Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week

15th to 21st May 2023

Experiencing anxiety occasional is a normal emotion as part of our life. For example feeling anxious regarding exams or one’s financial situation.

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to danger.  When we feel threatened, the response can be fight, flight or freeze.  This automatic response affects our thoughts, body and behaviours.  When faced with a threat, our thoughts focus on the danger and our body prepares to protect us (defense mechanism).

Sometimes, however, people experience intense and excessive anxiety that can interfere with daily activities.  These feelings of anxiety and panic can be difficult to control.  Some people avoid places or situations to prevent these feelings.  Anxiety can effect us all and can start at any time in our lives.

Everyone’s anxiety levels are different.  Some people find more situations stressful and experience more challenges in life than others, and as a result, feel more anxiious.

Some possible causes of anxiety include:-

  • Our childhood
  • Our environment
  • Events that happen to us
  • Our temperament

Symptoms of a panic attack

If you experience sudden, intense anxiety and fear, it might be the symptoms of a panic attack.  According to the NHS website, other symptoms may include:

  • a racing heartbeat
  • feeling faint, dizzy or lightheaded
  • feeling that you’re losing control
  • sweating, trembling or shaking
  • shortness of breath or breathing very quickly
  • a tingling in your fingers or lips
  • feeling sick (nausea)

A panic attack usually lasts 5 to 30 minutes. They can be frightening, but they’re not dangerous and should not harm you.

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week focusses on anxiety; aiming to increase people’s awareness and understanding of anxiety by providing information on the things that can help prevent anxiety becoming a problem and knowing the triggers and things we can do to help deal with anxiety.


According to AnxietyUK – Anxiety can cause physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms as follows:

Physical Symptoms

  • Butterflies in the stomach feeling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches and/or dizziness
  • Hot flushes
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Increased perspiration
  • Dry mouth
  • Tight band across chest area
  • Wanting to use the toilet more often
  • Feeling sick/shaking
  • Loss and/or gain of appetite
  • Choking sensation and/or palpitations

Psychological symptoms

  • Feeling frightened/panicky
  • Fearing you might lose control/go ‘mad’/might die
  • Fearing you might have a heart attack/brain tumour etc.
  • Fearing you might be sick/faint/embarrass yourself
  • Fearing people are noticing your anxiety
  • Feeling generally as if things are speeding up
  • Feeling detached from your environment/the people in it
  • Feeling like wanting to run away/escape the situation
  • Feeling on edge
  • Racing thoughts
  • Inability to concentrate

Behavioural symptoms

  • Taking taxis instead of public transport or walking
  • Making excuses to avoid going out with family/friends
  • Sitting at the end of a row in theatres or cinemas
  • Avoiding going out alone
  • Always taking someone with you
  • Rushing out of situations where you feel anxious.
  • Only shopping when it is quiet
  • Using minor roads to avoid busier ones and heavy traffic.
  • Crossing the street to avoid people
  • Under and/or over – eating due to changes in appetite

Steps you can take that may help

Living with anxiety can be difficult, but there is help and steps you can take that may help.


Moving your body decreases muscle tension, lowering the body’s contribution to feeling anxious.

Increasing your heart rate changes brain chemistry releasing happy hormones.

Exercise activates frontal regions of the brain responsible for executive functions, which helps control the amygdala, our reacting system to real or imagined threats to our survival.

Exercising regularly builds up resources that bolster resilience against stormy emotions.

At South Downs Leisure, we offer fitness classes, swimming, gyms, racket sports that may help you decrease your anxiety.

Mindfulness and meditation (including breathing exercises – by slowing the breath, can calm anxiety) and focussing on the present moment.

Try keeping a diary of what you are doing and how you feel at different times may help you understand the triggers.

Avoiding situations or relying on habits we think are helping, may actually contribute to making our anxiety worse.  Slowing facing up to a situation might help.

Contact a medical expert if you are concerned about your anxiety.

In crisis, please contact Samaritans.  Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123 

Further information on Anxiety, fear and panic can be found on the NHS website.


Share your experience

Anxiety has been chosen for the Mental Health Awareness Week theme to kickstart a nationwide conversation, encouraging people to share their own experiences and any helpful ideas on how they manage anxiety.

If you would like to share your journey with anxiety and how your FIT4 membership benefits your mental health, we would love to hear from you.  Please drop us a line at

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