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Don’t let anxiety rule your life when help is at hand

12:00am | & Health

It’s hard to imagine another year in living memory which has caused so much anxiety as 2020, especially if you’re elderly and more at risk from coronavirus.

Most of us feel anxious at times, and it can happen at any stage of life, but if it goes on for too long it can become a real problem and impact on our quality of life. Some people assume growing more anxious about things is a normal part of ageing and one we must accept, but it isn’t… and there are things we can do about it.

This year, with the threat of coronavirus lingering, has been a particularly anxious time for many people, and continues to be so. That’s especially the case for older people or those with an underlying health condition. Although anyone can catch coronavirus, its effects can be far worse – even fatal – for older people or those in ‘at risk’ groups because of an existing condition.

Many people have had to self-isolate or ‘shield’ themselves for long periods, having minimal contact with anyone outside their own household. This in itself can lead to significant anxiety, especially for those who live alone. Although measures were put in place to help and support people who were shielding, some of these have been paused as lockdown is eased.

Another problem is that many older people don’t like to ask for help, having been raised with a ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude, but that can be damaging. Anxiety, and poor mental health generally, is a serious issue and shouldn’t be ignored. It is also closely linked with physical health.

One organisation trying to tackle misconceptions around mental health is leading UK charity Independent Age, which provides support and advice on a wide range of issues affecting older people. It has produced an extremely clear and helpful guide on ‘Managing Anxiety’, setting out ways to cope and where to get help.

Like all of Independent Age’s wide range of guides, it has been compiled with the help of people who’ve experienced the issues it deals with and can offer a valuable insight. Sections in this guide look at what anxiety is, how it might make you feel, where to find help and ways to help yourself. It also looks at what to do if you’re worried about someone else, ad how to go about helping them.

Anxiety can manifest itself in many ways, such as panic attacks, phobias, sleeplessness, obsessive behaviours and depression. Anxiety about social contact is a particular issue at the moment, due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s normal to experience anxiety sometimes, especially in stressful situations, but if it becomes almost constant and stops you living your life, it’s time to seek help.

It’s important too that you don’t put off seeking help because of the coronavirus pandemic. The NHS is still working and has adapted to find ways of treating people while minimising the risk or exposure to the virus. Just like physical conditions, mental health issues can get worse if they’re not treated.

There are several treatments for anxiety, including ‘talking therapies’ collectively known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). In essence, they will teach you strategies to help you cope when you’re feeling anxious. You might also be taught relaxation therapy, meditation or ‘mindfulness’ if they could help you. You could also be offered medication, often in tandem with other forms of treatment – it all depends on your particular circumstances.

There’s much more information in the Independent Age ‘Managing Anxiety’ guide. You can read it online or download a digital copy by clicking here. You can also listen to audio versions of the guide or order free copies by post by clicking here or by phone the free helpline on 0800 319 6789 to request a copy of the guide.

Above all, if anxiety is damaging your quality of life, whatever its cause, don’t ignore it and hope it will go away. Help is available to those who ask for it.

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