Reducing worry or anxiety
Te whakaiti i te māharahara i te āwangawanga rānei

Strategies to reduce the effects of worry and anxiety in your life.

What is anxiety?

Feeling stressed, worried and tense at times is part of the experience of being human. However, for some people, these feelings persist to the point that they interfere with their normal routine, social activities or ability to work.

When worry spreads across different areas of life and is persistent, excessive or hard to control, it might signal a more serious problem. This indicates you should definitely reach out for some assistance, because there are things that can help.

About 1 in 4 New Zealanders will experience significant problems with anxiety in their lives, and about 15% of us at any one time. 

Below is a list of some common signs of anxiety we can experience:

Problem anxiety can take a range of forms

  • Intense discomfort in social situations.
  • Unwillingness to be in certain situations you know are rationally safe, such as elevators, aircraft or crowds.
  • Distracting worry that jumps from topic to topic, and interferes with your life, such as sleep or concentration.
  • The urge to complete certain actions in order to get rid of scary thoughts, such as washing your hands repeatedly because of concerns about illness.

What can anxiety cost us and the team?

  • Loss of personal or professional opportunities because of a reluctance to take risks and invest in opportunities.
  • Unsatisfying relationships because we are unwilling to assert ourselves, ask for what we want, or make ourselves vulnerable.
  • Chronic anxiety can have a significant impact on our physical health, including our cardiovascular and digestive systems.
  • Alcohol and drug problems.
  • Difficulty performing at our best at work because we are worrying or distracted by our thoughts.

What causes anxiety?

It is important to understand that anxiety is not usually caused by one thing. A person may have a biological vulnerability to anxiety if there is a history of anxiety in the family. Particular beliefs (e.g., that worry is useful, or that things must be done perfectly or not at all) and avoidance of potentially stressful events are also associated with anxiety problems. It is important to note that having a vulnerability to anxiety does not mean that the individual will experience debilitating anxiety. Anxiety can be triggered by a stressful life event such as losing a job, relationship breakdown, and other periods of prolonged stress. There are also physiological conditions that can cause anxiety, such as an overactive thyroid or too much caffeine. This is one of the reasons to see a Medical Officer or your GP if you are experiencing anxiety.

When someone is anxious, they often avoid the things that make them anxious. This avoidance is one of the key things that continues to maintain anxiety. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Getting help

There are effective treatments available to help people overcome problematic anxiety. One of the most effective is cognitive behavioural therapy – this approach recognises that the way we think and act affects the way we feel.

During this therapy you will learn:

  • A structured approach to problem-solving to help you manage the day-to-day stressors
  • Strategies to challenge your negative thinking that triggers and maintains your worry
  • Anxiety management strategies to help you manage the physical symptoms (e.g., muscle tension) that are associated with worry.

The therapy may involve 6-12 weekly sessions with a mental health professional but may require longer, depending on your needs. Your doctor may also suggest medication which can be of assistance in managing feelings associated with anxiety. Talk to your Medical Officer or GP about how to access therapy.

Self-management resources

Below is a list of internet and other written resources that may help you, together with the treatment recommended by your doctor.

  • Small Steps. manage stress, anxiety and mood. 
  • Just a Thought. CBT-based self help tool for anxiety and depression. 
  • Clearhead. Mobile app and website focused on anxiety, depression, and issues affecting general wellbeing. 
  • ThinkLadder. A CBT-based self help tool that helps you to challenge negative thoughts. 
  • Tough Talk. A Men’s Mental Health Resource. 
  • Despite the name, there’s lots of good information on this site that is relevant to anxiety as well.
  • The Lowdown. A website for young people struggling with low mood. 
  • Aunty Dee. A website focused on taking a structured approach to problem solving, with a Pasifika flavour but available for everyone.