiety. Anxiety can be debilitating because unlike fear it can last for a long time and doesn’t subside quickly. It can also be very confusing and alarming. It can literally stop us in our tracks and feels like we have no control over the symptoms. Some people talk about continually living with high anxiety levels.
You might feel:
- tense and unable to relax;
- a sense of dread and feeling constantly on edge;
- irritable with difficulties concentrating;
- social withdrawal;
- like seeking lots of reassurance from others;
- dizziness and tiredness, strong, fast or irregular heartbeat, trembling or shaking, excessive sweating and shortness of breath, lack of energy, muscle aches and pains, a dry mouth, feeling sick and headaches; and
- panic attacks.
Read on to find out about how to over come anxiety.
How to overcome anxiety
A three-step plan
One Try to accept rather than fight your anxiety. Don’t feel guilty about how you feel. Instead ask what it is that is making you fearful. Writing things down might help you. Notice how many of your anxieties are about things that might happen or are scheduled to happen rather than what is happening now. Once we recognise that our anxiety is how we are reacting to or thinking about an event, there is good news. With some training, help and practice we can learn to react differently to events.
Two Talk to someone and get some help. Don’t try to do this on your own. You probably wouldn’t try to fix a pain in your tooth or chest on your own, so why would you struggle alone to fix the pain in your emotions? A GP or counsellor is a good place to start, as are trusted friends if you are lucky enough to have one. There are also some organisations listed later that can help. Talking helps because it removes your inner anxiety or turmoil to the ‘outside of you’. They are much less threatening than things that remain ‘inside of us’ that we deal with alone. For this reason talking therapies such as counselling are particularly useful.
Three Teach your body to calm or regulate yourself. Up to now all your anxiety reactions and the symptoms listed previously that you have been experiencing are ‘subconscious’ and they therefore feel automatic. You can however teach your body to be calm and to ‘switch off’ this fight or flight response. Breathing techniques are a great way to start and there are many good exercises to follow online or on You tube. Mindfulness is also a useful thing to learn as this teaches us to train our minds to live in the moment rather than be anxious about what might happen.
Anxiety in the workplace
Anxiety at work can be caused by many different factors and is closely linked to stress.
Whether anxiety is coming from home or a work situation, it is always a good idea to seek support from your Head Teacher or a member of senior leadership.
Your school maybe able to do more to support you than you think and sometimes small changes can make a big difference. These changes are often referred to as temporary adjustments and might include:
- reduced timetable for a short period of time
- support for a particularly difficult task
- special leave to attend a medical or family appointment.
If symptoms persist or become more difficult to deal with your school could consider referring you to Occupational Health who can make more formal recommendations about workplace adjustments and in some circumstances offer early access to counselling.
Further links and support
- Employee Assistance Programme (Health Assured) - Schoolsnet (gloucestershire.gov.uk) They have trained counsellors ready to take your call
- Educational staff can access support through the Talking Toolkit
- Mindfulness - NHS
- Overview - Generalised anxiety disorder in adults - NHS (www.nhs.uk)
- Anxiety UK