Anxiety is a fear-based emotion that feels like nervousness, apprehension or worry; it can be directed at specific circumstances and events, or just a general feeling throughout the day. Everyone gets anxious – it’s a natural part of life, and part of a healthy emotional expression, just like anger, sadness or happiness. However, when it feels like it’s having an impact on our general wellbeing, it can be useful to reintroduce some balance, and feel like we have some tools in our ‘emotional tool kit’, to help us feel more relaxed and in control.
Notice any physical symptoms
Anxiety can often feel very physical – from the sweaty palms and flushed face, to the headaches and stomachaches, rushing heart or dizziness. Notice any ways that your body warns you that you’re just about to start feeling anxious.
Sometimes just a little attendance to physical symptoms can make you feel instantly better, more comfortable, and more in control. You could try:
•Running cold water on your wrists or splash a little cold water on your face;
•Focusing on your breathing – breathe slowly in for 7 counts, and out for 11;
•Drink a glass of water, and eat a light snack;
•If there is a particular area that feels sore, like your tummy or your forehead, rub it gently and lightly.
Get your thinking brain back online
Anxiety is created in the part of our brain that assesses risk – it’s a really instinctive part of the brain, and actually not a very ‘thinky’ part of the brain. Unhelpfully, when this part of the brain really gets going, it can send the cognitive (thinking) part of our brain offline – it’s like the wifi drops out! Get yourself thinking again with something like a sudoku, word puzzle, board game or counting backwards from 1000 and then…
When you’ve got yourself thinking again, ask yourself a few questions. Are you *actually* safe? Is there any *real* risk? If you are safe and there is no risk, what steps do you need to make to feel safer? It might be talking to a friend, going for a short walk, or distracting yourself with a book or YouTube video – think about what you need to do to get back on track.
Be as kind to yourself as you would to your best friend
We can often be super understanding to our friends, and then give ourselves a really hard time. Feeling anxious doesn’t mean you’re silly or weak – in fact, feeling anxious is a clever protection, that warns us of potential danger. It’s only when it starts calling the shots and running our lives that anxiety becomes unhelpful. Speak to yourself as kindly as you would to a best friend or small child – it’s hard enough feeling anxious, you don’t need to feel anxious and then shout at yourself!
This doesn’t have to define you
Anxiety can make us feel super exposed – like we’re on show and everyone can tell we’re permanently worried or scared. Honestly, often we’re the only ones who know how bad we feel. Some of the most interesting, cool, talented people in the world have a hard time regulating their anxiety (Olly Murs, Beyonce and Jennifer Lawrence have all spoken about their struggle with anxiety). This is a part of you, but it doesn’t have to define you.
Talk to someone you trust
It’s tough to deal with this stuff alone – if you can, talk to a close friend, a parent or sibling, a teacher, or someone you trust at a club or faith group you go to. Sharing our feelings can feel daunting, but speaking to someone trustworthy can help us to feel less isolated, and give us more support and resources to deal with our feelings.
Sometimes it can feel easier to talk to a stranger and, if that’s the case, there are other options. Childline is always there to help, and your GP can be helpful if you feel that anxiety is starting to get the better of you. Alternatively, why not speak to a parent about accessing some counselling?