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Manage Your Anxiety

Simple Steps to Help You Cope With Anxiety

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Updated May 31, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Anxiety involves feelings of worry, fear, and apprehension. Anxiety is typically experienced on cognitive, emotional, and physical levels. For instance, when feeling anxious a person may have negative or disturbing thoughts. On an emotional level, one may feel scared or out-of-control. It is also common to experience severe anxiety through somatic sensations, such as sweating, trembling, or shortness of breath.

These symptoms are common for people who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. People with panic disorder are typically familiar with the struggle of managing feelings of anxiety. It can feel as if the anxiety is taking over or completely out of one’s control.

Does anxiety have an overwhelming pull on your life? Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to manage your anxiety. Listed below are 4 tips to help you cope with your feelings of anxiety:

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 worrying about, a big part of the problem is that you are not being mindful of the present moment. Anxiety loses its grip when you clear your mind 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. Simply stopping and breathing 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 by 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 like this one are powerful relaxation techniques that can help ease you body and mind of anxiety while turning your attention towards the present.

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2. Figure Out What’s Bothering You

The physical symptoms of panic and anxiety, such as trembling, chest pain, and rapid heart beat, are usually more apparent than understanding just what is making you anxious. However, in order to get to the root of your anxiety, you need to figure out what’s bothering you. To get to the bottom of you anxiety, put some time aside to exploring 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. Make it a habit to regularly uncover and express your feelings of anxiety.

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3. Dump It or Deal With It

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 losing 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 ones 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. By being more proactive, you can feel like you have a bit more control over your situation.

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4. Focus On Something Less Anxiety-Provoking

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:

Most people are familiar with experiencing some anxiety from time-to-time. However, chronic anxiety can be a sign of a diagnosable anxiety disorder. 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 a mental health illness.

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

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  5. Simple Steps to Help You Cope With Anxiety

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