If you struggle with anxiety then you will be very aware of the two main symptoms that come with anxiety - those anxious feelings that you notice in your body, and the anxious thoughts that race through your mind.

Everyone is very different in how and when they experience their own anxiety - for some the feelings and thoughts are a constant burden through every moment of the day whilst for others they may come and go or be more acute in specific situations.

So when someone with anxiety comes to see me they are desperately seeking relief from the physical feelings and the worrying thoughts.

Your Stressed Brain

The simplest way to explain anxiety is the state in which your mind is on high alert looking out for any sign of danger so it can take action to keep you safe and protected. Of course you probably aren't in any actual, real danger but your mind can't tell the difference between worrying about a hungry wolf coming towards you and all the worry and stress that you are experiencing from work, family and all the other areas of your life.

Your mind registers all that stress, worry and anxiety and gets ready to take action - and so your body responds by getting you ready to move, and your breathing increases, you get hot and sweaty, the adrenaline pumps around your body. You notice all these things and start to interpret them as anxiety, which causes more worry and stress and leads to more physical symptoms and a cycle develops where the feelings and thoughts feed each other and fuel each other.

Anxious people often talk about thier brains feeling full or lilke cotton wool, how they have trouble concentrating and how tired they feel. It's like having a stressed out brain working as hard as it can and therefore has no room for anything but anxiety.

Calming Your Brain

To start tackling anxiety effectively you need to start giving your brain a chance to rest and have a break from all that worry and stress. You need to build in periods to your day - EVERY DAY - when you can take some time out to do nothing but learn to relax (if you have struggled with anxiety for a long time you may feel you have forgotten how to relax - but just as you had to learn to feel more and more anxious, you can remember how to feel calm for longer and longer).

Anxiety Busting

Make time to calm everything down in your body and mind. Do this by:

1) Going for a 15 - 30 minute brisk walk every day. When you get anxious, your body prepares itself to physically do something but often we just sit where we are and all that adrenaline churns around inside. So get up and get moving. Give your mind and body an outlet for all that built up tension.

2) Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine stimulates you and so accelerates your progress up the anxiety levels. Gradually reduce your intake so you lower your stess baseline.

3) Find at least 10 minutes a day to do nothing but relax. Go somewhere you won't be disturbed, close your eyes and relax. Many people find that music can help them relax more effectively.

4) Practice 7/11 breathing as often as you can. Breathe in for a count of 7 then out for a count of 11 and repeat half a dozen times. This stimulates the part of you responsible for feeling calmer so the more you do it, the calmer you have to feel. Build it into your day - when you wake up, when driving to work, when you make a drink and so on. 

If you start consistently doing these four things daily then your anxiety levels will have to start to reduce. The calmer you feel, the more space you will feel you have in your mind, the clearer you will be able to think and the more in control you will be.

Dan Regan