What is anxiety

Anxiety is a common emotion that people experience in response to situations, people or things they view as threatening. Experiencing
anxiety can be useful as it can warn us about dangerous situations so that we can take appropriate action.

Anxiety becomes a problem if our stress response is over exaggerated, occurs when there is no real threat, for example when going out for a walk with the baby or lasts for a prolonged period.
Symptoms of anxiety are not dangerous but they can be very uncomfortable and frightening especially if the person does not realise that they are signs of anxiety.

What causes anxiety

There are several causes of anxiety and these may vary from person to person. Factors that may contribute could include your:

  • Biology or genes which affect your responsiveness and temperament.
  • Environmental factors such as traumatic childhood and adult experiences, your relationships, where you live and your financial situation.
  • Habits, beliefs and behaviours that you have learned from past events.


Even when people find it difficult to identify the causes of their anxiety they can still learn to understand their reactions and manage them more effectively.

Examples of how it might affect you

Feelings: Fear, Tense, Worried, Upset, Unhappy

 ‘I can’t cope’, ‘I’m going to die’, ‘What if I lose control’?’, ‘This is awful’, ‘What if……’

Behaviours: Avoiding situations, Fidgeting, Rushing around, Unable to do simple things

Beliefs: Nobody understands, I should always be in control , I will never get better, I should never feel anxious#

Bodily reaction: Tense muscles, Breathless, Heart racing, Sweating, Shaking

Relationships: Strained relationships, Avoiding social meetings, Arguments with close people

What can help

As the symptoms of anxiety can be overwhelming it is important to start with small achievable steps to help yourself. So you might start with some of these suggestions:

  • Notice the physical responses in your body, for example your heart rate, your breathing and any bodily tensions.
  • Notice how tense your forehead, jaw and shoulders are and
    relax them.
  • Slow your breathing down and take slow, deep breaths.
  • Walk and talk more slowly.
  • Learn and practice a relaxation technique.
  • Use distraction techniques, for example doing physical exercise, going for a walk, gardening and tidying up.
  • Distract yourself by refocusing on something which absorbs your attention, for example looking at clouds in the sky.
  • Use mental exercises as distraction, for example doing mental arithmetic, recalling a favourite holiday or place in details engaging all the senses (smell, taste, sight, hearing and touch).
  • Keep a diary of the triggers to your anxiety.
  • Notice your thoughts and become aware of them.
  • Try to challenge the thoughts that are unhelpful by doing self-talk.
  • Try not to avoid stressful situations, face up to them gradually with support.
  • Set some realistic, practical and meaningful targets for yourself, for example walking to the local shops.
  • Get support from people around you by talking to them or asking for help.
  • Attend an anxiety management group.
  • Take medication for short term help with anxiety symptoms.


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