What You Can Do to Cope With Anxiety

Anxiety involves feelings of worry, fear, and apprehension that have cognitive, emotional, and physical effects. It can lead to negative thoughts and cause people to feel out of control. It can also lead to somatic sensations, such as sweating, trembling, or shortness of breath.

These symptoms are common for people who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. However, they can also affect anyone to varying degrees at different times. Fortunately, there are effective strategies that you can utilize to help cope with anxiety in both the short and long term.

This article discusses some of the strategies that may be helpful for coping with anxiety including breathing exercises, distraction, and self-care.

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Tips for coping with anxiety
Verywell / JR Bee 
1

Stop and Breathe

When anxiety flares, take a time out and think about what it is that is making you so nervous. Anxiety is typically experienced as worrying about a future or past event.

For example, you may be worried that something bad is going to happen in the future. Perhaps you continually feel upset over an event that has already occurred. Regardless of what you are worried about, a big part of the problem is that you are not being mindful of the present moment.

Anxiety loses its grip when you take your focus off of worry and bring your awareness back to the present.

The next time your anxiety starts to take you out of the present, regain control by sitting down and taking a few deep breaths. Taking a moment to stop and breathe can help restore a sense of personal balance and bring you back to the present moment. However, if you have the time, try taking this activity a little further and experiment with a breathing exercise and mantra.

Practice this simple breathing technique:

  • Begin by getting into a comfortable seated position.
  • Close your eyes and inhale slowly through your nose. Follow this inhalation with a deep exhalation.
  • Continue to breathe deeply and fully, in and out of your nose. Allow your breath to be a guide to the present.
  • Use the mantra, “Be Present” as you breathe. With each breath in, think to yourself “be” and with each breath out, focus on the word “present.”

Breathing exercises are powerful relaxation techniques that can help ease your body and mind of anxiety while turning your attention towards the present.

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2

Figure Out What's Bothering You

In order to get to the root of your anxiety, you need to figure out what’s bothering you. You can do this by putting some time aside to explore your thoughts and feelings.

Writing in a journal can be a great way to get in touch with your sources of anxiety. If anxious feelings seem to be keeping you up at night, try keeping a journal or notepad next to your bed. Write down all of the things that are bothering you. Talking with a friend can be another way to discover and understand your anxious feelings.

Recap

Exploring your feelings can also be helpful when you are coping with anxiety. Make it a habit to regularly uncover and express your feelings of anxiety.

3

Focus On What You Can Change

Many times anxiety stems from fearing things that haven’t even happened and may never occur. For example, even though everything is okay, you may still worry about potential issues, such as losing your job, becoming ill, or the safety of your loved ones.

Life can be unpredictable and no matter how hard you try, you can’t always control what happens. However, you can decide how you are going to deal with the unknown. You can turn your anxiety into a source of strength by letting go of fear and focusing on gratitude.

Replace your fears by changing your attitude about them. For example, stop fearing to lose your job and instead focus on how grateful you are to have a job. Come to work determined to do your best. Instead of fearing your loved one's safety, spend time with them, or express your appreciation of them. With a little practice, you can learn to dump your anxiety and pick up a more positive outlook.

At times, your anxiety may actually be caused by a real circumstance in your life. Perhaps you’re in a situation where it is realistic to be worried about losing your job due to high company layoffs or talks of downsizing.

When anxiety is identified as being caused by a current problem, then taking action may be the answer to reducing your anxiety. For example, you may need to start job searching or scheduling interviews after work.

Recap

Another way to cope with anxiety is to focus on the things you can change. By being more proactive, you can feel like you have a bit more control over your situation.

4

Distract Yourself

At times, it may be most helpful to simply redirect yourself to focus on something other than your anxiety. You may want to reach out to others, do some work around your home, or engage in an enjoyable activity or hobby. Here are a few ideas of things you can do to thwart off anxiety:

  • Do some chores or organize around the house
  • Engage in a creative activity, such as drawing, painting, or writing
  • Go for a ​walk or engage in some other form of physical exercise
  • Listen to music
  • Pray or meditate
  • Read a good book or watch a funny movie

Recap

When you are feeling anxious, look for ways to take your mind off of your feelings of worry, stress, or anxiety.

5

Strengthen Your Body and Brain

Lifestyle changes can also be helpful for preventing anxiety and helping you cope with anxiety flares. What you eat, how much you sleep, and your physical activity levels can all have an influence on how you experience anxiety.

Research has found that mood and stress levels can be affected by what you eat. People who consume diets rich in fruits and vegetables, for example, tend to experience lower stress levels.

Research has also found that regular physical activity can also be useful for both alleviating and preventing anxiety. One study found that physical exercise had a protective effect against anxiety disorders and significantly reduced symptoms of anxiety. 

Sleep can also have a powerful effect on your mental well-being and anxiety levels. Research has found that problems with sleep are one risk factor for developing anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder. Even short-term disruptions in your sleep may lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety.

Recap

Taking care of your mind and body may also be helpful for preventing and relieving anxiety. To combat anxiety, focus on eating a healthy diet, engage in regular physical exercise, and get enough rest.

A Word From Verywell

Most people are familiar with experiencing some anxiety from time to time. Techniques that you might try include breathing exercises, journaling, practicing gratitude, distracting yourself, and caring for yourself can all be helpful.

When anxiety affects one’s relationships, work performance, and other areas of life, there is potential that these anxious feelings are actually an indication of mental health illness.

If you are experiencing anxiety and panic symptoms, talk with your doctor or other professionals who treat panic disorder. They will be able to address any concerns you have, provide information on diagnosis, and discuss your treatment options.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are some ways of coping with anxiety when giving a presentation?

    Being well-prepared, practicing your presentation, and using deep breathing techniques can help you manage feelings of nervousness and anxiety that you might be feeling. Visualize your success and remember to focus on the information you are presenting instead of the audience.

  • How do I help a child cope with anxiety?

    Validate what they are feeling, but help your child learn to differentiate between real dangers and non-threats. Help you child learn to identify negative thoughts that contribute to anxiety and then challenge those thoughts with more positive, encouraging ways of thinking.

  • How can I deal with anxiety without medication?

    Psychotherapy can help relieve anxiety without the use of medication. Other self-help strategies such as deep breathing, guided imagery, mindfulness, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation may also be helpful for relieving symptoms of anxiety.

  • What can I do to deal with anxiety at night?

    Practicing good sleep hygiene may be helpful for combating nighttime anxiety. Creating a calming, restful sleep environment. Avoid sources of stress and set aside your phone to prevent anxiety-provoking doomscrolling right before bedtime. Establish a relaxing pre-bedtime routine such as winding down with some yoga poses, reading a book, taking a bath, or writing in a journal.

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9 Sources
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