While most people feel anxious from time to time, for some, anxiety is a big part of life and can interfere with everyday activities. Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a long-term condition that triggers feelings of anxiety about a variety of issues and situations rather than a specific event, and it becomes a constant battle to ignore them.
The condition is more common than you might think. It’s estimated that up to 5% of the UK population is affected by GAD; slightly more women than men are affected by the condition and it’s more prevalent in people aged 35-39.
What is situational anxiety?
This is a type of anxiety that is triggered before a known situation, such as a performance, examination, job interview or public speaking, rather than generalised anxiety.
You may feel fearful or overly nervous in certain situations and symptoms can manifest in the form of trembling or shaking, dry mouth, dizziness and heart palpitations among others. These symptoms, which are sometimes referred to as panic attacks, can be brought on by triggers, such as being in a crowded space.
How to deal with anxiety
If this sounds all too familiar, we’ve compiled a number of anxiety management tips and strategies that may help to ease your worries and symptoms:
Whether dancing, running, swimming or something else entirely, getting active has been clinically proven to raise the body’s serotonin levels, and the more ‘feel-good hormone’ serotonin in your body, the more relaxed you’ll feel. Getting into a regular exercise pattern can help you look, feel and function better – which may ease feelings of anxiety.
If you drink too much caffeine, it could actually leave you feeling more anxious than normal. Caffeine is known to disrupt sleep as well as speed up the heartbeat. Avoid coffee, tea and energy drinks if possible, as they contain caffeine. By doing so, it may help to reduce your feelings of anxiety.
Break the situation down
Try not to feel overwhelmed by the size of the situation that is causing anxiety – break it down into smaller tasks, then tackle them one by one. Give yourself reasonable deadlines to complete each one and tell yourself you can achieve it – it’s much more manageable and not nearly as daunting this way.
Forget about the ‘what ifs’
One of the biggest causes of situational anxiety is letting fears about worst case scenarios spin out of control. It’s natural to worry about the ‘what ifs’ of a situation, but the worst very rarely happens. If you start thinking this way ahead of an interview or an office presentation for example, turn your attention to your past successes instead. Remember that minor slip-ups are human nature and most people are very understanding of them.
Practice makes perfect
The thought of speaking in public can leave some people terrified, but the easiest way to overcome the nerves is to practice your speech early and often. Give yourself every chance to get comfortable with the wording – that way you will be better prepared and more in control of the situation on the day.
Don’t forget to breathe
Sometimes, when experiencing a distressing situation, our breathing can change and speed up. Controlled breathing is a simple technique that encourages you to focus and slow down your breathing patterns, in order to help you manage your feelings more effectively and restore calm. Manoeuvre into a comfortable position then begin to concentrate on a stable breathing rhythm. For example, breathe in for three seconds, hold for two seconds and then breathe out for three seconds – and repeat for a few minutes. This technique should help you feel calmer and after a few minutes, ease any dizziness you may be experiencing.
Anxiety comes in many different forms but while it’s not easy to live with, there are things you can do to help ease its effects. If you’re dealing with situational anxiety, medication such as propranolol is also an option and, if you need to talk to a professional, Pharmacy2U’s online doctor service is always on hand to offer confidential advice.