Understanding & self help to beat Anxiety

Anxiety is the body’s natural reaction to stress. Everyone feels anxious at certain times of danger or in worrying situations. In some circumstances anxiety is useful. It prepares you for action and enables you to respond quickly if necessary. Moderate amounts of anxiety can improve your performance. However when it interferes with everyday life, e.g. it may occur too frequently, in the wrong situations, or the symptoms become too strong so that they stop you from doing things you want.

Anticipating Anxiety – sometimes we worry about something that hasn’t happened. Sometimes we can become anxious just thinking about some future task or event and this can become unpleasant and we end up avoiding the situation. We may tell ourselves:

  • I know I will feel terrible when I go out/do this, I can’t.

  • People will look at me, laugh at me when I do this.

  • Something bad will happen if don’t do this.

  • I always have to have a drink before I can do this.

  • I know it will go wrong as it always does.

Notice that a lot of the words being used are very definite and rigid, e.g. will, have to, always, can’t – these words encourage us to look negatively at a situation and do not allow for any hope or possibility of change.

Remember: we have a choice, although we may not be able to change a situation, we can change how we look at it. One view can create a low mood or anxiety while another may make us feel great and more encouraged.

Suggestions: Avoid always, ever, must, should, have to, never, can’t etc.

Try: maybe, possibility, hopefully, sometimes, perhaps etc.

Thoughts: can play an important part in keeping anxiety going or even making it worse. If you forget that it is only anxiety and start thinking I am going to have a heart attack, or collapse, then this is likely to increase the level of anxiety.

Challenge: these or any other negative thoughts you have by choosing other possible, less upsetting view points and give yourself time to begin breathing exercise, relaxation, distraction methods. Remember to give yourself credit for all that you do no matter how small it seems, in this way you can encourage yourself to continue to stay in the situation a bit longer try things you have avoided a little at a time and give yourself the support you need to practice all you have learned.

Distraction Techniques

The principle ideas behind distraction in anxiety control are:

  • It is very difficult to concentrate on two things at once.

  • Relaxation and anxiety are incompatible i.e. you cannot be both relaxed and anxious at the same time.

This means that if we learn to stop concentrating on being anxious and begin to concentrate on something else a more relaxed state will begin to replace the anxious one.

We need to learn to distract our thoughts. Often it is what we are thinking which causes anxiety, help keep it going or makes it worse.

Recognition: Become aware of your thoughts. Write down some of the thoughts you have experienced before, during and after anxious times.

Thought Stopping: Every time you recognise a thought which is unhelpful say STOP to yourself. You can combine this with pinging a rubber band around your wrist or pinching yourself which can help change the direction of your thoughts.

Positive Imagery: Try to think about something else other than the physical symptoms or worrying that we will become anxious. Practice concentrating on a pleasant past experience, really focus on this in detail.

Some questions you can ask yourself to keep your mind on this:

  • What was the weather like?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Who was there?
  • What were they wearing?
  • Exactly what did everyone say or do?
  • How did I feel?
  • What did I like about it?

Mental Games: Doing puzzles, crosswords, word games, reciting a poem, singing a song, counting backwards from 100, are all useful distraction exercises.

External Focus: Concentrating on a specific detail of the world around you, for example, making words out of number plates of cars or guessing what people do for a living. Focusing on the outside world will prevent you thinking about what is going on inside.

Challenge Thoughts: Every time we notice that our thoughts are upsetting or negative, think up a more positive alternative, talk to yourself in a positive way and give yourself encouragement.

Relaxation: Listen to some music or a relaxation tape, if you have a walkman you can do this anywhere. You can use whatever method of relaxation that works for you to help you to switch off the worrying thoughts. As with most techniques it may take a while to get used to them. It is important to practice these techniques so that you feel comfortable with them.

Some organisations which may be useful to you:

  • SupportLine: Confidential Telephone Helpline 01708 765200, info@supportline.org.uk– Also keeps details of other agencies, support groups and counsellors throughout the UK.

  • Anxiety UK (formerly National Phobics Society): 08444 775 774, www.anxietyuk.org.uk – Helps all those suffering with anxiety disorders. Self help leaflets and contact lists. Self help groups, counselling, phone self help groups, email support.

  • Farming Community Network (FCN):
    03000 111 999 www.fcn.org.uk
    Confidential listening and signposting service for the farming community.

  • International Stress Management Association:
    To provide information about all aspects of stress management. Provide support and run conferences and workshops, leaflets.

  • Lifeline (N.Ireland)
    0808 808 8000
    For anyone in N.Ireland who is in distress or despair. Immediate help on phone 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Face to face counselling can be arranged, also befriending, mentoring. Issues dealt with include suicide prevention, self harm, abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety. Run by Contact N.Ireland www.contactni.comindependent counselling service employing professional qualified counselors who have extensive experience of working with people facing a wide range of problems, free to all users.

  • Living Life
    0800 328 9655
    Available in Scotland
    Living Life is a free telephone service offering guided self help and cognitive behaviour therapy. The service is available to anyone over the age of 16 who is suffering from low mood, mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety. You can find out more by phoning the free, confidential phone line on 0800 328 9655 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 9pm). You will be asked to provide some details and then an assessment appointment will be arranged to discuss the service and how help can be provided to you.

  • No Panic:
    Helpline: 0844 9674848
    Youth Helpline 0330 606 1174
    (for 13 to 20 year olds open Mon to Thurs 4pm-6pm)
    Helpline for anxiety disorders, panic attacks etc. Provides advice, counselling, listening, befriending and can make referrals. Local self help groups and produces leaflets, audio and video cassettes.

  • OCD Action: 0845 390 6232,www.ocdaction.org.uk – Information and support for Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCDs) and related disorders including Body Dismorphic Disorder (BDD), Skin Picking (CSP), Trichotillomania (TTM) – compulsive hair pulling.

  • OCD-UK: www.ocduk.org – Information and support relating to OCDs. Also information relating to local support groups.

  • SA-UK (Social Anxiety UK): www.social-anxiety.org.uk Volunteer led organisation, news, advice, info, meetings, chatroom, forums, support/social groups, info on cognitive behavioural therapy.

    In its simplest terms social anxiety or ‘SA’ is a fear of people, of being around, having to interact with, being watched, criticized or judged negatively by other human beings. For sufferers of SA everyday tasks which most people take for granted – working, socialising, shopping, speaking on the telephone, can be a wearing ordeal marked by persistent feelings of anxiety and self consciousness.

  • http://selfhelpfix.com/blushing.php – how to overcome blushing and social anxiety
  • TOP UK (Triumph Over Phobia) The OCD and Phobia Charity
    01225 571740
    UK registered charity which aims to help sufferers of phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder and other related anxiety to overcome their fears and become ex sufferers, run a network of self help therapy groups.

Useful websites:

  • www.calmclinic.com – information relating to anxiety, panic disorder, stress and depression
  • www.dailystrength.org – Online community support for anxiety, mental health, and health related conditions.
  • www.haveigotaproblem.com – free resource for mental health and addiction issues created and run by the Tasha Foundation.

  • www.healthyplace.com – Information and support for those suffering from anxiety (American site).
  • www.menheal.org.uk
    A website for all men who suffer from depression or anxiety from all round the world.
  • www.nomorepanic.co.uk – Information for sufferers of panic, anxiety, phobias and ocds. Includes chat room and message boards. Also information relating to insomnia.
  • www.patient.info – Self help guides under Mental Health leaflets on panic attacks, phobias,anxiety,stress, obsessional compulsive disorders, relaxation exercises.

  • www.stressbubbles.com – struggling with depression, anxiety, mental health, some great healing tips from someone who has suffered with these issues herself.
  • www.succeedsocially.com – Getting past social problems, how to meet new people and make friends and improve social skills.

Useful books:

Banish Anxiety by Dr Kenneth Hambly – Published by Thorsons: ISBN 0722531125
Click here to read more or buy this book

Embracing the Fear: Learning To Manage Anxiety & Panic Attacks by Judith Bemis, Amr Barrada – Publishers Hazelden Information & Educational Services: ISBN 089486971X

Take care of yourself and look out for one and other.

Lots of love,


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