From overthinking to being told to ‘calm down’, we explore the things we have in common when it comes to living with anxiety

When we’re going through periods of poor mental health, it’s easy to feel isolated from other people and the world around us. After all, there’s so much going on inside our heads, it makes sense that we might end up taking a metaphorical step back from daily life.

But while our mental health journeys will always be unique to us, and we each experience emotions and challenges in different ways, there are so many things that unite us. To prove it, we’ve collected together eight things that people who struggle with anxiety might be able to relate to, to remind you that you’re not alone.

1. Is that a mountain or a molehill?

Anxiety can often skew our interpretation of the things that are going on around us, leading us to react in ways that do not line up with the problem at hand. Things that might normally be a breeze, can feel overwhelming – or we might get flustered over simple tasks. Maybe you worry about picking up the phone or making a journey to a new place. This is all because, during periods of anxiety, our bodies are on high-alert, ready to fight or flight at any second.

2. Being told to ‘calm down’

Whether it’s naive but well-meaning, or simply ignorant and dismissive, being told to ‘calm down’ when you’re experiencing anxiety rarely solves anything. If it’s coming from someone you trust and care about, you might want to point them in the direction of resources that can teach them about what it’s like to live with anxiety. But if you’re not comfortable doing that, try your best to let the comments wash over you, and don’t let it undermine your experience – as much as a lot of us would like an ‘off’ switch for anxiety, the reality is far more complex.

3. Overthinking events after they’ve happened

An anxious mind has a tendency to spiral, and one way that it might do that is by taking you over and over an event after it has happened. Maybe you paid for a sandwich and said, ‘thank you’ too many times, or perhaps you spoke up in a meeting and mixed up your words. Going back to the point of mountain vs molehills, it can be easy to obsess over the small, insignificant details of interactions.

4. Tracing back physical symptoms

Mental health problems can come with some very real physical symptoms, but it’s not always immediately obvious when that is happening. For example, you might feel nauseous and begin to think about what you’ve eaten that day, or maybe if there’s a bug going round, before considering the fact that it could be because you’re worried about a stressful event that’s fast approaching.

Anxious woman

5. Panic creeps up on you

As with many mental health problems, anxiety can come and go in waves. But sometimes it catches you off guard. Perhaps it’s following a period of high stress, or maybe it hits you during a time when you thought everything was going fine. When panic and high levels of anxiety do happen out of nowhere, it can be frustrating – particularly if you’ve been working to try to manage it. But understand that these things are often out of your control, and that sometimes we just have to learn to ride the wave.

6. Fearing the worst and overpreparing

Do you notice that your mind automatically jumps to the worst-case scenario? And do you then find yourself overpreparing because of this? Perhaps you’re due at an appointment at 11 AM, but you’re worried about traffic, not being able to find the place you’re going to, car troubles, parking restrictions, forgotten items, and anything else that could possibly hold you up. Consequently, you arrive half an hour early.

7. Trouble sleeping

Sleep problems are incredibly common, and a lot of the time anxiety could be the culprit behind your tossing and turning. Do you find that, the moment your head hits the pillow, your mind begins to race and wander through the day’s stresses? The secret to a good night’s sleep isn’t straightforward, but there are certain steps that you can take to give yourself the best chance of some quality shut-eye.

8. Feeling frustrated

There will be points in everyone’s lives when they feel a degree of frustration over their thoughts and actions. And when it comes to anxiety, it’s easy to see why we might beat ourselves up about how it can affect how we go about our daily lives. Though never easy, the key is to practice self-love and self-forgiveness. Struggled to get through a social event? Let yourself off the hook. Need to turn down an invitation? You’re prioritising your wellbeing. Understand that your feelings are valid and that it’s OK to put your health and comfort first.

If you're struggling with anxiety, learn more about it by visiting Anxiety UK or call their helpline on 03444 775 774.