What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a mixture of uneasy feelings, including nervousness, worry and fear, about yourself or others. It can be a response to your thoughts about things that have already happened, or that are on the horizon. That’s why you might find yourself worrying whether you upset someone days ago or are feeling anxious about giving a big presentation at work that’s still weeks away.

Physical symptoms of anxiety include sweating, shaking, feeling sick and being unable to sleep. The mental effects are also wide-ranging, from clouded thinking and difficulty concentrating at one extreme, to over-active imagination and hyper-alertness at the other. For some people, anxiety is also accompanied by misplaced feelings of embarrassment or shame.

Why Are We So Anxious?
There are many reasons why anxiety is on the rise. Although many of the physical threats our ancestors faced have been reduced or ruled out, more abstract threats have replaced them. These include worries about the economy or environment, and anxieties about our appearance, social standing and professional success.

What Are the Signs of Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural reaction to stress or threat. In fact, it’s likely a hard-wired safety response – part of the “fight or flight” instinct. When we or someone we care about is at risk, our brain prioritizes the danger and focuses its energy on beating it. Complex thinking processes are shut down to allow us to concentrate on the danger at hand. Meanwhile, signals go out to our body to prepare for action. Our breathing quickens, our heart starts pumping faster, sending more blood to our muscles as we prepare to fight or flee. Both the mind and body adapt in order to give us the best chance of surviving until the danger passes. However, the same responses can be triggered when there is no immediate physical danger. Just thinking about a threat, past or future, can be enough to activate intense anxiety. And this can mean that there’s also no clear end point to the threat, so all these anxious feelings can persist. In these circumstances, anxiety can evolve into something that’s problematic.

What Are the Six Types of Anxiety Disorders?
Here are the six most common types of anxiety disorders:

  1. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD causes people to have obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. They feel anxious until they are responded in a particular way, and often need to carry out complex physical or mental routines to do so. Family history, personality traits, and differences in the brain, are all believed to be causes of OCD. In some cases, it can be triggered by a particularly stressful life event.
  2. Panic Disorder: you might have a panic disorder if you experience panic attacks (also called anxiety attacks). These can seem to come from nowhere and can last for several minutes. Classic symptoms of a panic attack include a sense of doom, sweating, dizziness, chest pain, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath.
  3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): this is a serious condition that commonly occurs when you’ve witnessed or experienced traumatic event, or you’ve been in a situation where your life or health was threatened. People with PTSD often experience flashbacks and can also have trouble sleeping. They may find it hard to concentrate or feel constantly alert and on edge.
  4. Social Anxiety Disorder: this is not just extreme shyness, but a deep fear or concern of being judged by others, of performing, or of embarrassing yourself.
  5. Specific Phobias: suffering from a phobia is also a form of anxiety disorder. You have a phobia when you’re excessively frightened or anxious about a specific object, place or situation, and you go out of your way to avoid it.
  6. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): if you’ve experienced anxiety regularly for six months or more, you may have GAD. People with this condition consistently expect the worst to happen, even when there’s little or no reason to be concerned. They’re particularly susceptible to common worries such as those about family, work and money. Even when something is resolved, a new worry can quickly fill its place. People with GAD often struggle to recall the last time they didn’t feel anxious.

What Is the Best Way to Deal with Anxiety?
Each of the anxiety disorders above has its own range of therapies and coping strategies. Many forms of anxiety can be successfully treated with psychological therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or with medication. There are also various techniques for managing some of the common symptoms of anxiety. These can be helpful when you’re going through worrying times, at home or work, or facing particular challenges that make you anxious. Here are six strategies that you can try:

1. Identify Sources of Stress
Stress, particularly long-term stress, is strongly linked to anxiety. Start by keeping a stress diary. Every day, write down the stresses that you experience, and record any anxious thoughts that you have. After a few days, read your diary and explore possible causes and triggers. Once you’ve identified specific sources of stress and anxiety, you can take steps to avoid them – or at least to manage your feelings toward them. Knowing the triggers should also help you to discuss them with others and seek support when required.
2. Exercise More
Studies show that regular exercise can help to reduce anxiety and build your tolerance for stress. Look for opportunities to fit exercise into your day in many ways, as even small amounts of exercise can have a positive effect on anxious thoughts and feelings, such as taking the stairs or pacing while on the phone.
3. Watch What You Eat
You can often lessen your anxiety by reducing or avoiding certain foods and drinks. For example, consider limiting your intake of caffeine, alcohol, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate. Watching what you eat also means eating a healthy, balanced diet, not skipping meals, and staying hydrated throughout the day.
4. Use Relaxation Techniques
You can use deep breathing exercises to control your stress and anxiety. Deep breathing is especially effective for managing short-term anxiety. If you begin to feel anxious, try taking 10 or 20 slow, deep breaths to calm down. Breathe in as deeply as you can, hold the air in your lungs for several seconds, and let each breath out slowly.
5. Think Positively
Often anxious episodes are preceded by self-sabotaging thoughts or behaviours. Before leading a meeting, for example, you might start imagining it getting out of control, and worry that you’re going to look bad in front of your team. To help with this, write down any negative thoughts as soon as they arise. Then, note down the exact opposites of those thoughts. For example, before your meeting, you could write, “I’m a confident and organized leader, and the people I work with respect me.”
As you write out these positive affirmations start to visualize successful outcomes – both what you hope to happen, and how you want to feel. Mentally rehearsing your meeting like this should relax your mind and body and help to keep your anxiety under control.
6. Get More Organized
Poor organization can be a serious source of stress and anxiety. If this is the case you’ll likely benefit from learning good time-management skills, ensuring that you manage your daily tasks and responsibilities effectively. A calm and organized working environment should also help you to feel more in control.

Anxiety During Lockdown and Other Critical Times
During a time of crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic, it’s particularly important to manage your anxiety. While it’s reasonable to be more concerned than usual about safety, you also need to ensure that your anxious thoughts don’t themselves becoming damaging. The term “coronanxiety” has been coined for this particular situation, where anxiety has become more widespread, but anxious feelings can also extend beyond the dangers at hand. In addition to all the techniques mentioned above, here are three more worth trying during difficult times:

  • Limit your exposure to information. It’s important to stay informed, but do you need a constant flow of information? Giving yourself some news-free periods can curb the urge to panic and help you to keep things in perspective.
  • Focus on the things you can control. Anxiety may get out of hand when you can’t let go of issues that are simply too big or complex for you to solve. Instead, try to focus on the things that you can influence. Stick to routines and maintain your regular support network as much as possible. And aim to do things that make a positive impact – but that also have an end point. For example, rather than worrying constantly about a neighbour, check in on them, do something practical to help, and then draw a line under that particular worry for a while.
  • Prioritize your well-being. During times like this, it’s more important than ever to eat well, take appropriate exercise, get good sleep, and find time to relax. Try to do more of the things that make you feel calm and in control.