Anxiety is the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which is observed from 15th to 21st May in the UK.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems experienced by people. It can be sparked by worries such as exam pressures, relationship problems, starting a new job or losing one, or other major life events.
The Mental Health Foundation, which runs Mental Health Awareness Week, has chosen to focus on anxiety this year to raise awareness of the condition.
The charity explains that everyone can feel anxious from time to time, as anxiety is a natural response to uncertain times. Anxiety becomes an issue, however, when it becomes overwhelming and impacts your everyday life.
Mental Health Awareness Week vital as cost-of-living crisis bites
A recent study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that more than a third of UK adults feel anxious about their financial situation amid the current cost-of-living crisis. Further, a quarter said that they felt so anxious about their personal finances that it had prevented them from doing the things they wanted to do, at least part of the time.
That’s why the charity has chosen to focus on anxiety for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week; they say it’s important that individuals can recognise when they feel anxious, and know how to respond effectively.
They say that anxiety can be made easier to manage, and that proactive strategies can also prevent anxious feelings from becoming a problem in the first place. But the Foundation also wants to prompt change and ensure that improving mental health and wellbeing becomes a key priority for the government and society as a whole.
Get involved in Mental Health Awareness Week
Alexa Knight, Director of England at the Mental Health Foundation, says the theme was chosen “to kickstart a nationwide conversation, encouraging people to share their own experiences and any helpful ideas on how they manage anxiety.”
People can share their experiences and tips under the campaign hashtag #ToHelpMyAnxiety.
The Mental Health Foundation provides a wide range of resources on its website to enable everyone to get involved with Mental Health Awareness Week. These include a social media guide, logos, posters, a template press release and an anxiety booklet for schools.
You can also order a green ribbon, the international symbol of mental health awareness, make a donation or take part in Wear it Green Day 2023 events, which could include quizzes, bake sales or scavenger hunts.
The Mental Health Foundation will also be sharing blogs, films and other content throughout the week.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural human response to a perceived threat and is related to our innate fight, flight or freeze biological response.
Anxiety normally occurs when we encounter a stressful event or significant life change. It is what we experience when we feel worried, tense or afraid, particularly about things which are about to happen, or which we worry could happen in the future. It can affect us physically and mentally.
Physical signs of anxiety include:
- Increased heartrate
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- Disturbed sleep
- Panic attacks
Psychological signs of anxiety may include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to fall asleep
- Feeling tense or nervous
- Being tearful
- Finding it hard to relax
When anxious feelings become strong, distressing, long-lasting or frequent, they may represent a mental health problem.
People who live with an anxiety disorder, such as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), may experience difficulty maintaining a normal lifestyle, such as retaining a job, establishing or maintaining personal relationships and enjoying free time, relaxation and hobbies.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects up to 5% of the UK population. It is a long-term disorder which causes individuals to experience anxiety in relation to a wide range of issues and situations rather than one specific event.
How to manage anxiety
There are a number of simple things that we can all do to help us cope with anxiety and protect our overall mental health and wellbeing.
The Mental Health Foundation provides some key tips and advice for managing anxiety and says:
“Taking action to address specific causes of anxiety can also help – for example, contacting a money advisor, discussing workplace stress with your employers, or seeking support if you are experiencing bullying, harassment or discrimination.”
If you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, and it is negatively impacting your everyday life, you should contact your GP for help and support in the first instance.
There are, however, a number of measures you can take yourself in the meantime to try to positively manage your anxiety. These include:
- Talk about it – open up about what’s making you anxious or how anxiety affects you to someone you trust or a confidential helpline
- Address your worries – set a specific time to focus on your worries and/or write them down in a specific place
- Try breathing exercises
- Keep a diary – this can be of your symptoms, your worries, triggers for panic attacks – OR, it could also be about acknowledging the positive things happening
- Look for support groups, such as Anxiety UK
- Explore alternative therapies
- Try to get enough sleep
- Eat regular, balanced meals to help maintain positive mood and energy levels
- Avoid consuming too much caffeine or alcohol, and try not to smoke
- Get regular physical activity
- Get outside in the fresh air
If you experience panic attacks as a symptom of your anxiety, you may want to try the following tips from leading mental health charity Mind to help manage these:
- Breathe – concentrate on breathing deeply into your stomach and breathing out slowly
- Move – Mind suggests that stamping on the spot can help some people to control their breathing
- Reassure – remind yourself that you are safe. The panic attack has been caused by anxiety, and is not dangerous. It will pass
- Focus – switch your focus to small sensory details you find comforting or interesting. Mind suggests you could taste mints, touch something soft or listen to calming music
- Talk – confide in someone you trust about your panic attacks and/or join a support group
- Record – note down what happens when you feel anxious, to help spot your triggers, and also make a record of coping strategies that work for you
Supporting others with anxiety
If someone close to you is struggling with anxiety, you may feel powerless, but there are positive things you can to do to help and support them. These include:
- Try to understand – research anxiety and ask about how they’re feeling
- Ask what you can do to help
- Offer them support with seeking help
- Remember to focus on looking after yourself
- Put pressure on them! Do not force them to seek help or confront situations before they’re ready to
- Assume their experience of anxiety is the same as someone else’s
If you are with someone when they experience a panic attack, you can help them to manage the attack in the following ways:
- Remain calm
- Reassure them you’re there for them, and that they’re ok
- Encourage them to focus on breathing in deeply and out slowly – it may help to count out loud as they breathe
- Suggest they stamp their feet on the spot
- Encourage them to sit down somewhere quiet until they have recovered
Calls to tackle root causes of anxiety
Although there are lots of positive strategies that people can utilise to try to manage their anxiety and look after their mental health, the Mental Health Foundation emphasises the fact that “much of what may trigger anxiety is not within our control.”
The Foundation will be speaking to politicians and decision-makers throughout Mental Health Awareness Week about measures they can implement to support the nation’s mental health and wellbeing.
Causes of anxiety can be many and complex, but the charity says that financial worries, social isolation, social pressures and discrimination can all play a significant role.
They are calling on local and national politicians to consider measures such as income support, the provision of good quality housing, strong legislation to prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination, and providing communities with the services and facilities they need to live well and support positive mental health.
Consider training this Mental Health Awareness Week
First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, food safety, mental health, health and social care and more.
An accredited Mindful Employer themselves, FRT’s specialist mental health training courses include Understanding Mental Health, Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace, Managing Stress, Anxiety and Phobias Awareness, Self-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.
They can also provide qualified, approved trainers to deliver accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses, including the Adult, Youth and Lite versions.
A trainer from FRT says:
“Most people feel anxious at some point in their life, and so it is probably one of the mental health problems that people are most able to relate to. It affects a great many people, including increasing numbers of children, especially post-pandemic.
“It’s really important that we all have an understanding of mental health problems and an awareness of conditions such as anxiety, and that we are familiar with effective support strategies for helping others and managing our own anxiety and safeguarding our wellbeing.
“Our Anxiety Awareness training provides learners with an understanding of a range of specific anxiety disorders, how they can be managed and treated, and how to offer support to someone dealing with anxiety.”
A brief summary of our mental health training can now be downloaded as an infographic.
We also have a number of free infographics available to download which provide simple tips for helping to manage your anxiety and panic attacks. These include:
You can also download our free Guide to Mental Health Training from our website.
For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.