Resilience Path

What is Anxiety and How to Treat It?

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Most of us will experience anxiety at some point or another. In fact, as reported by Anxiety UK, there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety disorder in 2013, and according to the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, anxiety is one of the most predominant mental health problems worldwide. 

In some cases, anxiety symptoms feel simply like a passing sensation of nerves, worry or butterflies in the stomach. At the more extreme end of the spectrum, the symptoms of anxiety can feel more intense and even debilitating, and they can manifest in physical, psychological and behavioural ways. 

If you’re looking for ways to overcome anxiety, whether that’s stopping an anxiety attack or navigating low level social anxiety, then read on. The below guide not only walks you through the basics, such as the types of anxiety and signs of anxiety, but also sheds light on the different types of anxiety treatment on offer. Plus, you’ll find out exactly what New Life Portugal’s wellness retreat can do to help you manage, ease and live with your own feelings of anxiety.

What is Anxiety?

Put simply, anxiety is the natural human response triggered whenever we feel threatened. As Mind UK describes it, “It’s what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future.”

Your anxiety might be pegged to a particular moment, for instance, an upcoming work presentation, changes in your homelife or a stressful experience. But it can also be triggered by more ongoing circumstances, such as anxiety over money, relationships or work. You might even have high-functioning anxiety where somehow you’re able to live with your anxiety without it visibly interfering with your day to day life.

While there are common symptoms (covered below), anxiety symptoms can manifest differently depending on the person. It’s common for stressful situations or life changes to cause some level of anxiety, however, if the feelings and physical symptoms of anxiety feel uncontrollable and last longer than 6 months, then you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.

Types of Anxiety

There are many types of anxiety disorder, categorised depending on the trigger or symptoms involved: 

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): According to the NHS, this is a long-term condition that makes you feel worried about a wide range of situations, rather than a single specific event or trigger. 
  • Panic disorder: this is where you regularly experience sudden and unexpected panic attacks and you may worry over when the next attack might strike.
  • Phobia: this when you have an intense, overwhelming and excessive fear of a place, situation, feeling, action object or animal. 
  • Social anxiety disorder: this is where you live in fear of social situations, and feel uncomfortable in social situations – either all social environments or select ones.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): this is the feelings of worry, unease and anxiety triggered by a very stressful or distressing event.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): this when stubborn and often irrational thoughts, fears and worries force you to perform very specific behaviours and you might worry about what will happen if you’re unable to complete these behaviours. 
  • Separation anxiety disorder: this is when you fear being away from home or the people you love and when you are apart, you often feel homesick
  • Illness anxiety disorder: this is when you have constant worries and anxiety about your health and often think something is wrong.

Anxiety Attacks

For some, the feelings of anxiety can build so much, they cause an anxiety attack. Although similar to panic attacks, the two aren’t totally the same. An anxiety attack is the feeling of overwhelming fear, distress or worry that often manifests in physical symptoms. 

While anxiety attacks will vary depending on the individual, the common signs of an anxiety attack include:

  • Intense feelings of worry, fear or apprehension 
  • Feeling faint, dizzy or as though you’re about to pass out 
  • A shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • A dry mouth
  • Sweating 
  • Intense changes in body temperature, i.e. chills or hot flashes 
  • Restlessness and distress 
  • Numbness or tingling 

Anxiety Symptoms

Feelings of anxiety are innately personal, so it’ll come as no surprise to hear that the symptoms of anxiety can vary from person to person. However, there are a clear set of common symptoms you can look out for if you’re wondering how to tell if you have anxiety. Anxiety UK categorises anxiety symptoms in three main types: physical, psychological and behavioural.

Physical symptoms

While anxiety itself might be a psychological process, it can often manifest in more physical ways. These include: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Tingling in the hands and feet 
  • Unsteady legs
  • Hyperventilation 
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty or tightness when breathing
  • Tension headaches
  • Extreme body temperatures such as hot flushes
  • A dry mouth 
  • Shaking or heart palpitations
  • Feeling sick or nauseous 

Psychological symptoms

Some of the common psychological symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Self-consciousness: you might think people are looking at you, judging you or noticing your anxiety.
  • Health fear: you might be worried that you’re having a heart attack, or that you’re going to be sick or faint.
  • Detachment: you might feel detached or absent from your environment and the people around you 
  • High alert: you might feel on edge, restless or that you can’t get comfortable
  • Desire to escape: you might feel like you want to run away or get away from your immediate situation.

Behavioural symptoms 

Anxiety UK lists only one key behavioural anxiety symptom:

  • Avoidance: you might simply choose to avoid the situation, object or person that makes you feel anxious. The problem is, that’s not always possible, and often avoiding something will only ever make you feel worse when you inevitably next experience it.

Anxiety Treatments

It can’t be stressed enough just how personal experiences of anxiety can be, which means if you’re looking for a treatment for anxiety or a way to control your anxiety, it’s important to consult a trained professional or doctor to help ascertain which is best suited to you and your symptoms. 

That being said, some of the most common anxiety remedies and treatments include: 

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
A type of psychotherapy, CBT can help arm you with the tools and behaviours to help you manage or control anxiety whenever you feel the symptoms first arise. 

Exposure therapy
Some health professionals recommend exposure therapy, which involves exposing the individual to the situation that triggers their anxiety in a bid to prove it isn’t as scary as they might have thought.

There are some anti-anxiety medications available that can be used to relieve the symptoms of anxiety, although it should be noted that they don’t necessarily cure the initial trigger and can come with a range of drawbacks. For instance, some medications can become less effective the longer you take them.

Beta blockers
Beta blockers are medications used to treat high blood pressure, but they can also be beneficial in relieving some of the physical manifestations of anxiety, such as the raised heart rate and shaking.

Natural remedies
The ‘natural’ remedies available for anxiety often include simply making small lifestyle changes to positively impact your feelings of worry or fear. These include getting more sleep, staying active, exercise, eating a balanced and healthy diet, avoiding alcohol, caffeine and smoking. Some people also turn to remedies such as essential oils for anxiety, in an attempt to calm or soothe the mind.


Many experts recommend meditation for anxiety, as a way to calm the mind and slow down the body when feelings of overwhelm or fear start to creep in. 

What Causes Anxiety?

While the exact causes of anxiety disorders are unknown, there is a growing body of research in the area, as scientists work to find out why we experience anxiety. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, current research points towards a combination of environmental and genetic factors as causes, with certain factors increasing your risk of experiencing anxiety. These include childhood shyness, stressful or negative life events in childhood or adulthood and hereditary history of anxiety or other mental illnesses.

How to Know if You Have Anxiety

If you’ve ticked off many of the aforementioned symptoms and think you might be experiencing anxiety, the next stage is to seek professional help to properly diagnose your situation. Unfortunately, there’s no instant test that can tell you if you have anxiety or not. Rather, it takes a series of consultations, examinations and psychological tests.

How a New Life Wellness Retreat can Help Anxiety

Here at New Life Portugal, we have developed key pathways to help all our guests work on their emotional, physical and spiritual resilience, vital if you’re looking for ways to better live with anxiety. As a mindfulness-based retreat, everything we do here is grounded in mindful living. We’re firm in the belief that mindfulness promotes mental health and helps you live with purpose and in the present moment, making it ideal for controlling feelings of anxiety.

Retreats here grant you access to skilled emotional support to help you not only recognise the situations that make you feel most anxious, but to also arm you with the practical tools to deal with those moments whenever they crop up throughout your daily life.

To summarise, anxiety is far more common than you might have first thought and manifests in a multitude of ways. The way you experience anxiety might be completely different to one of your friends and family members, and as such, the appropriate treatments will vary depending on the individual. 

Of course, finding ways to control your anxiety at home is key, but taking time out to specifically focus your attention on managing your fears and worries can be a beneficial approach to overcome your anxiety. That’s exactly what’s on offer here on the wellness retreat program here at New Life Portugal: full immersion in a range of healing therapies, practical take-home advice, a schedule of mindful activities all set within a beautiful natural environment.

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