More than 8 million in the UK suffer from an anxiety disorder – especially women and under 35s, while in the US around 40 million adults are affected.
So what is anxiety? It’s often described as a sense of dread or fear of things which are about to happen. It’s the feeling you get before an exam or when you’re getting ready for a big event. Our bodies react to the stress by releasing adrenaline, which can make us more alert and make our hearts race. After the adrenaline surge, you might feel shaky.
Anxiety becomes a problem for us when our worries start to take over our thoughts and your fears are out of proportion to the situation.
Read on to find some examples of anxiety triggers, what you can do to reduce anxiety and take our quiz…
Things that make anxiety worse
There are a lot of factors which can make your anxiety worse – check out our list of anxiety triggers to see what might be making you feel panicky:
- Tiredness. Feeling overtired is one of the big triggers for anxiety sufferers and you’re more likely to experience an anxiety attack when you haven’t had enough sleep. An app might help you to relax and get to sleep – check out our 10 best sleep apps to help with insomnia.
- Caffeine. Some people find that coffee can make their anxiety worse, as it leaves them feeling jittery and on edge. Read more about how coffee affects your body.
- Alcohol. Drinking alcohol can alter the serotonin levels in the brain which could make your anxiety worse. If you have social anxiety, it can be tempting to drink to help you socialise, but it’s not recommended!
- Stress. Background stress in your life – whether it’s at work or at home – can lead you to have more anxiety attacks.
- Crowds. For people who have social anxiety, being in a crowd or at a noisy event can be particularly stressful.
- Money. Finances can be a big cause of stress and anxiety and could bring on panic attacks.
- Emotional trauma. Loss of a loved one or health worries are common triggers for anxiety.
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How meditation can help anxiety
If you’re frequently anxious, meditation and mindfulness can bring real health benefits, particularly in the midst of a panic attack.
Studies have shown that meditation can alter your brain structure. MRI scans have shown that even an eight week meditation course can lead to changes in the amygdala – the part of your brain which controls your body’s ‘fight or flight’ reaction.
If you feel as though you’re about to have a panic attack, it can help to think about your breathing. Breathe in for a count of five, hold for a count of five and then exhale slowly. Repeat until you feel your heart rate slow down and you become calmer.
Grounding is a mindfulness technique which can be used to calm you if you start to feel a panic attack coming on. Grounding is anything which brings you into the present moment and stops anxious thoughts taking hold. You need to focus your attention on a physical sensation – this could be anything from counting the number of different sounds you can hear around you, to touching your clothing or concentrating on what you can smell.
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