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Jimi Hunt's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety

13 May 2024

Jimi Hunt's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety

nib’s Mental Fitness Champion Jimi Hunt – Strategies to manage anxiety for better wellbeing

Let’s talk about something that affects more of us than we realise: anxiety. You know that feeling of worry and fear that sometimes creeps in when you think about a certain moment or thing? It’s most annoying when it creeps into things that you know you don’t need to worry about but still are! There are lots of ways to help manage feelings of anxiety but if these feelings are more intense than normal or persistent, it might be time to seek professional help.

What is anxiety, anyway?

Occasional anxiety or worry is a normal part of everyday life but anxiety disorders cause frequent, difficult-to-control nervousness, fear, apprehension or worry which is out of proportion to the situation or stressor.

Think of it like this – if you saw a grizzly bear coming towards you, your survival response would detect this danger and trigger your flight, fight or freeze. However, anxiety occurs when we think we are in danger, even if there is no actual danger present. For example, if you’re going to buy a coffee but feel a kind of fear akin to a grizzly bear, you might be dealing with anxiety.

Where mild anxiety may feel vague, unsettling and only impact a few areas of your life, severe anxiety can feel overwhelming and have a serious impact on your ability to function in multiple areas.

The different types of anxiety

You probably hear the broad term ‘anxiety’ thrown around a lot in conversations today, but there are actually many different types of anxiety disorders. People may also experience more than one anxiety disorder at the same time. These include:

  • Generalised anxiety
  • Specific phobia
  • Separation anxiety
  • Social anxiety
  • Selective mutism
  • Panic disorder
  • Agoraphobia (fear of particular places and situations)

Signs you might have anxiety

If you identify with any of these common signs of anxiety, don’t stress because you’re not alone! In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common of the mental health conditions. Some common symptoms can include:

  • Excessive fear or worry about a specific situation or, in the case of generalised anxiety disorder, about a broad range of everyday situations
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Feeling irritable, tense or restless
  • Experiencing nausea or abdominal distress
  • Having heart palpitations
  • Sweating, trembling or shaking
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing sudden, intense episodes of fear, which may indicate an anxiety attack

The warning sign is that you would typically be experiencing these anxiety symptoms over an extended period of time, such as a couple of months or longer.

Strategies to help manage anxiety from nib’s Mental Fitness Champion Jimi Hunt

I wasn’t in a good place for quite a long time and the worst thing was, I simply didn’t know what to do! 15 years of trial and error later, I want to share with you some of the modalities that helped me the most.

The important thing to remember is that there are many ways to manage and treat anxiety, some will align better with some people than others. The key is to try them! The more you practice, the better you get….

Here are some strategies to try when things get difficult in the moment:

Awareness and Acknowledgement: This is always step one! And quite often the hardest one to take. I had depression and anxiety for YEARS before I actually acknowledged that I did. We need to begin by recognising the signs of anxiety in our body and mind. Acknowledge these feelings without judgement, understanding that awareness is the first step towards management.

Education and Understanding: Educate yourself about anxiety. Understand its triggers and physiological effects. This knowledge can demystify symptoms and help to reduce their intensity.

Breathwork: The best way to treat anxiety with breath is using a thing called the Physiological Sigh. It’s as simple as breathing in through your nose, holding, then adding a sharp inhale again through your nose followed by an extra long breath out through your mouth. Do it once, twice or three times during moments of intense anxiety to help to relieve the symptoms but also do it 5 minutes a day as a practice to help keep anxiety at bay.

Release tension in your body Raise your shoulders as high as you can and then drop them. Relax your whole body. Do something physical and work it off, give your tension an outlet or massages are great (even self-massages).

Mindfulness and Meditation: Regular mindfulness and meditation can greatly alleviate anxiety. They aid in developing a present-focused mindset, reducing the impact of anxious thoughts about the past or future. Something like a guided yoga nidra meditation in order to do a body scan may help to release tension throughout the body.

Diet and Sleep: Focus on a balanced diet and ensure adequate sleep. Both diet and sleep have profound impacts on emotional and physical health, influencing anxiety levels.

Journaling Maintain a journal to reflect on daily experiences and feelings. This can help identify anxiety patterns and triggers, making them easier to manage.

Visualisation Picture a river and imagine placing each worry on a leaf as it floats by on the water. Remind yourself it will pass and you will be ok.

Seeking professional help

There are many things you can do to support your own mental wellbeing, but there might come a time when you hit a wall and your anxiety becomes unmanageable or is negatively impacting your everyday life. I’m here to tell you that there’s no such thing as being too proud to call in the pros!

Consider talking to your GP and rule out any physical symptoms. They may refer you to a specialist or prescribe medication and other strategies for managing anxiety, but make sure you settle on an approach that is right for you.

Talking therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), can also be helpful to explore deeper into your situation and teach you ways to change unhelpful thought patterns. Don’t give up if you find therapy unhelpful, but instead try a different approach or therapist - it may take time to find someone who you can connect with.

If you’re seeking support, nib has mental health support across different products. Standard Everyday cover provides 60% coverage of your costs, up to $350 per insured person annually, while Premium Everyday cover offers even more support covering 80% of your costs, up to $500 per insured person every policy year. This benefit kicks in after just 6 months of continuous cover following your join date.

Free resources for anxiety

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing means you can focus on living your life to the fullest. Get educated about anxiety disorders and the available options, and check out some of the other great free resources available:

While anxiety can be tough, it's not insurmountable. Armed with education, strategies, and support from those around you, you’re better equipped to tackle it head-on. And remember, anxiety may be a part of your story, but it doesn't define you.