Everyone feels stressed or anxious from time to time. It's perfectly natural to worry about things like starting a new job or moving house. But once the event has happened, we should be able to relax and move on.

However, sometimes people find it difficult to control their worries and fears. They constantly have anxious feelings that can affect their daily life, work and relationships. Visit your GP to rule out any other health issues that could cause these symptoms. This can also set your mind at rest if you've been worrying about your health.

Unhelpful habits

There are some common ways that many people try to deal with anxiety, but some can cause you to feel more anxious. You might try to imagine everything that could happen in the future and rehearse what you would do. However, this focus on worrying situations can actually trigger a stress response, as your body reacts to thoughts as though they're real.

You might try to avoid situations that might make you anxious. Or if you find yourself in a situation that's making you anxious, you try to escape as quickly as possible, without learning that anxious feelings can disappear on their own, given time. As a result, your world shrinks and your quality of life can diminish.

Symptoms of anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety in their own way but here are a few common symptoms:

  • A constant sense of dread
  • Feeling on edge or irritable
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Palpitations
  • Muscle aches and tension
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach ache
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia

Helpful habits

The following habits have been shown to help people deal with anxiety:

Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness will help you notice when you're relying on unhelpful habits to cope with anxiety and make it easier to change them into helpful habits. CABA offers a range of free mindfulness courses online and face to face. You could also download an app like Headspace or start by reading a book such as Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman.

Change your thinking habits

If you know that you tend to dwell on negative or upsetting things, try starting a gratitude journal. Every night before bed, write down 3 things that you're grateful for that day – no matter how small they might be. Research shows that this simple exercise helps 'rewire' your brain to notice more positive things and reduces stressful thinking.

Deep diaphragmatic breathing

Breathing using your diaphragm helps you relax. Lie on your back with your hands on your tummy. Breathe through your nose and let your breath deepen in its own time.

Talk it out

You don't need to do everything on your own. Try talking things through with a supportive friend, colleague, loved one or a professional. An independent view can give a fresh perspective on the things you've been dwelling on.

Humming

The act of humming stimulates your vagus nerve which regulates your relaxation response and extends your exhale. When your exhale is longer than your inhale, your body naturally produces relaxing hormones.

Move more

Physical activity causes a chemical change in your brain that positively alters your mood. There's no need to go to the gym, just getting out for a walk in daylight every day can improve your health and fitness. Stride out in natural surroundings like your local park, or even just tree lined streets for even more feel-good benefits.

Stay hydrated and eat well

While sweet treats might give short-term comfort, they lead to a blood sugar rollercoaster. Low or crashing blood sugar and dehydration can make anxiety feel worse. This winter stay warm and hydrated with plenty of hot soups and herbal tea.

You can access free professional counselling through CABA. Just call +44 (0) 1788 556 366. We're here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How CABA can help

We're here whenever you need help, support or information that could help improve your wellbeing. Our services are free for ICAEW members, ACA students and their families.

For advice and information call us on +44 (0) 1788 556 366, email enquiries@caba.org.uk, complete our online form or chat to us online.

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