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How to Successfully Beat Anxiety and Stress

Posted on Monday, 07 November 2016, in Anxiety & Stress, Treatments & Therapy

How to beat anxiety and stress

Ian Wharmby, Registered General Nurse and Clinical Partner Liverpool discusses stress and anxiety, two of the most common mental health issues in the UK and looks at the differences, the causes and what can be done to help.

“Many people suffer from a form of anxiety or stress at some point in their lives – in fact it is thought that 1 in 6 people in the UK have an anxiety disorder at any one time.”

1 in 6 people have a diagnosable anxiety disorder

What is the difference between stress and anxiety?

The terms ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’ are terms often used interchangeably and can affect a person in many different ways; mentally, physically and emotionally they can impact all areas of a person’s life and functioning.

Stress is the response to a threat or situation.

Anxiety is a reaction to that stress and continues after the threat or situation has gone.


Is stress always bad?

It is important to understand that not all anxiety or stress has a negative impact; in fact there are times when it will have a positive benefit, such as when feeling a bit nervous prior to a job interview or some other important situation you are about to face. In these circumstances it helps focus the mind and allows you to rise to the challenge ahead, enabling you to perform well. Think of an athlete, who needs to be in the right mind set in order to perform at their best at a given moment, they are under pressure, but they learn to control the pressure and to use it to help them.


The stress tipping point:

However, there is a fine balance when it comes to when too much stress becomes a bad thing. When the feelings of anxiety or stress are pervasive or overwhelming, the individual can become chronically ill and struggle to perform daily activities – too much stress or anxiety can lead to a ‘nervous breakdown’ which can be hugely debilitating and will require the individual to seek treatment.


What are the main causes of stress?

The two big areas of life that cause stress for many people are work and domestic life and all that those situations encompass.

Main Causes of Stress

Why do people come to therapy?

So when dealing with anxiety or stress in a therapeutic situation, we are usually dealing with an accumulation of negative experience. This negative effect can occur when a person does not feel equipped to deal with a situation they are a facing, such as a feeling of being out of their depth in their work, or when a person feels unable to handle the daily pressures of life in general and within their relationships.

If we are ever feeling out of our depth then this in itself can cause anxiety and it can become a vicious circle of events; the thoughts of failing and a sense of not coping can weigh very heavy on a person. Of course, what may cause anxiety for one person may not cause anxiety for another, and vice versa. We are all unique in that sense.

“The key to dealing with stress and anxiety is managing it effectively and our experiences growing up influence this.”


Thoughts become reality

The feelings from one difficult encounter can easily colour what happens to us throughout the rest of our day. This in itself can lead to increased feelings of tension and upset. So how we think about those difficult circumstances that are causing the anxiety is very likely to have impact on the actual outcome. Stress and anxieties from our work and our relationships are not always easy to shake off and the negative effects of such stress can often quickly build up.


So when facing any stress provoking situation, generally a person only has two choices:

1. Change or remove the stressor. Sometimes this can or cannot be done in a straight forward or practical way.

2. Learn to manage it. If a stressor can’t be removed or changed then managing it often becomes a process.

People try to manage anxiety to the best of their ability. With work difficulties they may repeatedly tell themselves to try to focus harder, maybe work a bit faster to get more done in the same time. They think if they can get through the next few weeks or months, it will be OK, but more often than not the pressure keeps rising.

In relationships, people may choose to avoid any confrontation, or may even actively pursue it, thinking it will change the relationships.


When do people seek help for stress?

In my experience people generally seek help from a therapist when they have run out of their own resources mentally, emotionally and physically, and they do not know what to do or which way to turn.

They might absent from work, waking up one day and simply not been able to function, or difficult relationship pressures may have ground them down and eroded their confidence in their own ability as a person.

Stress is the number one cause of sick leave in the uk

So what about anxiety?

It can be said that anxiety is a concern regarding something, someone or some event in the future, be it something minutes away or an unknown timescale. This sense of foreboding hangs like a black cloud on the horizon, with a sense of real uncertainty about the future.

An anxiety response is our bodies way of dealing what can be interpreted as a possible threat, it is an adrenaline response, that causes a fight or flight scenario. The symptoms we can experience affect all our mind and body and can impact all areas of our lives.


Symptoms of anxiety:

  • Reduced concentration and ability to focus.
  • Irritability, short tempered, things that you normally cope with become difficult.
  • An increased sense of trying to do too much, and worrying about not managing well.
  • Making mistakes, that may or may not be noticeable others.
  • Appetite disturbance, eating less or over eating.
  • Sleep disturbances, inability to get to sleep or early waking and not being able to return to sleep.
  • Increasing fatigue and unrefreshed sleep.
  • A mind that won’t switch off, and over thinks thing, but not reaching a decision.
  • Chest tightness.
  • Restricted breathing.
  • Palpitations.
  • Sweating.
  • Gastric disturbances.
  • Reliance on alcohol or drugs to cope.
  • Loss of interest in things previously enjoyed.


At times were negative accumulative anxiety and stressors have gone on for long time, a person’s bodily adrenaline response becomes heightened and their mind becomes hyper alert, this can often lead to emotional over reactions in situations where they would previously have been well in control of themselves.

Overtime with anxiety and stress that accumulates a person can lose a sense of their own identity and purpose in life, but a positive outlook and hope for the future can be regained.


How to successfully beat anxiety:

The first step to successfully managing any anxiety or stress in life is the acknowledgement that it won’t go away without a different approach. By continuing to try to manage a situation the same way as previously done, it will only give the same results.

For many people, beginning to talk to a professional therapist about their concerns and anxieties allows them to have some insight into their own character. This leads to an increased understanding of themselves in the difficult situations being faced, and with this new understanding becomes a renewed sense of the choices and options open to them. A new found ability to coping is often found.

As a therapist often I find that people are genuinely reassured when they realise that their own thoughts and feelings are not an isolated case and that many other people experience very similar difficulties.

Life by its very nature has its anxieties and we don’t know what the future has in store for us.


Is this how you feel?

  • “I’m just so unsure about the future”
  • “I feel trapped”
  • “I wish I could overcome my fears”
  • “I am knotted up with worry and tension”
  • “I feel insecure… afraid…unhappy… and misunderstood”
  • “I feel frustrated and guilty”
  • “I am burdened and confused by religion”.
  • “I have to live up to the expectations of others”
  • “All my relationships go wrong”
  • “I wish I could change”


Therapy can help you change these things, and live happier.

  • By learning how to have more control over your life’s difficulties.
  • By not letting obstacles get in your way.
  • By learning how to manage, deal with and address the underlying factors that contribute to the problems or difficulties.
  • By learning how to take control of your own life and the circumstances that present.


Most people want to feel in control of their lives and to be content; learning to manage life’s anxieties effectively is a step closer to achieving that.


If you are struggling with anxiety and stress, help is at hand. Clinical Partners offer private psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy nationwide.

Please call 0203 326 9160 to speak to someone today about how we can help you.

Emilie Head

Emilie Head Business Development and Content Editor BA(Hons), ACMA, MBACP

Emilie has three main roles at Clinical Partners – managing our NHS Partnerships, developing the services our Clinicians offer and writing and editing web content.

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