Feeling really stressed or worried?

Worry is a normal part of life. In many cases it can keep us safe and in check. For example, if we weren’t worried about passing an exam, we may choose not to do any work or revision, and we may then fail that exam… Not ideal. Or if we’re crossing the road, we have to have some worry about being hit by a car in order for us to check the road’s clear before we cross. This kind of worry is useful and normal.

Sometimes though, worrying can become too much. We might worry all the time or not be able to stop ourselves from getting worked up about our worries. It can also turn into anxiety and can have physical symptoms.

That’s when you might need help.


So what does anxiety feel like?

When we worry we can experience physical and mental symptoms. This is called anxiety. We may experience:

  • Heart beating faster
  • Feeling sick
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling like we need to go to the toilet
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes to our breathing
  • Getting hot, cold, sweaty or clammy
  • Feeling spaced out or a fuzzy heart

Having these symptoms can feel scary and can sometimes lead to a panic attack. Although this is not a nice experience, it is perfectly normal. In fact, it can sometimes be helpful. Back in the days of cavemen, they had to go out hunting for food such as rabbits. If they encountered a bear, for example, the brain would recognise the bear as a danger and send messages to parts of the body to prepare it for either fighting or running away, a process known as ‘fight or flight’. For example, a racing heart produces adrenalin to enable extra strength and speed. This is also useful for athletes as feeling nervous can improve speed and performance. But generally speaking, ‘fight or flight’ isn’t useful in our daily lives.

Where can I find help?

If you are feeling anxious too often, or for too long, and it’s starting to affect how you feel, it’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust – whether a teacher, parent, carer or your best friend. Or you can talk to Childline on 0800 1111. The most important thing to remember is you’re not alone and you can find support.

Videos about panic

Fight or Flight

I’m having a panic attack RIGHT NOW, ft. Dr Aaron Black (this is a good one to watch while you are actually experiencing panic)

Tips on managing worry and anxiety

The key is to recognise ‘fake’ thoughts. Fake thoughts ‘lie’ about a situation or make things worse than they actually are. For example, you may think if you get an answer wrong in class, everyone will laugh, think you are stupid and no-one will want to speak to you. The reality is that mistakes are fine and we all make them.

It’s important to remember that feelings of anxiety and panic are not life-threatening and don’t last very long. Next time you feel like this, it’s useful to acknowledge that the feeling will pass. Relaxation and breathing techniques can be really helpful. One technique is called ‘grounding’. This involves moving the focus from your body to your surroundings. With ‘rainbow thinking’ (one form of grounding), you look around for items that match the colours of the rainbow, e.g. a red book a yellow jumper. It helps to break the anxious thought pattern.

Getting help from others

If your worrying is getting out of control and stopping you doing things you need or want to do, such as going to school or seeing friends, it’s a good idea to seek help. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a great way to reduce anxiety. You can access CBT via self-help books, websites or by meeting with a therapist trained in CBT. If you’re unsure about the level of help you may need, ask a parent, carer or a member of staff at school for advice.

Things you might find useful

ChildLine

Information about stress and anxiety, including symptoms, managing anxiety and panic attacks.

ChildLine

Your panic monster

Short film produced by The Mix, helping you understand your panic triggers.

Panic Monster video

BBC Bitesize: Exam stress

Top tips and videos to help you de-stress, plus practical advice to help you revise and prepare.

BBC Bitesize

Straight up Advice

Information and advice helpline for children & young people.

Straight up Advice helpline