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Anxiety in social care

Mark Topps explains signs and symptoms of anxiety, ways of coping including self-help methods and mindfulness practices and how to support others.

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Mark Topps
Mark Topps
Regional Business Manager
Published on:
1/4/2022
· Last Edited On:
9/6/2022
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8-minute read

Part of our ‘Let’s talk about…’ mental health and wellbeing series.

In this column, I’ll explain some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety, methods to cope and how you can support others.

Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread or uneasiness. It can affect anyone and present itself at any time or in any situation. Examples of what can cause anxiety include: going for a job interview, change/managing change, managing a team, financial concerns, not feeling treated as an equal, having a low reward (such as poor pay, benefits etc.), poor mental or physical health, bullying and much more. I recently spoke to a manager newly in post whose director had told her, “Anxiety is part and parcel of the role.” Hearing this shocked me. This is not the support anyone needs, regardless of their role.

Signs and Symptoms

People with anxiety may have one or more of these symptoms:

  • Feelings of dread
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Fearing the worst-case scenario
  • Panicking or having panic attacks
  • Becoming irritable
  • Being restless or struggling to sleep
  • Struggling to breathe or hyperventilating
  • Feeling sick
  • Fast beating heart
  • Sweating
  • Churning stomach
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Needing to go to the toilet (more or less), and some people find they have loose bowels
  • Not being able to eat
  • Dry mouth
  • Tense muscles.

It’s important to note that not everyone will display these symptoms. Some people may appear okay but are struggling in silence.

Anxiety can affect us all and if it’s not managed, can lead to poor mental and/or physical health. If you’re feeling anxious, it’s important to reach out to people for support and review other ways you can reduce your stress.

Methods of Coping

The most important step is confiding in someone you trust, like a family member, colleague or friend. I know that for many people seeking advice from a medical professional can be extremely hard, but they’re there to help you too. Your GP should be able to adapt the appointment to meet your needs and might be able to facilitate a video/telephone call or home visit, so you don’t have to go into the surgery. After visiting the GP, you may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Some common anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder – feeling anxious or worried most of the time
  • Panic Disorder – having regular panic attacks, often for no apparent reason
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – feeling anxious after experiencing a very stressful or frightening event
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – fearing or dreading social situations
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – having recurring unpleasant thoughts (obsessions) and performing certain routines (compulsions) to relieve anxiety
  • Phobias – an overwhelming fear of a specific object, place, situation or feeling.

Self-help

There are several things you can do that might help, including:

  • Don’t let problems fester, talk to someone before they become bigger
  • Focus on life outside of work such as hobbies and friends
  • Set time aside for you to think about what is causing you to worry and panic
  • Write down your worries – some people who have overcome anxiety said that keeping a diary helped to identify triggers and shift focus to what is positive in their lives
  • Get plenty of sleep (your GP will be able to prescribe medication to help you)
  • Reflect on the good things in your job and your life
  • Re-think your diet and ensure it’s as healthy as possible
  • Drink plenty of fluids (ideally water)
  • Make sure you get plenty of fresh air and exercise.

Peer to peer support

Meeting other people with anxiety means you can build a support network to share worries, tips for staying well and reassure each other that you are not alone.

Mindfulness

Practising mindfulness helps us to be aware of where we are and what we’re doing and not to become reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. It’s been proven to leave people more self-aware, less stressed, calmer and able to cope.

Talking therapies

If you live in England, and are over 18, you can access NHS psychological therapy services (IAPT) either through self-referral or via your GP. Some talking therapies to consider are:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour and teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems.
  • Applied relaxation therapy – involves learning how to relax your muscles in situations where you normally experience anxiety.

You can refer yourself using this link.

Medication

There are several medications that can help you cope with your anxiety and your GP can advise on which one might work for you. It’s important that you also try some of the other methods mentioned in conjunction with medication.

Faith/Spirituality

If you are religious or spiritual, this can help you feel connected to something bigger than yourself. Practising your faith can provide a way to cope with everyday stress and connect you with a valuable support network.

Other methods to try include yoga, reflexology, meditation, aromatherapy, massage, herbal treatments and hypnotherapy. There is a wide variety of meditation or calming apps available and you can also seek support from the following websites:

Methods to support others

If you’re managing staff, then you can try the following tips to support their mental health.

  • Discuss mental health as part of team meetings, in supervision and have regular check-ins
  • Develop an open-door policy and a culture where staff feel like they can open up about their experiences
  • Signpost staff to services (and this column)
  • Set up a peer-to-peer support system
  • Make your staff feel valued and don’t micro-manage
  • Provide clear and constructive feedback
  • Ask them how you can help

Anxiety can affect us all and if it’s not managed, can lead to poor mental and/or physical health. If you’re feeling anxious, it’s important to reach out to people for support and review other ways you can reduce your stress.

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