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Anxiety affects our whole being. It affects how we feel, how we behave and has very real physical symptoms.

It feels a bit like fear but whereas we know what we are frightened of, we often don’t know what we are anxious about.

Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling – severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating. 

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety is often triggered by stress in our lives. Some of us are more vulnerable to anxiety than others, but even those who become anxious easily can learn to manage it well. We can also make ourselves anxious with “negative self-talk” – a habit of always telling ourselves the worst will happen.

How will I recognize anxiety?

As well as feeling apprehensive and worried (possibly without knowing why), you may experience some of the following physical symptoms:

  • Tense muscles
  • Trembling
  • Churning stomach
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Numbness or “pins and needles” in arms, hands or legs
  • Sweating/flushing

When is anxiety a problem?

We all become anxious from time to time. It becomes a problem when it interferes with life in the absence of real threat, or goes on too long after the danger has past.

What if I just avoid things that make me anxious?

Avoiding situations that make you anxious might help you feel better in the short term. The trouble is the anxiety keeps returning, and has a habit of spreading to other situations. This can lead to you avoiding things like shops, crowded places, lectures or tutorials. So although avoidance makes you feel better -

  • Relief is only temporary – you may worry about what will happen next time.
  • Every time you avoid something it is harder next time you try to face it.
  • Gradually you want to avoid more and more things.

OK, so what else can I do to feel better?

  • Learn to manage stress in your life. Keep an eye on pressures and deadlines and make a commitment to taking time out from study or work.
  • Learn a variety of relaxation techniques. Physical relaxation methods and meditation techniques really do help. We have some relaxation tapes at Student Counselling that will help you get started. Health food shops also sell a variety of relaxation tapes.
  • Look after your physical self. Eat healthily, get regular exercise and try to keep a regular sleep pattern. Avoid alcohol, cannabis and junk food.
  • Practise deep abdominal breathing. This consists of breathing in deeply and slowly through your nose, taking the air right down to you abdomen. Visualise the air travelling right down to your abdomen and say the word “calm” to yourself as you breathe in. Then breathe out slowly and gently through your mouth. As you breathe out visualise the stress and tension leaving your body with your breath and think the word “relax.” Deliberately let your muscles go floppy as you breathe out. Take three deep breaths at a time. If you breathe deeply for too long you may feel dizzy from the extra oxygen. You can repeat the three breaths after a short time of breathing normally.
  • Learn to replace “negative self talk” with “coping self talk.” When you catch yourself thinking something negative like “I can’t do this, it’s just too hard,” try to change it to something more positive, like “This is hard but I can get through it.” It can be helpful to think of “changing the tape” that runs through your mind. It is useful to make a list of the negative thoughts you often have and write a list of positive, believable thoughts to replace them.

Anxiety can be exhausting and debilitating. Don’t suffer alone for too long. It often helps to talk to a Counsellor or Psychologist, who can help you find ways to deal with stress in your life and teach you skills to manage anxiety.

Edited and Compiled by Christian Nordqvist
Original article date: 23rd April 2004
Article updated: 10th February 2009

If you have any symptoms of Anxiety, try reading about these Bach Flower Remedies:

Mimulus: Fear of anything you can put a name on: Fear of dying, being alone, spiders, losing a job, not be able to pay your bills, fear of flying, fear of a panic attack, fear of small places  etc.
Aspen: Fear of the unknown, fear that something bad is going to happen but you can not put a name on it.
Red Chestnut: Fear that something bad is going to happen to your loved ones.
Rock Rose: Frozen fear, terror, the deer in the headlight type of fear.
Cherry Plum: Fear that you may lose control on yourself, explosive anger, the feeling you wish to hurt yourself or others.
Elm: If you feel overwhelmed, too much to do, not enough time.
White Chestnut: If you have repeated unwanted thoughts or worries.

Anxiety/Fear can be cured with the help of Bach Flower Remedies. The Bach Flower Remedies work on the emotional level, removing emotional imbalances such as, depression, anxiety, jealousy, fears, trauma, self-confidence and impatience as an example.

The Bach Flower Remedies are 100% safe with no side effects and when you feel fine again you stop taking the remedies and you will remain fine.