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6 ways to break free from ANXIETY

Whether it’s down to money panic, fear of job loss or a general gnawing worry, more and more of us are feeling anxious. In fact, NHS figures published in 2012 by the NHS Information Centre showed outpatient appointments for anxiety disorders increased five fold between 2007 and 2011.  Here’s help 

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1. BREATHING  Sit still, breathe slowly and make the out breath longer than the in breath.  Anxiety stimulates inhalations which activate the panic centre of the brain – the sympathetic nervous system. Lengthening the outbreath stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, the brain’s calming centre.

2. EXERCISE ‘Anxiety is caused by excess adrenaline flooding our system.  Exercise is a healthy way of working that off,’ says Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK.  A 2010 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that regular exercise reduced symptoms by 20 per cent.  Crdiovascular exercise – running, walking, dancing, rowing or cycling – done for half an hour five times a week is most effective for mood issues.

3. THERAPY  Your doctor may be able to prescribe a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) on the NHS to help break the patterns that lead to anxiety though in some Primary Care Trusts you might have to wait up to six months for treatment.  Other therapies for anxiety include Solution Focused Brief Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy.  Find a therapist at

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4. MINDFULNESS MEDITATION Just 20 minutes daily of this non-religious technique that focuses on the breath and the moment has been proven to improve anxiety. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) are eight-week courses combining meditation and group therapy.  You may be entitled to a course on the NHS, so talk to your GP. The charity Mind also hold courses. Day workshops, one-to-one lessons and  CDs are also available  from or or read The Mindful Way Through Depression (Guilford Press £15.99

5. HERBAL HELP  A pilot study published in 2008 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found the herb Rhodiola Rosea could help the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  Try Healthspan Rhodiola Stress Relief £.19.95 (from

sleeping pills6. MEDICATION Drugs such as Valium, Ativan or Xanax – called benzodiazepines – knock out anxiety and relax muscles fast but they are highly addictive and rarely recommended for more than two weeks, says Dr Ian Drever, psychiatrist at The Priory, Woking.  ‘Anxiety is more likely to be treated with antidepressants called Selective Serotonin Repuptake Inhibitors  (SSRIs – Prozac is one)’, he explains.  ‘A patient may also be referred for therapy.’ A newer drug called pregabalin (generic name, commercial name is Lyrica) – used to reduce pain – has also been shown to effectively help with anxiety symptoms, he says.  Talk to your doctor as some medications have side effects such as diminished sex drive and weight gain.

For help and advice talk to your doctor or call the Anxiety UK helpline on 08444 775 774. October 10th is World Mental Health Day.

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