The theme for this Mental Health Awareness Week is Anxiety.

The Mental Health Foundation (2023) describe anxiety as a normal emotion that we all experience but for some people, it can get out of control. When this happens, it becomes a mental health problem. Recent research found that “an average of 37.1% of women and 29.9% of men reported high levels of anxiety”.

Anxiety increases due to a number of different factors – including pressure from work and school to meet targets and achieve good exam results, as well as relationships, a change in job and other big life events, such as moving home. Poor financial wellbeing can also increase anxiety.

Everyone feels anxiety differently but often, people will suffer both mental and physical symptoms. There is a wide range of different effects that Mind (2023) explore, which you can see in the table below.

Effects of Anxiety – Body
• a churning feeling in your stomach
• feeling light-headed or dizzy
• pins and needles
• feeling restless or unable to sit still
• headaches, backache or other aches and pains
• faster breathing
• a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat
• sweating or hot flushes
• sleep problems
• grinding your teeth
• nausea (feeling sick)
• needing the toilet more or less often
• having panic attacks

Effects of Anxiety – Mind
• feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax
• having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst
• feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down
• feeling like other people can see you’re anxious and are looking at you
• feeling like you can’t stop worrying, or that bad things will happen if you stop worrying
• worrying about anxiety itself, for example worrying about when panic attacks might happen
• wanting lots of reassurance from other people or worrying that people are angry or upset with you
• worrying that you’re losing touch with reality
• low mood and depression
• rumination – thinking a lot about bad experiences, or thinking over a situation again and again

As we are all different, not everyone is going to experience all of the symptoms listed above and of course, people will suffer additional symptoms depending on personal circumstances and experiences. However, irrespective of the symptoms and triggers, there are various ways to manage anxiety. This involves firstly helping ourselves by:

• Talking to someone we trust – whether that be a friend, family member or health care professional.
• Keeping a journal of our experiences – e.g. writing down what makes us feel anxious, what triggered this and what symptoms we experienced.
• Taking time for us – thinking about what activities help to relieve anxiety such as exercise.

The above relates to self-care but it is important to highlight here that help is available in different forms, so if you feel that you are struggling you may need to reach out for professional help, whether that be your GP, a therapist for counselling or an organisation that can help you develop strategies for managing your anxiety.

By taking steps to manage anxiety, we can help determine what works best for our own minds and bodies, to help expand our resilience and response to high levels of anxiety in the future. Remember: take care of yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself.


Mental Health Foundation