Dealing with anxiety
How to keep those anxiety levels down
You might become stressed by a job interview, the build-up to exams, a big match or lots of other day to day stuff. This is normal and stress can help us get motivated for dealing with problems and pressure.
Stress can even be healthy in small amounts, but if we become too stressed, it's difficult to function and our health can be seriously affected.
Things to remember when feeling stressed
- Stress can be healthy in small doses and is always going to be a part of your life. Stressful situations pop up with family, at school and university, at work and even when out for a drink with friends (maybe when picking up the courage to flirt with someone you fancy!).
- Stress can be tough but without it life would be boring! If you feel nervous about taking on a challenge, imagine how good you will feel after you’ve done it.
- Stress levels are getting higher among Irish people. We all need to learn to chill out a bit!
- Getting stoned or drunk isn’t going to get rid of stress. In fact, alcohol or drugs can make your stress worse.
What is anxiety?
When stress gets out of hand, it becomes anxiety. Anxiety is that feeling of nerves in your stomach, of sweaty hands and of not being able to relax. It can be caused by a family situation, tough deadlines at work, an over demanding boss or teacher, a rocky relationship, exams or many other stressful situations.
It’s normal to feel stressed and anxious sometimes, but it’s not good for you to feel worried all the time or to feel that anxiety is taking over your life.
How to recognise anxiety
Everyone experiences anxiety in defferent ways. You may experience the following:
A sense of feeling constantly on edge
Physical stuff like headaches, butterflies in your stomach, sweaty hands, high blood pressure, dizziness, breathing heavily, feeling faint, sweating.
Maybe you are smoking or drinking more,
You are eating too much or not eating enough,
You are fidgety or rushing around nervously.
You might also feel run down, tired, have problems concentrating or problems sleeping at night.
You might feel worried all the time.
You feel overwhelmed or panicked about even little things.
You spend a lot of time thinking and often overthink things.
What can you do about anxiety?
It may not be possible to get rid of your anxiety completely but you can learn to live with it.
Talk to someone
Remember no matter what the question or the problem, there’s always someone that can help. Then have a talk about it to someone you trust. Maybe they have a good idea, maybe not. At least you’ll have got it off your chest.
Also, remember you can contact one of the many support organisations that will be more than willing to help. See the help section for supportive information and contacts details of support organisations.
Make sure you relax
It's useful to learn a “relaxation response” to calm you down when you are stressed. You start by finding a quiet place where you can lie down. Then you focus on getting comfortable, slowing down your breathing, letting all your muscles go floppy and relaxed, and thinking about being in a really calm place like lying on a beach in the sun with no worries, or taking a long soak in the bath. This imaginary calm place is your mental refuge. Imagine lots of details - the sounds, the smells, the sensations, etc. Then practice 'going there' in your mind for just a few seconds every day; it will be easy to do when you are really stressed.
Regular exercise will help you deal with stress by allowing you to release tension. Exercise also causes the brain to release serotonin which is a hormone that can improve your mood.
What you eat or drink can really impact on your mood and how you feel. Avoid caffeine and energy drinks as they can actually make you more anxious.
Smoking and drinking
Smoking and drinking alcohol can make anxiety worse. You might drink or smoke more when you are stressed and may feel that it helps. But it is in fact making it worse. To combat this, limit the amount of alcohol that you drink and try to cut back on the amount of cigarettes that you smoke.
Understanding your anxiety
Some people find that reading about anxiety can really help them understand it more. There are many books that can help. Check out the HSE’s list of recommended books here:
I need more help
Sometimes, anxiety can get too big to manage by yourself, and sometimes you might need professional help. It's ok to need help. Your GP should be your first port of call - for more information on visiting your GP for a mental health problem, see our article here.
Other organisations that can help include:
- Jigsaw - a free counselling and mental health service for young people. You can find details on your local Jigsaw here.
- Samaritans - a free, confidential listening service. You can contact them on 116123.
- Childline - a free, confidential listening services for people under 18. You can contact them on 1800 666 666.
- Traveller Counselling Service - a free counselling service for Travellers going through any sort of difficulty. You can contact them on 086 308 1476.
Some chill out tips from other young people
- Try not to let things pile up by doing a bit every day.
- Take time out to do the things you enjoy.
- Take regular meals and exercise.
- Cut down on tea and coffee intake.
- Don’t work right up to bedtime. Take some time to chill out before you put the head down.
- Write down your worries – they may not seem so bad.
- Don’t use drink, drugs or tobacco to relieve stress – they make it worse.
- Don’t try to be perfect all the time – the best you can do in the time available is fine.
- Have a laugh with some friends – aren’t we supposed to be having fun?
- Get lots of sleep – problems always seem worse when you’re over-tired.
- Make a playlist with all your favourite songs – try to avoid depressing ones!
Go for a long walk by yourself to clear your head.
Don’t forget the wonders that chocolate can do!
Check out this playlist our staff writer, Tricia, curated thanks to the awesome TwoTube sessions: