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Feeling anxious? No need to panic
Andrew Milligan, PA Wire, Press Association
LeAnn Rimes has just checked into rehab
More people are opening up about anxiety. LeAnn Rimes just entered rehab for 30 days to help her learn tools she can use for stress and anxiety, Victoria Beckham fought a panic attack before performing at the Olympics and The Help's Emma Stone has spoken about her own struggles with anxiety, too.
Even if you sometimes feel you'd love to step away from your regular life but stress and anxiety rehabilitation just isn't an option, there are lots of things you can do instead.
"Stress is usually attributed to a known cause, such as your workload or financial worries," says Anxiety UK's CEO, Nicky Lidbetter (their helpline, staffed by people with experience of anxiety, is 08444 775 774). "Anxiety is the feeling you have when you think that something unpleasant is going to happen in the future. It is completely normal and something that all human beings experience from time to time, regardless of age or sex.
"It can be a helpful emotion as it can help you prepare for events and improve performance. However, anxiety can become so severe and intense that it becomes debilitating, restricting daily routine and life as a whole. At the point where it has got out of proportion and you feel much more anxious than you would expect someone else to be in your circumstances, you can be said to be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is treatable.
KM Press Group, Rex Features
Victoria Beckham had a panic attack before performing at the Olympics
"You needn't feel like you should just 'snap out of it'. Leaving anxiety to persist can make it worse in the long run. Seek help and support from your GP or specialist organisations like Anxiety UK for help managing your anxiety symptoms long term.
"Physical exercise is proven to help benefit mental wellbeing as it naturally burns the adrenaline that is in our systems when we're anxious. Going for a brisk walk, cleaning the house or doing gardening are easy ways to get active. Diet can also affect mood. Eat as regularly as possible avoiding sugary foods and caffeinated drinks. Speak to a trusted family member or friend about what you are feeling. Utilise self help resources, such as books and relaxation CDs."
"When we are anxious, our system is overloaded with stress hormones and our brain prepares for fight and flight," says Heather Mason, a psychotherapist and founder of Yoga Therapy for the Mind at The Minded Institute. This unique blend of yoga therapy, psychotherapy, mindfulness and neuroscience supports people with anxiety, stress and depression in helping themselves. "Whether someone is anxious because of a spider, fear of abandonment, a party, abuse, trauma or is just nervous in general, each situation includes a feeling of being out of control, confused and upset.
"While we have more than twenty years' research to support the notion that mindfulness effectively softens the impact of anxiety, once the stress response cascade begins, the power of anxiety will normally exceed our capacity to be mindful of it no matter how great our resolve, as we are hard wired to prepare for fight or flight.
"Through yoga practice, we start to rewire the nervous system helping it to become more resilient and less prone to anxiety states. We can even learn to curb anxiety as it is arising. Studies have shown that one hour of yoga increases levels of GABA (a neurotransmitter which drugs like Zanax mimic) and reduces cortisol (the body's main stress hormone) levels. Another study demonstrated yoga increasing alpha waves in the brain. These are the brainwaves found during states of mental rest and even sleep."
No matter where you are or how anxious you feel, using your breath can calm your system. Start by noticing it as it is and, as you feel ready, gently slow each breath making the exhale longer than the inhale. If counting helps, breathe in 2 and breathe out 4. Experiment with breathing in "calm" and breathing out "anxiety".
Remember that there's more to you than anxiety. Simply saying, "anxiety" aloud can reduce its impact. You might also reflect on how it is trying to help. Your body wants to be healthy and even the most negative seeming aspects have a positive intention. Give it some thought. Is it a clue to your need to take better care of yourself? To set some boundaries? To find a job or home that suits you better? You may end up making some very happy life changes as a result.
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