Living with Anxiety? 10 tips for management
Living with anxiety can be difficult.
Feeling anxious occasionally is a normal part of being human. You may feel anxious before taking an exam, when faced with a difficult work problem, while waiting for the results of medical investigations or when going through the process of making an important decision. However, if you have an anxiety disorder the worry or fear is not temporary; for you the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. Anxiety can interfere with your daily activities. There are a number of types of anxiety e.g. generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. Read more:
If you are someone living with anxiety there are a number of things you can do to help reduce your anxiety levels and thus improve your quality of life.
- Learn about what stress and anxiety are and how they affect your body.
If you are someone living with anxiety it can be helpful to learn about what anxiety is and how it affects your body. Talk to your doctor or a psychotherapist.
To learn about the symptoms of anxiety read:
Learning about anxiety is a very important first step since it helps you to understand what is happening when you are feeling uncomfortable. All the worries and physical feelings you are experiencing are due to anxiety.
Anxiety is normal and adaptive because it helps us prepare for danger (for instance, our heart beats faster to pump blood to our muscles so we have the energy to run away or fight off danger).
Therefore, the goal is to learn to manage anxiety, not eliminate it.
Living with anxiety can become a problem when our body tells us that there is danger when there is no real danger.
Our body’s fight-flight-freeze response can be activated when there is a real danger, such as coming across a black bear when hiking in the woods. You may take FLIGHT and run away from the bear. You may FREEZE and stay still until the bear passes. Or, you might FIGHT and yell and wave your arms to appear big and scary.
But these response can also happen when something simply feels dangerous, but really isn’t, such as being interviewed for a job. Anxious feelings can become so overwhelming that you want to avoid doing the interview. Many people stop doing things or going to places that make them feel anxious.
Watch the following youtube video produced by the organization beyondblue with Australian actor Noah Taylor.
2. Reduce stress in your day-to-day living.
If you are living with anxiety it is essential that you find ways to reduce your levels of day-to-day stress. This might include:
- time management with your work or study
- spending some time with nature e.g taking a walk on a bush track
- listening to music that you find relaxing
- spending some time on one of your hobbies e.g painting, playing a musical instrument
- exercising regularly
- learning some relaxation techniques
3. Give high priority to adequate sleep.
- aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night
- avoid foods and drinks containing caffeine during the evening
- avoid eating close to bedtime
- ensure that your bedroom is dark and quiet
- establish a relaxing night routine
- avoid watching TV or working on your computer before bedtime
4. Exercise regularly and take opportunities to engage in physical activity.
Exercise can reduce anxiety and improve mood. It can reduce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. The best physical activities are those that you enjoy doing and will continue doing.
5. Learn and practise relaxation skills such as the following:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) can be helpful in reducing muscle tension and for achieving a state of relaxation. The technique involves systematically tensing up various muscles then releasing them releasing the tension suddenly. See
Another technique that can be included in an anxiety management plan is visualizing yourself in a peaceful scene. Visualization is best done after a muscular relaxation session. See
If you practise such skills on a daily basis you can lower your anxiety levels.
6. Learn and practise mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness is about being in the moment. It is something you can learn to do on a regular basis.
- helps keep your mind from being lost in the past or future e.g catastrophizing
- helps keep you more connected.
- can be practised as a type of meditation or as a quality of attention you bring into daily life e.g when you are walking
- can reduce your stress levels
- involves being rather than doing
- awakens your senses
If you practise mindfulness on a regular basis you can, with time, reduce your anxiety levels.
7. Take time out to do things you enjoy e.g listening to music, walking your dog or catching up with a friend. Enjoy a good laugh; it reduces stress levels.
8. Learn some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) skills so that you can challenge your negative thinking.
If you live with anxiety you probably do a lot of negative thinking. CBT is not the be all and end all, but if learnt along with other skills it can be very helpful if you are a worrier, someone who tends to catastrophize.
CBT was pioneered by Aaron T. Beck. The aims are to modify your inaccurate or unhelpful negative ways of thinking and behaving and also to challenge your belief system (i.e. beliefs about yourself and your personal world). The outcomes are emotional and behavioural changes.To learn more see
9. Include some positive affirmations in your “self-talk”.
An affirmation is positive self-talk. Studies of “neuroplasticity” are showing that thoughts can change the structure of the brain. Learn how to think more positively using affirmations.
The following is an affirmation that can be used to increase your self-esteem:
- “I am a unique and a very special person and worthy of respect from others”
10. Talk with a professional counsellor/psychotherapist who will understand your struggles and your needs.