Girl biting hand showing anxiety

Anxiety can reveal itself in a range of forms, from stomach knots and nausea, to heart palpitations and sweats. While medication may be prescribed by your GP, anxiety can be reduced simply by applying new ways of thinking. Your thoughts can rule so much of your life, so when you can overcome situations that physically affect you, no matter how minor, you can empower yourself to achieve great things.

Everyone feels anxious at times, and a certain level of anxiety is normal, and even helpful, in some situations. Anxiety is your body’s way of keeping you safe. For instance, imagine you’re walking home, and you’re dragging your feet because you’re tired. Out of the corner of your eye, you think you see a snake. Suddenly, you forget how tired you are and have a burst of energy that helps you to get out of harm’s way.

Anxiety can also motivate you. If you feel a bit anxious about an assignment that’s due or a job interview, it can help you to power through.

However, feeling too much anxiety about something, or feeling anxiety that’s not connected to an obvious challenge, isn’t helpful. It can get in the way of your day-to-day activities and affect your quality of life.

Signs and key symptoms

People who become anxious or have an anxiety disorder may display a variety of different signs and symptoms. Different types of anxiety disorders can also have different symptoms. However, there are some common ones, including:

  • racing heart or tightening of the chest
  • rapid breathing
  • feeling tense, restless, ‘on edge’ or wound up
  • hot and cold flushes
  • sweating
  • shaking
  • feeling weak or tired
  • obsessive thinking excessive fear and worrying
  • having a sense of impending panic, doom or danger
  • imagining the worst-case scenario
  • having difficulty thinking about anything other than what’s worrying you
  • having trouble sleeping
  • stomach or digestion issues
  • avoiding situations that make you feel anxious (e.g. taking public transport, going to class or meeting new people).

What is anxiety?

It is your body’s physical response to threats. Your breathing might increase, your heart might start pounding, you could feel butterflies in your stomach, and you might get a burst of energy..

How counselling can help with anxiety

We will support you to explore what you’re going through and why you feel as you do.

How to overcome anxiety

t’s important to understand what is causing your anxiety – then you can look at steps to address it.

You may want to look at ways to break out of a cycle of negative thoughts that are making you anxious. Or you may need to think about whether what is making you anxious is a fact – or something you have imagined (such as the true meaning behind the funny look from your boss).

Breathing exercises can help to regulate your breaths physically, which can have an impact on relaxing your mind as well.

Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, can also have a positive impact for some people.

Can you get free counselling on the NHS?

You can get free psychological therapies, including counselling for depression, on the NHS.

You do not need a referral from a GP.

You can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service.

Find a service in your area.

Or you can get a referral from a GP if you prefer.

Can mindfulness exercises help?

Mindfulness is not a cure-all for anxiety, to be sure, but it can help, especially if you experience bodily symptoms of anxiety like muscle tension and light-headedness

Whether your anxiety takes the form of panic attacks, social anxiety or generalized anxiety, mindfulness practice can help if you are able to a) practice mindfulness when you meditate and b) look actively for opportunities to apply this awareness to moments when you’re not meditating — including ones when you’re starting to feel anxious..