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.
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 different ways. You may experience the following:
- Difficulty concentrating
- 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.
Avoid 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.