Anxiety is the mind’s way of protecting us by making us careful of unknown or potentially dangerous situations. Its purpose is useful but, like an overprotective parent, it can become a problem. We are sometimes so ‘protected’ that it becomes difficult to do things, or it affects our quality of life.

What is anxiety?

As many as one in four of us experience a mental health problem like anxiety at some point in our lives. If your anxiety is overpowering, especially if you have physical symptoms such as chest pains, breathlessness or palpitations, you should see your GP before going to a therapist or taking self-help steps. Sometimes there is a physical problem (like a hormone imbalance) which needs a medical answer. However, once you have seen a GP to rule this out, there is plenty you can do to help yourself.

It often helps understand why you feel the way you do. Anxiety is related to stress and fear in the way it affects our bodies, but it includes an element of anticipation as well. In other words, stress and fear are reactions to what is actually happening. When you deal with the cause of your stress or fear, the reaction goes too.

Anxiety and worry are different. They deal with ‘what ifs’ and things that might happen. If you remove onr cause of your worry, you can simply find yourself anxious about something else instead.

How to reduce your worrying

  • Don’t expect too much of yourself when you first begin to challenge your anxiety. It will probably be a slow process. But these tips should help you start to get things under control.
  • Exercise helps to reduce anxiety because it helps to produce ‘feel good’ hormones that lift your mood.
  • If your body is getting the nutrients and rest it needs, you’ll deal with things better. Eat the healthiest diet you can and make sure you get enough sleep.
  • Relaxation and breathing techniques can help control anxiety because they send a message to your brain that the emergency is over and it’s time to relax. Find it hard to relax? Download my five-minute freebie relaxation audio. If you like it, buy the longer one!
  • Worrying is like trying to predict the future but only what might go wrong. Start to challenge your worries – how realistic are they? What might go right?
  • Use the ‘but swap’ by exchanging what you put before and after the word ‘but’. ‘I’d really like to drive on the motorway but it’s so hard’ becomes ‘It’s hard to drive on the motorway but I really want to do it’ which is so much more positive. (Thanks to Trevor Watts for this one.)
  • Some people find a worry half hour is useful. Worry for a specific half hour each day, the rest of the time refuse to listen to your negative thoughts.

And remember that if you need help to do all this, contact me for advice.

Author: Debbie Waller is a professional therapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues, including gut-directed hypnotherapy to help with the symptoms of IBS. She also offers EMDR/Blast which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD. For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593. 

Researcher: Rae Waller is an experienced researcher and writer with a special interest in mental health issues. Rae offers drafting, fact-checking, proofreading, and editing for anything from a leaflet to a website, a blog or a book, and can also provide diversity reading, especially for LGBTQ+ and autism-related issues. Please contact for further information.