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What is anxiety?

Man lying awake with anxiety

Everyone feels anxious at some point in their lives as a result of life’s stresses such as work, exams or money problems.

Anxiety is part of our body’s natural defences – a reaction to feeling under threat, which dates back to our caveman days, known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.

But for some people, the feeling of anxiety doesn’t go away and can start to get in the way of their day-to-day life.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety disorders can affect you both mentally and physically, as the body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol when it feels under threat. Some people may find they only have one or two symptoms, others can experience many more.

Mental symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Feeling tense, nervous or ‘on edge’
  • Being unable to relax
  • Feeling a sense of dread
  • Feeling as if you can’t stop worrying
  • Having fears or worries out of proportion to the situation
  • Thinking about a situation over and over again
  • Loss of concentration
  • Irritability
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Panic attacks

Physical symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Shaking or trembling
  • Sweating
  • Feeling sick
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • A fast, hard or irregular heartbeat
  • Faster breathing
  • Muscular aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Pins and needles
  • Finding it hard to get to or stay asleep
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Panic attacks

What can I do if I think I have anxiety?

If you think you’re facing anxiety and it’s having an impact on your life or making you feel distressed, then it’s important to seek support. You can speak to your GP or ring the NHS on 111.

Your doctor will work with you to decide the best treatment. This could include medication or ‘talking therapy’, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

There are also lots of things you can do yourself to help ease your anxiety. For example:

  • Assign yourself times when you’re allowed to sit and worry. Some people find it helps to write their worries down or set a timer.
  • Try doing some deep breathing exercises to help you relax. The NHS website has some you can try out.
  • Some people also find relaxing exercises such as yoga or pilates can help.
  • You could also try to come up with a list of healthy ways to relax and do at least one a day, such as:
    • Going for a walk
    • Having a long bath
    • Watching a movie
    • Listening to music
    • Dancing
    • Having a bite to eat with a friend or partner
    • Volunteering
  • If you have panic attacks, try keeping a diary to help you spot situations that may trigger them.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol as these can make anxiety worse.
  • It can also help to open up to someone you trust. For tips on getting the most out of your first conversation, read our blog on talking about mental health.

You can also read our advice on caring for your mental wellbeing in our blog on looking after your mental health.

You may also find it helpful to join a peer group, where you can meet other people who are facing the same challenges or chat to them online. For example:

More information

Our website also offers advice on depression, work and mental health (PDF) and boosting your confidence.  You can find various blogs and advice sheets on a range of topics on our financial, mental, physical and social wellbeing pages.

For more information on anxiety, the following websites have lots of advice:

We’re here

If you’re worried about your mental health, you can pick up the phone and call Ben’s confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or use our online chat. It’s completely free to get in touch with us if you work (or have worked) in the automotive industry, or you are dependent on someone who is.

You can find out what happens when you call us here.


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