Adult Carers

I feel anxious!

Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam or having a medical test or job interview. During times like these, feeling anxious is perfectly normal. Anxiety can spur us on, help us stay alert, make us aware of risks and motivate us to solve problems.

However, some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can affect their daily life. Too much anxiety, or constantly being anxious, is unhealthy and detrimental to our lives and relationships.

What is Anxiety?

There are different types of anxiety disorder. One of the most common is called ‘generalised anxiety disorder’ (or GAD). NHS Inform reports that around 1 in every 25 people in the UK suffer from GAD. Slightly more women are affected than men, and the condition is more common among people between the ages of 35 and 55.

The charity, Mind, explains that everyone’s experience of anxiety is different, so it is not always clear what causes anxiety problems. For most people, there may be many factors at work, which relate to past or childhood experiences, your current life situation, physical or mental health issues, or drugs and medication. According to NHS Inform, menopause can also be a trigger for anxiety in older women, due to hormonal changes in the body.

Anxiety can affect us physically and mentally. Some of the physical effects of anxiety include:

  • Restlessness
  • Feeling shaky
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Pins and needles in your hands and feet
  • Feeling short of breath, or hyperventilating (breathing very fast)
  • Heart palpitations or heart racing
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia or other sleep problems
  • Sweating
  • Panic attacks – feeling like you’re struggling to breathe or like you’re having a heart attack.

The mental effects of anxiety can include:

  • A feeling of dread – or constantly fearing the worst
  • Feeling panicky
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling low or depressed
  • Needing lots of reassurance from others, or believing that others are angry or upset with you
  • Rumination – thinking a lot about bad experiences, or thinking about a situation over and over again
  • Irritability
  • Feeling detached from yourself or the world around you.

Anxiety can also have a big effect on your behaviour. You may stop meeting up with family or friends, feel unable to go out of your house or go to work, and start avoiding certain things and places that make you afraid. These sorts of behaviours might give you some temporary relief, but the anxiety will simply return the next time you’re in the situation.  Avoidance of what you’re anxious about simply reinforces the feeling of anxiety, rather than giving you the chance to find out if your fears are justified.

Action you can take right now

If you feel your anxiety symptoms are not severe, there are a number of things you can do to help manage it yourself. Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques can be particularly helpful.

Here’s a breathing exercise (recommended by the NHS) you can do anytime, anywhere, and you’ll get the most benefit from it if you do it regularly. You can do it standing up, sitting in a chair, or lying down.

  • Make yourself as comfortable as you can. Loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.
  • If you’re lying down, place your arms a little away from your sides with the palms up. Your legs may either be straight, or bent at the knees, with your feet flat on the floor. If you’re sitting, place your arms on the arms of the chair, or in your lap
  • Let your breath flow deep down into your belly, without forcing it.
  • Breathe in gently through your nose and out gently through your mouth. Count steadily from 1 to 5 on each inhalation and exhalation.
  • Do this for 5 minutes, focusing your attention on your breath and the count of 5.

Other things that can be helpful are:

  • Try a book or on-line course – There are lots of self-help books and on-line courses that can help you learn to manage your anxiety. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends approaches that are based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
  • Get some exercise – Exercise can help you relax. Try going for a brisk walk, or short run – or use one of these videos from the NHS to exercise at home.
  • Look after yourself ­– Avoid caffeine, drink less alcohol, quit smoking, eat a healthy balanced diet. Be kind to yourself.
  • Talk to someone you trust – This might give you a different perspective on the things you’re worrying about.

More Information



  • Anxiety, NHS Inform – Explains what anxiety is, what its symptoms are, and ways of treating it.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks, Mind – Explains anxiety and panic attacks, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
  • Anxiety self-help guide, NHS Inform – A cognitive behavioural approach to managing mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety.





  • Dealing with anxiety or panic, NHS Inform – This page contains links to a series of short videos (with bullet point summaries) giving simple practical ideas for managing anxiety, and people talking about their personal experiences.
  • Self-help CBT techniques, NHS Better Health: Every Mind Matters – This page containing links to several short videos and simple self-help techniques to help you deal with worries and unhelpful thoughts.
  • How to cope with anxiety, Olivia Remes, TEDxUHasselt (15 minutes) – Explains the difference between normal anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder, discusses the impacts of anxiety, and gives practical, effective strategies for taking charge of your excessive anxiety.

Where to get more help

Although feelings of anxiety at certain times are completely normal, you should see your GP if anxiety is affecting your daily life or causing you distress. While some people can manage their anxiety themselves, other people may need treatment. The charity, SAMH, provides tips for how to talk to your GP about your mental health.

Anxiety is the main symptom of several other conditions, including panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder (social phobia). If you have any of these conditions, your GP will be able to talk you through a more tailored approach to treating your anxiety.


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