First things first, if you’re really struggling, we recommend you go and chat to your GP. If your anxiety is affecting your day-to-day life, all the time, and you’re constantly on edge, then it’s worth seeking professional help.
But, if you feel you can tackle this on your own terms, for now, here are some tips to help.
How can I help myself with anxiety?
Talk to someone
You don’t want to go through this alone – tell someone how you feel. Ideally, choose someone you trust, someone you know isn’t going to fob you off with annoying phrases like, ‘just snap out of it’, or ‘don’t worry about it’.
Start keeping a happy diary
We know, cheesier than a slab of Brie on a Ritz cracker, but it does help reprogram your brain.
“When you have anxiety, you’re always focusing on what went wrong; what might happen. You’re not looking at the positives in life,” says psychologist Dr Rick Norris. “But you can choose not to do this. You can challenge your thinking patterns.”
Every night, write down two or three positive things in your life, past or present. What are you proud of? Who are the best people in your life? What are you good at? What do you love doing? If you start noticing the good too, you’re starting to balance things out.
Crappy things do happen, and you’re not making them up, but the good things in life are just as real as the bad.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone
When you’re anxious, it’s easy to talk yourself out of EVERYTHING. If you’re not doing something because you’re worried, ask yourself: ‘how important is this?’ If you’re not that bothered, then don’t worry about getting yourself anxious about it. However, if you really want to do something, but your anxiety is stopping you, this may be worth tackling. Gradually, though.
“Fighting fear is about gradual repeated exposure,” says Dr Rick. “Do what scares you in baby steps and build up. If you feel massive fear or dread it’s better to go slow than jump in at the deep end and then have a negative experience.”
How does this work in practise? Well, imagine you’re scared of water, for example. Start by just going to a swimming pool and watching people – don’t even bring your swim stuff with you. Next, bring your stuff, but still promise yourself you won’t get in. Then, when you’re ready, only get in the shallow end for two minutes.
Doing scary things in tiny chunks means you’re more likely to do them and, more importantly, have a positive experience doing them. Give yourself due congratulations for every brave step you take, however tiny.
Try allocating a time of day to ‘worry time’
Again, this sounds like Primary School homework, but if you’re worrying all day, every day, it can be utterly knackering. Try setting yourself a time of day to just let rip with worry – preferably not too close to bedtime. Then, if a worry crops up, you can tell yourself: ‘I’ll worry about this in my allocated time’. You usually find the concern has calmed down by the time you get to your worry period.
Look into self-help online courses and books
Some types of therapy for anxiety don’t require leaving your house and going to talk to a therapist. Techniques such as mindfulness or CBT can be self-taught, using online courses, or self-help books. It’s always worth asking your GP for recommendations, as not all courses/books are reputable. They may also be able to help you decide if your issues need more attention than self-help.
Anxiety help from TheSite.org’s community
We asked other young people who suffer from anxiety what their top tips are for dealing with it. Here’s what they said:
Idris says: “Having goals in mind helps, like I want to be able to go into a crowded bar. Get support from your friends and family too. When I’m spiralling, just hearing someone’s voice can be really grounding.”
Modo says: “Ask for help, don’t be ashamed. You need to tackle this head-on. If I feel myself catotrophising, I go for a run. Exercise really helps – you can’t panic and get anxious when you’re tired and out of breath.”
Vikki says: “When you feel your anxiety getting out of control, it’s OK to go outside and get some fresh air. Just removing yourself from the situation helps. Stop, have a drink, and focus on your breathing.”
- AnxietyUK run helplines, email support, live chats and therapy services for people with anxiety disorders. 08444 775 774
- OCD Action run an online community where you can chat to other people with OCD as well as a phone line 0845 390 6232.
- Visit Madly in Love to discuss mental health and relationships, share stories and get support and advice.
By Holly Bourne
Updated on 07-Aug-2014