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Feeling anxious?

Anxiety is something everyone experiences at times, and feeling anxious is a perfectly natural reaction to some situations.

But sometimes feelings of anxiety can be constant, overwhelming or out of proportion to the situation and this can affect your daily life.

The good news is there are plenty of things you can try to help cope with anxiety. We also have specific tips and expert advice to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing if you are feeling worried or anxious about coronavirus (COVID-19).

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, like a worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone feels anxious from time to time and it usually passes once the situation is over.

It can make our heart race, we might feel sweaty, shaky or short of breath. Anxiety can also cause changes in our behaviour, such as becoming overly careful or avoiding things that trigger anxiety.

When anxiety becomes a problem, our worries can be out of proportion with relatively harmless situations. It can feel more intense or overwhelming, and interfere with our everyday lives and relationships.

The tips on this page should help you manage feelings of anxiety. But if your anxiety is affecting your daily life or causing you distress, you could consider seeking further support.

Top tips to cope with anxiety

Understand your anxiety

Try keeping a diary of what you are doing and how you feel at different times to help identify what's affecting you and what you need to take action on.

Challenge your anxious thoughts

Tackling unhelpful thoughts is one of the best things we can do to feel less anxious. Watch the video to find out more.

Video: Reframing unhelpful thoughts

Make time for worries

If your worry feels overwhelming and takes over your day, setting specific "worry time" to go through your concerns each day can help you to focus on other things. Watch the video for more advice.

Video: Tackle your worries

Shift your focus

Some people find relaxation, mindfulness or breathing exercises helpful. They reduce tension and focus our awareness on the present moment.

Try NHS-recommended relaxation exercises

Face the things you want to avoid

It's easy to avoid situations, or rely on habits that make us feel safer, but these can keep anxiety going. By slowly building up time in worrying situations, anxious feelings will gradually reduce and you will see these situations are OK.

Get to grips with the problem

When you're feeling stressed or anxious, it can help to use a problem-solving technique to identify some solutions. This can make the challenges you're facing feel more manageable.

Managing Your Worries (PDF, 544kb)

Find out more things you can do

Get Your Mind Plan

Answer 5 quick questions to get your free plan with tips to help you deal with stress and anxiety, improve your sleep, boost your mood and feel more in control.

Video: Anxiety – Things you can do

Professor Paul Salkovskis, consultant clinical psychologist, says: "If you're feeling anxious, there's a good chance you're thinking things are more dangerous than they really are."

Signs of anxiety

Anxiety can show in a variety of ways. This can be as changes in your body, in being constantly worried or changes in your behaviour, such as becoming overly careful or avoiding things that trigger anxiety.

You may:

  • feel tired, on edge, restless or irritable
  • feel a sense of dread
  • be unable to concentrate or make decisions
  • have trouble sleeping
  • feel sick, dizzy, sweaty or short of breath
  • be shaky or trembly
  • get headaches or tummy aches
  • avoid situations or put off doing things you are worried about
  • have difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • experience a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat
  • have pins and needles
  • have a dry mouth
  • sweat excessively
  • repeatedly check things or seek assurance from others

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety affects everyone differently and can be brought on by different situations or experiences. It is our body's natural reaction to perceived danger, focusing our attention and giving us a rush of adrenaline to react, sometimes called the "fight or flight" response.

Sometimes it can be difficult to know what is making you anxious, which can be upsetting or stressful in itself. That's why learning to recognise what is making you anxious can help so you can deal with the uncertainty better.

Some people naturally react more than others, and there are times when everyone may go through stressful situations and feel anxious because of uncertainty or perceived threat.

There are lots of things that can influence our mental health, such as our upbringing, childhood environment, things that happen to us and even our temperament. Learn more about what affects our mental health and what support is available for life's challenges.

Support or treatment for anxiety

Non-urgent advice: Helping someone else

Get tips and advice on helping others struggling with their mental health.

Urgent advice: Urgent support

If you cannot wait to see a doctor and feel unable to cope or keep yourself safe, it's important to get support – services are still open during the coronavirus outbreak.