Mental Health Awareness Week 12-18 May 2014; Anxiety

As a GP I really like it when a student comes to see me about their anxiety. Not only because it means they are keen to get help and get better, but also because there are so many things we can offer to ease their symptoms. In the last few years, here at Students’ Health Service, we have tried really hard to provide a variety of treatment options for what is the commonest mental health problem that we see; anxiety.

Anxiety affects people differently (about 1 in 20 people will have it at some time), but in general it makes you feel afraid and tense. It can lead to physical symptoms, as your adrenaline rushes around more than usual. People complain of palpitations (fast heart beat), sweating, nausea (feeling sick), chest pains, and shaking. You can also get headaches, and feel out of breath. It can be normal to feel like this, eg before an exam, but when it starts to interfere with everyday life it can become very challenging. Some people get panic attacks, where the symptoms feel overwhelming, and it can feel like the world is closing in on you, or that you might die. Please ask for help if this is happening. Ideally, please see a GP before it gets this bad.

So what can we offer you?

A variety of psychological (talking based) therapies are available. Relaxation techniques and Mindfulness can be learnt, and the Student Counselling Service provides very regular groups. Just sign up on their website.

Self Hypnosis has been shown to be effective, and a GP can refer you for this; a one off free session provided by Matt Edwards in a confidential environment. Here is a blog written by a student who saw Matt last year;

I tried self hypnosis for my anxiety! You could too… a student writes…


Online CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is available for those who would prefer this method; sign up via the SCS website.

Free NHS groups, and 1 to 1 therapy are accessed via the LIFT Psychology service; no GP referral required, just contact them on

However, if psychological approaches are not enough, or might take too long and your symptoms are too challenging to manage daily, then medication can be extremely helpful, and can work within a few days of starting it. Any of the GPs will be happy to discuss this option with you.

So remember, anxiety is normal and common, but sometimes it can become overwhelming or a daily stress, so get help and talk to us soon!

Relaxation techniques for anxiety

So there I was contemplating a raisin…

We were sitting in a circle with our eyes closed, trying to clear our minds of the daily maelstrom of thoughts and tasks. In our hands we each held a small dried fruit, and we were being asked to focus on it, touch it, smell it, listen to it (!) and finally taste it. The only problem was that I couldn’t switch off and I couldn’t stop making lists in my head…

Mindfulness based relaxation is a lot trickier than you might think!

As GPs we like to take time out to review what we offer to our students and we recently had the opportunity to try mindfulness (a type of relaxation technique) for ourselves. It is recommended for stress and anxiety and it is also offered by the Student Counselling Service, so it’s no bad thing for us to try it out. It was revealing to find that I was absolutely hopeless at relaxing and switching off! There’s a real skill to be learnt and I can see how this would be a fantastic life long technique for dealing with future stress and challenging times.

So if you find yourself lying awake at night because of worries, if you’re anxious on a pretty regular basis, or panicky when in certain situations, this could be for you.

The raisin is just the beginning, but peace of mind and the ability to take back control over your emotions lie ahead if you are able to invest some time and patience in learning something new, just for you.

If you need to talk to someone about anxiety then please contact us at the Students’ Health Service on 0117 3302720, or you could contact the Student Counselling Service.

Other good sources of info: