You are not alone if you ever find your heart racing before a first date; if your hands are clammy and your mouth is bone dry the morning you start a new job; or if your legs feel like jelly as you give a presentation.
And despite what you might think, you’re also not alone if you experience these things when you’re at a party, talking to a colleague at work, or even sitting at home alone.
If like many, you get physical symptoms like this quite often, or in particular situations, it could be anxiety at play. Anxiety is the second most common mental health problem in the UK, and it’s defined by someone feeling tense, worried or afraid, especially about something that’s about to happen, or could happen in the future.
Anxiety isn’t something to ignore, but it also isn’t something to fear...
Anxiety cannot physically harm you, but it is very real and so are the physical, mental and emotional symptoms. Among others, these symptoms can range from frequently feeling restless and ‘on edge’ or having difficulty concentrating, to dizziness, nausea, headaches, insomnia, or experiencing panic attacks.
We cover this in more detail in our Mental Health Awareness course. Here’s a quick snippet from one of the courses:
“People can experience anxiety physically, like shaking or getting pins and needles for example; they can experience it mentally, by over-thinking or worrying; and they can experience it emotionally, by feeling scared or threatened.
Anxiety is like an umbrella that covers a family of different anxiety-related illnesses, such as phobias, Social Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder and panic attacks, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and quite a few more.”
Whether you’ve had it for a while, or whether you’re new to Anxiety Camp (first of all, welcome! You can sit by me 😊), I thought I’d share this Anxiety Ladder tool with you. I came across it in my research and hope that you (or any loved ones) can use it as a simple self-help strategy to ease anxiety.
The Anxiety Ladder
It’s very simple. All you need to do is...
1. Grab a piece of paper and draw a ladder on the left-hand side. Each rung/step represents a situation that makes you anxious.
2. Starting with the top rung, write down the situation that scares you the most next to it - even if you think it’s ‘silly’ - it’s not silly if it scares you. It’s crucial to be very honest with yourself here. No one else needs to see it.
3. Next to that, give it a number out of 10 for how anxious it makes you feel (10 being extremely anxious). Keep moving down the ladder, one rung at a time, and complete the process for any situations or anxious feelings that you’d like to work on and improve in order of how anxious they make you. As you move down, situations should get easier.
4. As you reach the bottom of the ladder, you should end up with the situation that gives you the least amount of anxiety - and this is the one you’ll be working on first.
5. Then the work begins. The next time you are faced with the situation that’s written on the bottom rung, you can focus on improving your anxiety by changing your approach. It can be useful to start with these thoughts:
- Is my worry actually true, or have I exaggerated it or blown it out of proportion?
- Is there a more realistic point of view to take in this situation?
- If I wasn’t worried/nervous/scared to do this, how would I go about it?
You can borrow this too if you like, it’s a line that I frequently borrow from author Susan Jeffers….
"Feel the fear, and do it anyway". :)
Start small, and do your best to work your way up the ladder. We’ve got a PDF template below if you’d like to borrow and print it!
You may also be interested in claiming a no-obligation free trial to one of our Mental Health & Wellbeing Training courses!