Help Me With Anxiety

Feeling restless, on edge, and irritable? Getting stuck thinking about things you are worried about over and over again? Maybe you get moments of panic where your heart races and your palms are sweaty? 

Sounds like anxiety. And you’re not alone. Anxiety is the most common mental health concern among young people (and the most common reason students refer to our SMC psych services!). 

Feeling anxious is one way our bodies keep us safe from danger. But sometimes we can become overly worried and it impacts our daily life. 

You can take an anxiety self-test here

There are different types of anxiety conditions, and these might look or feel different to different people. For example, some people are particularly anxious in social situations, have a specific fear, or sudden, unexpected panic. More info about the types of anxiety is available here.

Ok, I'm anxious. What now..?

If anxiety is starting to impact your functioning (like causing issues in your relationships, causing you to avoid particular places or situations, making it hard to study, or affecting sleep or eating), its best to talk to a professional. The good news is there is lots of really effective treatments for anxiety. Chat to one of the College psychs, or your trusted GP. 

You can get started managing anxiety with a few strategies…

Tips for managing immediate anxiety or panic:

  • Breathing exercises. These work because releasing carbon dioxide from your body (i.e., exhaling) sends your brain a message that there is no threat (and it can calm down). It also helps the ‘problem-solving’ part of your brain work better to think around the object of your anxiety. The key is a loooooonnnnggg exhale. Practice a few different breathing techniques before you hit an anxious moment so you have the skill ready to go in times of need. 
  • Muscle relaxation. This is the process of consciously tensing, then relaxing different muscles in the body. It’s been shown to be effective in lowering heart rate and breathing rate, and in prompting sleep. You can find a guided progressive muscle relaxation exercise here
  • Redirect to a present-focusThis means pulling thoughts back to the present moment and away from thoughts stuck in a worry cycle. You might try grounding exercised like the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 exercise, or others available here. 
  • Let someone know how you’re feeling. You might prepare something you would say to a trusted friend in advance so you don’t have to think of it in the middle of a freak out.

For more long-term anxiety, try:

  • Keeping a ‘thought diary’. Usually, anxiety is related to unhelpful thinking patterns. Making a note of thoughts, then testing them to see if they are accurate can be really helpful. Remember, just because you have a thought, doesn’t make it true. If you decide a maybe there isn’t a lot of evidence to support a particular thought, you can brainstorm an alternative that might be more accurate. See this resource for how to challenge negative thoughts
  • Identify your triggers. Common triggers are health issues, school stress, or worry about social situations. Understand that avoiding your fears – actually feeds them. Sure, you feel better in the short term if you avoid that oral presentation, but in so doing, you actually reinforce to your brain that the oral presentation is something to be feared. It is actually true that facing your fears is the key to conquering them. Try taking baby steps toward finally mastering the feared situation or thing. 
  • Employ relaxation and wellbeing strategies as part of your routine. Have a look at our resources in the ‘wellbeing and balance’ page.
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine (coffee and tea), and nicotine (e.g., vapes) as these amplify anxious symptoms. 

Amazing evidence-based apps that help with anxiety

Check out:

If chatting with the professionals isn’t your jam, you can also drive your own change through these awesome online interventions:

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