Experiencing anxiety in response to a difficult or worrying situation can be entirely normal, and, although uncomfortable, it passes quickly. However, some people can find it difficult to control their feelings of worry, and anxiety starts to impact their daily lives.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, like a worry or fear. Everyone feels anxious at some point, and it usually passes once the situation is over.

It can make our heart race, we might feel sweaty, shaky or short of breath.

When anxiety becomes problematic, our worries can be out of proportion with relatively harmless situations. It can feel more intense or overwhelming, and can interfere with our lives and relationships.

Signs of anxiety

Anxiety can show as changes in your body, feeling worried all the time, or as changes in your behaviour, like becoming overly-careful or avoiding things that trigger anxiety.

You may:

  • feel tired, on edge, restless or irritable
  • feel a sense of dread
  • be unable to concentrate or make decisions
  • have trouble sleeping
  • feel sick, dizzy, sweaty or short of breath
  • be shaky or trembly
  • get headaches or stomach aches
  • avoid situations or put off doing things you are worried about
  • have difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • experience a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat
  • have pins and needles
  • have a dry mouth
  • sweat excessively
  • repeatedly check things or seek assurance from others

Top tips to cope with anxiety

Try keeping a diary of what you are doing and how you feel at different times to help identify what’s affecting you and what you need to take action on.

If your worry feels overwhelming and takes over your day, setting specific “worry time” to go through your concerns each day can help you to focus on other things. Watch the video for more advice.

It’s easy to avoid situations, or rely on habits that make us feel safer, but these can keep anxiety going. By slowly building up time in worrying situations, anxious feelings will gradually reduce and you will see these situations are OK.

Tackling unhelpful thoughts is one of the best things we can do to feel less anxious.

Some people find relaxation, mindfulness or breathing exercises helpful. They reduce tension and focus our awareness on the present moment.

Get your Every Mind Matters Mind Plan

Every Mind Matters has lots of advice and practical tips to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing.

Answer five quick questions to get your free Mind Plan with tips to help you deal with stress and anxiety, improve your sleep, boost your mood and feel more in control.

Steps 2 Wellbeing have produced the guide Coping with COVID – staying strong & hopeful within challenging times, which contains a collection of tools and techniques to help you cope with the challenges we’re all facing at the moment, with resilience and hope.

Steps2Wellbeing colleagues have also produced a series of webinars in collaboration with the Dorset Recovery Education Centre from the Dorset Mental Health Forum, including this one on Worries and Anxious Thoughts: