May is Mental Health Awareness Month with a focus on ‘Anxiety’ throughout Mental Health Awareness Week (15 -21 May).
Anxiousness is a very normal emotion to have – we may feel anxious about travelling somewhere new or trying a new food. It can also be very useful when it works as intended; it can help activate your built-in survival system – flight, flight, freeze or fawn as a natural response to a potential threat. However, this can get sometimes get out of control and become overwhelming – leading to Anxiety as a disorder.
When does anxiety become an issue?
If your anxiety is being set off during moments that aren’t threatening to your safety, you have disproportionate stress, or it affects your everyday life and prevents you from completing your daily tasks such as getting dressed, hygiene based practice such as showering or brushing your teeth, leaving the house, interacting with others or missing out on opportunities due to avoidance then it may mean you are experiencing an anxiety disorder.
There are many different types of anxiety disorder but luckily it is becoming more and more researched, understood and recognised and therefore there is better help available. The first step if you suspect you are experiencing Anxiety is to reach out to someone you trust such as a family member, a friend or a member of staff. Being able to talk about your fears and your anxiety can help make you feel validated and also that maybe other people in your life experience similar things helping you to feel less alone. It’s also important to speak to your GP – they can help you to find a medical pathway to help with anxiety through medication or by helping with referrals to local Mental Health teams and other IAPT services (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies). An IAPT service is a psychological therapy service tailored to someone’s needs and include talking therapies, group approaches and self-help support – they are also completely free to sign up to. There are also some great holistic tools that can help you with anxiety such as practicing mindfulness, participating in calming exercises like Yoga, nature is also a wonderful tool for mental health and there is an abundance of free resources through media such as podcasts, YouTube channels, music, books and art.
What services are available to help with Anxiety?
Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire have the following services that the Student Services Team can help you refer to as well as your GP.
Nottingham and Derby – Everyturn (IAPT): https://www.everyturn.org/
Derby – Vita Minds (IAPT): https://www.vitahealthgroup.co.uk/nhs-services/nhs-mental-health/derby-and-derbyshire/
Derby – Talking Mental Health (IAPT): https://www.derbyshirehealthcareft.nhs.uk/services/talking-mental-health-derbyshire/contact-us-refer-yourself
Nottingham – Notts Talk (IAPT): https://notts-talk.co.uk/our-services/talking-therapies-nottinghamshire/
In the event of an emergency, or if you are unable to keep yourself contact the:
- 24/7 Crisis Line: 0808 196 3779
- NHS: 111 (Pick Option 2) or 999
- Samaritans: 116 123
- Saneline: 0300 304 7000
- Text ‘SHOUT’ to: 85258
- Attend your local A&E department.
What else can I do to help support my anxiety?
There are lots of relaxation and grounding techniques that you can do at home or almost anywhere else to feel calm quickly even when you’re feeling anxious. It is also very important to look after yourself and listen to what your body and mind need – especially in recovering from an anxiety or panic attack.
The following relaxation methods are a great way to help regulate your anxiety:
Mindful breathing: breathing in for 4, holding for 4 and out for 4 or breathing in for 1, holding for 1, out for 1, then for 2, then 3 etc until you reach 10 – this can help you slow down your breathing and heart rate, allowing you to feel calmer.
Meditation: this doesn’t necessarily mean sitting crossed legged on the floor and chanting. The word meditate is a derivative from the Latin word for ‘ponder’ (meditari). Meditation can be taking 5 minutes out of the day to sit and be with self and listen to what your brain is telling you. It might be saying ‘we are anxious about eating in front of other people’ – why does that make you anxious and what is going to be the worse possible outcome of this? How likely is that to happen? – By giving yourself space to listen to your thoughts you’re able to have more control over them.
Visualisation: focusing on positive imagery or emotions to bring on a state of relaxation for example, what is something that brings you joy? It might be a certain animal, like your pet, or a character from a game or TV show. If you struggle to visualise things then create a folder on your phone with positive pictures. You may wish to include affirmations in here too such as ‘I am grounded’ or ‘I am safe’.
Yoga: this blends physical activity with a relaxed mental state that can help you regulate your anxiety and stress levels.
Nature Walks: nature is all around us and completely free! It can help to give yourself something to focus on – this will help you become more present and feel more grounded. You might wish to simply sit where there is a window and count how many pigeons you see or there are many pockets of beautiful nature reserves around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire that you may wish to explore. Allow yourself to notice the things around you – the weather, the smells, the flora and fauna that are surrounding you and keep a journal of what you notice on your walks. You can keep this on you and look back when you are feeling anxious to help ground you again.
Are there any resources available?
The following are great resources that you can use to help you either understand your anxiety more or help you recover from a panic or anxiety attack:
Podcasts: ‘The Psychology of your 20s’ is a great podcast for any HE student wanting to understand how to navigate young adulthood. Some episodes that relate to anxiety in particular are:
- Episode 1: The Psychology of Imposter Syndrome
- Episode 4: The Psychology of Fomo (fear of missing out)
- Episode 10: The Psychology of Climate Anxiety
- Episode 21: Catastrophic Thinking – when the worst case scenario happens
- Episode 31: The Anxious Mind
- Episode 49: Financial Anxiety
- Episode 77: Why do we worry about the Future?
Other podcasts include:
- Owning It: The Anxiety Podcast by Caroline Foran
- Disordered: Anxiety Help by Josh Fletcher and Drew Linsalata
- Anxiety Melt by BetterSleep
- Psych Hub – What is Anxiety?: https://youtu.be/BVJkf8IuRjE
- BBC – Living with Anxiety at 17 Years Old: https://youtu.be/NmikuGiqVbw
- TEDx Talks – How to Cope with Anxiety: https://youtu.be/WWloIAQpMcQ
- Therapy in a Nutshell – So, You’re Having an Anxiety Attack (The Calm-Down Method): https://youtu.be/WGG7MGgptxE
Books: There are a lot of great books that you can find second hand or in places such as Waterstones. There is also an SST Wellbeing Library that stocks most of the books recommended below if you’d like to check these out for free.
- Feeling Better – CBT Workbook for Teens: Essential Skills and Activities to Help You Manage Moods, Boost Self-Esteem and Conquer Anxiety by Rachel L. Hutt (available in SST)
- Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig (available in SST)
- Calm by Michael Acton Smith (available in SST)
- Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim (available in SST)
- Starving the Anxiety Gremlin by Kate Collins-Donnelly
- The Unworry Book by Alice James & Stephen Moncrieff
Music: Music is one the most wonderful tools for any mental health issues but especially for anxiety. Being able to relate to something when we don’t have the words to describe how we’re feeling can be very helpful in helping us process our emotions. Music can also be incredibly relaxing and calming too. There have been multiple studies to show the impact that Music can have on anxiety. Everyone has a different taste in music so you can use what you already know – you might already have a playlist of songs that calm you down but if not here’s some instrumental suggestions:
- On the Nature of Daylight – Max Richter (contemporary classical)
- The Planets: Venus, Bringer of Peace – Gustav Holst (classical)
- Nocturne No.2 in E Flat – Frederic Chopin (classical)
- Cello Concerto in E Minor, 3rd Movement – Edward Elgar (classical)
- Piano Concerto No.2, 2nd Movement – Dmitri Shostakovich (classical)
- Elsa’s Art Appreciation – Michael Giacchino (film – Jojo Rabbit)
- Concerning Hobbits – Howard Shore (film – Lord of the Rings)
- Earth – Hans Zimmer (film – Gladiator)
- The Flower Garden – Joe Hisaishi (film – Howl’s Moving Castle)
- Nemo Egg – Thomas Newman (film – Finding Nemo)
- From Past to Present – Jeremy Soule (game – The Elder Scrolls)
- All Gone (Alone) – Gustavo Santaolalla (game – The Last of Us)
- Aerith’s Theme – Nobuo Uematsu (game – Final Fantasy VII)
- 5am – Kazumi Totaka (game – Animal Crossing New Horizons)
- The King of Hyrule’s Wish – Manaka Kataoka (game – Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild)
Remember that you are not alone with anxiety although it can make us feel that way. There is always support available through medical professionals, our friends and family and at college too. If you have any concerns about your anxiety then please reach out to the Student Services Team.
We are available from 8:30-17:00, Monday-Friday (excluding Bank Holidays). We can arrange a support tutorial and go through what is causing you anxiety and signpost you in the right place.