Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the UK.
Drastic changes in our entire lives over the past six months have led to increased levels of anxiety, and a new study suggests that parents are especially concerned about the health of their children.
So what does anxiety feel and how do you overcome it?
What is anxiety?
It is more than just feeling anxious or anxious. These are normal reactions that we all feel at some point, and they can be a good thing.
But persistent anxiety appears to be a fear that does not go away, and if it becomes too intense it may take over your life and prevent you from doing normal, everyday things.
Anxiety makes you feel anxious all the time, tired and unable to concentrate. This can cause sleep problems and make you feel depressed.
There are often symptoms that affect the body as well, such as a rapid heartbeat or breathing, tremors, sweating, dizziness, diarrhea, and feeling sick.
Anxiety can come in many different forms, and they range from mild to severe.
Up to 1 in 10 people have an anxiety or phobia problem at some point in their lives – but not many seek treatment.
Where do I go for help?
The Royal College of Psychiatrists suggests trying self-help techniques first, such as:
- Talk to a friend or relative
- Join self-help or online support groups
- Learn relaxation techniques
Activities such as yoga, exercise, reading and listening to music can also help.
Experts say it is a good idea to cut back on alcohol and stop smoking to reduce anxiety.
If your anxiety persists, there are plenty of self-help books about the best treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is also available on the NHS.
CBT is a speech therapy that helps people deal with massive problems by breaking them down into smaller parts.
It is also suitable for children who are very anxious, and parents can be taught how to do this.
“It’s important not to suffer in silence,” says Nikki Ledbetter, of Anxiety UK.
She recommends booking an appointment with a general practitioner and explaining your symptoms, but says “one course does not fit all.”
Are children and young adults affected too?
“Some struggle, and some thrive because of a lack of stress from school,” says Professor Cathy Creswell, professor of developmental clinical psychology at the University of Oxford.
Their survey of children and parents during the first month of the lockdown showed an increase in feelings of unhappiness, anxiety, and low mood among participating elementary school children.
But parents of high school children reported fewer emotional problems, and the teens themselves said their moods and behavior had not changed.
This is reflected in another survey of children between the ages of 13 and 14, which found that they were less anxious during the lockdown than they were in last October, indicating a large variance between children of different ages.
The NHS has five tips to support children and young people:
- Be there to listen: Ask them about their condition regularly, so they can get used to talking about their feelings
- Keep sharing in their lives: Show interest in them and the things that matter to them
- Support positive actions: Be a positive role model and support a regular bedtime routine, healthy eating and activity
- Encourage their interests: Being active and creative, learning things, and being part of a team are all good for mental health
- Take what they say seriously: Help them feel appreciated in what they have to say, and help them cope with difficult feelings
What are the triggers?
Anything from anxiety about health and money to changes in work, school, or relationships can cause profound anxiety.
During the pandemic, there were many potential anxieties such as fears about the virus, going outdoors, infecting others, wearing masks and returning to normal life, as well as what the future holds.
This has been described by the British Anxiety UK as Coronavirus, which has received a spike in calls to its helpline since lockdown rules were relaxed.
The charity says callers are experiencing more complex problems than usual and calls last longer.
Psychiatrists warn that lockdowns and social distancing affect people’s routines and prevent them from seeing friends and family. This can make any anxiety they feel worse.
There are also concerns that people are not seeking help for their mental health due to concerns about the virus, and this is leading to a spike in emergency situations.
“If you feel unwell, you can still receive treatment during the epidemic,” says Dr. Bailey Poland, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
“If you have mental health issues, call your GP or key worker, if you have one, and continue using your mental health services as normal. If you have a mental health crisis, call NHS 111 online or phone service.”
Who is most at risk?
Anxiety is a common condition, and at present, many people feel anxious about life.
Things that have happened in your life, any major changes or traumatic events, can make you prone to anxiety.
Having a mental health problem can make you feel more anxious, as it does having another disease, but the extent of your anxiety may also be due to the genes you have inherited as well.
Teens and young adults often feel anxious, and those with special educational needs or low-income families are the most vulnerable.
But experts say it is still too early to tell the long-term effects of time spent outside of the classroom.
“It is important to monitor how children deal with changing routines in school and uncertainty,” says Professor Creswell.
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