What is anxiety?

We all experience feelings of anxiety. It is a ‘normal’ response. Everybody gets anxious at times and some anxiety actually helps us to function well in many situations for example before an exam, interview or first date.Graphic for anxiety page.png

However, anxiety can become a problem when we experience it too often, it goes on for a long time or it stops us from doing things that we want to do. Anxiety can become intense or worsen if we avoid situations. This is when anxiety becomes unhelpful or causes problems.​​​​​​​



  • Specific phobia: fear of a specific object or situation
  • Social anxiety: fear of social situations
  • Panic: experience of repeated uncontrollable panic attacks 
  • Generalised anxiety: excessive worrying about many things
  • OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder): recurrent thoughts or compulsions that are time-consuming

Anxiety does not have one main cause. Factors such as past experiences, diet, drug/alcohol use, brain chemicals, genetics can all increase the risk of someone developing anxiety. “Causes” can be:

  • Past experiences
  • Genetics and biology
  • Environment and situations

It is important to remember it is not your fault if you experience anxiety. People do not choose to feel anxious.

You can work towards changing and improving your anxiety levels! Your Mindworks Surrey worker can help you with this.

  • Stomach ache / ‘butterflies’
  • Muscle tension and aches
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Increased heart rate

It's a good idea to make a note of your own symptoms to help recognise when you are feeling anxious.

  • Feeling numb
  • Fearing or thinking the worst will happen
  • Over-thinking a situation
  • Poor concentration
  • Negative thinking
  • Feeling ‘full’ of thoughts
  • Nightmares

You can change how you think by questioning unhelpful thoughts. This can help reduce anxiety.

  • Talk to someone you trust
  • Tell a parent, carer or friend. Saying out loud how you feel can help ease your anxiety
  • Distract yourself with something comforting
  • Make a note of the positive thoughts you have
  • Write about how you feel in a journal. Try asking yourself: What am I anxious about? What is the evidence for and against what I am thinking? Is there an alternative, more balanced thought I can have about the situation?
  • Relax: create a playlist of calming music, on with your headphones and relax
  • Exercise is really helpful in using up the adrenaline anxiety can create. You could try going for a fast walk or a jog or you could have a go at some calming yoga
  • Try a grounding technique to bring you to the present moment: there are lots of things you can try. You could count the lines on the palm of your hand, name an animal for each letter of the alphabet, count from 100 backwards and so much more
  • Breathing exercises are a very powerful way to control anxiety. Try a breathing exercise from one of our recommended apps or use the 7/11 breathing technique – breathe in for seven seconds and out for 11. Repeat at least five times
  • Rest: it’s harder to deal with emotions when you are tired
  • Self care: anxiety can produce many unpleasant physical symptoms such as headaches, feeling sick and dizziness. Know that these feelings are uncomfortable but they will gradually subside if you are able to practise some relaxing self-care activities. Consider using your Hope box
  • Trying using one of our trusted Mindfulness apps: Mindfulness helps you have a better understanding of yourself and become more at peace rather than fighting your thoughts and feelings. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps you understand the links between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It can help you to find ways to overcome your anxiety by challenging negative thoughts and beliefs.

Exposure to anxiety provoking situations can help you challenge negative thoughts and beliefs.

Medication can also help.

Your Mindworks Surrey worker can help you with these options.