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Published: 12 May 2014

Beating anxiety in Mental Health Awareness Week

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week (May 12-18), Surrey Mental Health Teaching Fellow Clive Tobutt shares some top tips to help reduce anxiety.

Every year, one in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem. In Britain, anxiety is one of the most common.

Clive, a tutor on our Mental Health Nursing degree, said: “Most of us experience mild anxious feelings at some point in our lives, but chronic anxiety can have a devastating impact on daily life and last a lifetime.

“Anxiety can be a vicious circle, so it’s important to recognise that you experience it so that you can begin deal with it.”

Top tips to cope with anxiety

Keep active and stay relaxed

Exercise can trigger brain chemicals that improve mood and stress levels. If you don’t enjoy playing sports or working out in the gym, learning yoga, breathing exercises, and muscle relaxation techniques can also help improve the way you feel and manage stressful experiences.

Talk about your feelings

Self-help is one way of tackling anxiety issues – there’s lots of useful information available online – but sharing your feelings with a family member of friend, someone you trust, can help you cope and give you support.

There is often help available through your university or workplace, for example the Centre for Wellbeing at the University of Surrey which provides counselling and advice services for students and staff. Students who live on campus can also contact their peer mentors who are attached to campus accommodation sites and have training in mental health issues. If you have faith, a religious leader may offer a friendly ear too.

Know the triggers and how to deal with them

If you know what makes you anxious and can arm yourself with tips to deal with the situation you will be better prepared when anxiety strikes.

If giving presentations causes your anxiety it can help to practise in front of a mirror or with a friend.  If you fear social situations, don’t turn to alcohol to numb your feelings of embarrassment. ‘Dutch courage’ doesn’t help and it can make anxiety worse.

If you are worried about an exam or assignment and can’t stop thinking the same thing over and over again, take a break and do something completely different – go for a walk, meet a friend – to break the cycle.

Eat and sleep well

Make sure you eat a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables. Try to avoid too many sweet foods which can lead to a sugar rush followed by a crash, which can increase anxious feelings.

If you wake up at night, don’t lie in bed feeling anxious or turn on the television. Get out of bed, have a drink of water and do some relaxation exercises before getting back into bed.

Get help

If feelings of anxiety last for several weeks or start to dominate your life, book an appointment with your GP or practice nurse for help and referral for more specialist support, if required.

Mental Health Awareness week is an annual campaign supported by mental health charities including the Mental Health Foundation, SANE and Anxiety UK

Useful advice and information about local mental health support groups can also be found on the website for the mental health charity Mind.

Learn more about our Mental Health Nursing degree and Postgraduate Diploma in Nursing Studies (Mental Health).