The 20 things we worry about most - and how to cope with them

Anxiety about our weight, ageing, money and relationships mean we spend 744 hours a year worrying – we asked an expert how to let go of our fears and feel less anxious

Worrying is something we can’t avoid. From niggles about our weight and appearance to fears about our career and relationship, on average Brits spend more than five years of their life doing it.

But if your concerns are keeping you up at night and affecting your daily life, there are some key ways to manage anxiety and feel more in control.Is worries are stopping you sleeping, it's time to recognise your stress levels ©Rex

Psychologist Cheryl Rezek explains why it’s so important you curb your anxiety and how to do it.


Recognition

“The first thing is to recognise  if you are stressed or anxious. When you’re anxious you can have poor sleep, trouble concentrating, rifts in relationships, agitation and difficulty making decisions.

“Some people turn to drugs, alcohol, or other risky behaviours such as inappropriate sex or driving too fast – generally just doing things that are out of character.

“And it’s these things that are signs that you could be suffering from anxiety and stress and what we need to do is recognise that. It’s so important that we link the symptoms to what’s causing it, because often people don’t realise.

“There are serious physical illnesses that are caused by stress - heart disease, stroke, panic attacks, even things like asthma, IBS, cancer have been linked to stress levels.

“So while people are going around treating the symptoms of these, they need to recognise where they’re originally coming from.” Worrying about appearance can be a big stress trigger ©Rex

These are the 20 biggest worries as voted for by 2,000 participants in a Benenden Health survey. How many strike a chord with you?

1.    My stomach/ being overweight
2.    Getting old in general
3.    Worried about my savings/ financial future
4.    My overall fitness
5.    Other financial debts
6.    Low energy levels
7.    Credit card debt
8.    Paying rent/mortgage
9.    Job security
10.    My diet
11.    Keeping the house clean
12.    Finding a new job
13.    Worried about my sex life
14.    I seem to be generally unhappy
15.    Wrinkles or aging appearance
16.    Whether or not I am attractive
17.    Worried about my physique
18.    Meeting work targets or goals
19.    Whether my partner still loves me
20.    Whether I'll find the right partner/ whether my current partner right

Tackling anxiety: Perspective

 “It’s hard to get out of the worry mindset but it’s good to just pull yourself out and realise we don’t have to worry about everything."Take a few minutes to breathe and place yourself in the here and now ©Rex

“Saying to people that we’re really stressed out isn’t always such a good thing – we have this badge of honour that says: ‘I’m always busy and stressed,’ but really we’re just driving ourselves into this unhealthy cycle.”

“Talk to people, step backwards from your worries. It doesn’t matter if you drop a glass or burn the dinner, or even burn somebody’s best shirt –in the greater scheme of life, these things aren’t that important.”


Take responsibility

“This is your life so take control. Don’t just keep saying how busy you are. It’s your body and mind and it’s up to you to recognise when something’s wrong and deal with it before it gets out of hand.”

“It’s important not to fall into the trap of thinking you can’t do anything about thing. You might not be able to change your job or what’s happening in the world, but you can recognise what you do have control over.

“Similarly, you can’t get rid of worries, if you’re concerned about something you can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist. But take a step back and think about how you can manage that concern and respond to things that happen.”Take a moment to concentrate on your breathing ©Rexwh

Mindfulness

“This is a mindset, a philosophy for life and it can be really helpful to block out the niggling worries that build up to make us really anxious.  You focus on you breathing, which keeps you very in the moment and reduces the stress response.

“When you feel everything getting on top of you, be still for a moment and put your hand on your abdomen. Breathe into your hand and focus on those breaths. This really helps calm you and focus you on what your next steps should be.”

Dr Cheryl Rezek is helping Benenden Health on its campaign to raise awareness of anxiety and the serious effects it can have on your health. Catch her WebTV show at 1:30pm for more advice.