How to deal with anxiety

Anxiety can be difficult to deal with. However, there are a number of techniques that you can learn, practise and use, to achieve relief.

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This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Donna Grant (MBBS, MCRPsych, BSc Hons), Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford, in February 2022.

Anxiety is a relatively common mental health condition that affects millions of people around the world. It causes persistent feelings of worry and dread that are extreme and out of proportion to the actual situation. In addition, the symptoms you experience and the impact they have on your life can differ depending on the type of anxiety you’re struggling with.

However, anxiety is treatable and it’s possible for you to make a good recovery. Not only can you access evidence-based treatment for anxiety, but there are a number of things you can do yourself to try and reduce your anxiety symptoms and get back on track. Here, we will provide tips for coping with anxiety and explore the treatment options that are available.

Why is it important to manage anxiety?

Anxiety can have a negative effect on lots of different areas of your life. It can affect you emotionally, socially and professionally, and for many people, can be debilitating. Also, if you don’t address your anxiety, it can lead to other health problems such as insomnia, drug and alcohol abuse and chronic pain.

That’s why it’s so important to take steps to get your anxiety under control in order to limit the impact it’s having on your health, wellbeing and quality of life.

how to deal with anxiety tips

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If you need help assessing yourself, our free assessment tool could help.

Tips for coping with anxiety

Look after yourself

Exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, eating healthily, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake and avoiding recreational drugs can all go a long way to improving your mood and reducing anxiety. Staying active socially is important too. As social beings, keeping in touch with friends and family is vital to maintain good wellbeing.

Breathe deeply

When we get anxious, our body’s ‘fight or flight’ response is activated. However, calming techniques for anxiety like breathing exercises can help the body settle down to a more natural state and help to get rid of the physical signs of anxiety, including panic attacks. Try taking a deep breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, feeling your stomach and chest rise as you do so. Hold your breath for 3 seconds and then breathe out through your mouth for 6 seconds, imagining you’re breathing away any tension. Do this three times in a row and you’ll probably find that you’re feeling a lot calmer.

Challenge your anxious thoughts

Our mind can play tricks on us when we’re anxious, which means our thinking can end up distorted. For example, an abrupt email from your boss might make you think you’ve made a mistake, or a friend not texting you back may lead you to think they’re not talking to you. However, before you accept thoughts like this, which will fuel your anxiety, ask yourself whether the thought is a fact or an opinion. If it’s an opinion, you may be getting anxious for nothing.

Watch: breathing exercises for anxiety

Join our expert therapist, Priory's Adele Burdon-Bailey, as she takes you through key breathing exercises designed to reduce anxiety and return you to a state of calm.

Test out your assumptions

Often, when we get anxious about things, we’re making a negative prediction about what will happen. For example, you might be anxious about going to a party on your own because you think no-one will talk to you. However, if you test this out, it’s likely that you’ll prove yourself wrong, showing you that there was nothing to be anxious about in the first place.

Don’t avoid things that make you anxious

Anxiety is an uncomfortable emotion and many people fall into the trap of avoiding the thing or situation they fear. However, when you avoid situations, you’re not dealing with your anxiety. So try facing your fear instead of avoiding it. It’s likely you’ll feel anxious at first, but if you repeatedly face it, your body adjusts to the thing you fear and your anxiety naturally reduces.

Count backwards  

When you’re feeling anxious, doing something that ‘fills your mind’ can be helpful. When trying out this technique, find a quiet place, close your eyes and count backwards until you feel your anxiety subside. If you don’t find that this helps, try something a little more complicated, like counting back from 100 in 3s. Many people find that they can’t continue to worry when they’re focused on subtracting the numbers.

The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method

Another way to calm your anxiety and stop it spiralling out of control is by doing the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method. Start by naming:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can feel
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

This grounding technique (which you can follow step-by-step on Instagram), encourages you to focus on your senses, which will help to bring your attention back to the present, distract you from your worried thoughts and help to reduce your anxiety.

Professional treatment for anxiety

These coping strategies are a great way to limit symptoms and allow you to move past sudden surges of anxiety. However, if symptoms are persistent over a long period of time, it might be right for you to seek a diagnosis for an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is a treatable condition and you don’t have to suffer in silence. At Priory, our specialists can offer world-class treatment for anxiety, helping you to overcome your symptoms and return to the fulfilling life you deserve. We offer a number of different a treatment programmes for anxiety, ranging from residential stays to weekly therapy sessions, depending on the intensity of the support you need.

Contact us to make an enquiry or for more information

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