Help & Advice

Here's How to Manage Anxiety

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

Here's How to Manage Anxiety

Every day that you struggle with anxiety is a day that you're managing it. Managing anxiety is simply the act of preventing anxiety from overwhelming you. No matter how difficult it may be to live with anxiety or how much you struggle with it every day, you are coping with it in small ways.

You may not realize it - and certainly coping with it may not be enough - but anxiety management is merely the ability to learn to live with your anxiety and still function as best you can.

Yet anxiety can also be managed better. You want to get to a place where you can live with your anxiety every day, and your anxiety doesn't hold you back from achieving your goals. That's why anxiety management tips are so valuable.

What is the Difference Between Managing Anxiety and Curing Anxiety?

Managing anxiety is when you still have anxiety, but you've learned to control it. Curing anxiety is when you do not suffer from anxiety disorders anymore. You may still have anxiety when faced with an anxious situation, but you no longer suffer from anxiety attacks or live with unprompted anxiety every day. Curing anxiety takes time.

You want to cure your anxiety someday. Managing anxiety is great, but your mind and body are still struggling with it, and over time that stress can still cause you more problems even if your anxiety feels under control, but curing anxiety takes time, dedication, and smart treatment choices. Until you're ready to commit to an effective long-term treatment that can ultimately help you prevent future anxiety, managing anxiety is the next best thing.

The Truth About Anxiety Management

The most important thing to realize about anxiety management is that, even though there are many techniques to help you manage your anxiety, your mental coping skill is still your strongest tool. Everyone - no matter how much anxiety they experience - has that coping skill inside them. It's like a muscle, and you can train it to help you overcome anxiety and reduce its effects.

But you can also make it weaker, and you can do that by using unhealthy anxiety management practices. For example:

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Overusing medications
  • Gambling
  • Reckless behaviors

These are always unhealthy behaviors, but they're especially damaging when you're trying to manage anxiety. That's because they become crutches that essentially tell your brain that it doesn't need to practice its coping skills because you have something else dulling the anxiety for you.

Your mind and body adapt when outside forces require it to do less work. It's the reason that steroid use in athletes is so dangerous. Take too many steroids, and your body will naturally produce less because it doesn't think it needs to do any work for them anymore.

It's the same with anxiety and stress. If you're often anxious, and you turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, then your mind will expect that these coping mechanisms will do all the work, and you'll further lose your ability to cope naturally. So while you should always refrain from heavy drinking, drugs, etc., it's especially important when you live with anxiety.

How to Manage Your Anxiety and Anxiety Symptoms

That doesn't mean there aren't strategies that you can use to manage your anxiety. They simply have to be strategies that aid your natural coping ability rather than replace it. Below are some examples of natural anxiety management tools:

  • Exercise Everyone tells you to exercise for your physical health. But when you don't exercise, your ability to cope with stress takes a huge blow. Your anxiety will often become much worse when you don't exercise because your muscles turn that pent-up energy into physical stress, which in turn becomes mental stress. On the flipside, when you exercise, you not only reduce that extra energy, you also improve hormone balance, release neurotransmitters that enhance mood and improve breathing. Exercise is one of the most potent, healthy anxiety management tools available.
  • Sleep, Eating Healthy, etc. Living a healthy lifestyle is also important. From sleep to nutrition to hydration, the healthier your body is, the better it works, and the better it works, the less you'll experience anxiety. These aren't anxiety cures. Anxiety, of course, is more of a mental health disorder forged through years of experiences. Simply sleeping more isn't going to magically take it away, but they'll drastically reduce the symptoms, which should help you cope with anxiety much more easily.
  • Yoga Yoga is a type of exercise that has additional benefits for reducing anxiety. First, it is a slower form of exercise but equally challenging. Those with anxiety issues need an opportunity to slow down their lives so that it feels more manageable. Yoga also teaches breathing techniques that can be quite valuable for fighting anxiety.
  • Memory Creation Another strategy that many people don't realize can be effective is creating memories. For example, trying new cuisines or traveling to nearby museums. This can be very hard for those with severe anxiety since it requires going out into the world, but the more you can force yourself to do and enjoy every day (happy memories) the more positive thoughts you'll have when you're struggling with stress.
  • Relaxation Strategies Many relaxation strategies exist that help you cope with anxiety. Visualization is a great one. It involves imagining yourself and your five senses in a more relaxed place. These strategies give your mind an opportunity to be calmer so that you have a chance to relearn how to cope with stress naturally.
  • Distractions Distractions are also an important part of anxiety management. Your thoughts tend to be your enemy when suffering from anxiety. Distractions allow you to stop focusing on such thoughts and provide an opportunity to calm down. Talking on the phone about positive topics (negativity still breeds anxiety) can be more powerful than you realize and a great way to regain that mental strength you used to have.
  • Journaling Writing down thoughts in a journal may seem like something you only did as a child, but it's a powerful coping tool. It benefits anxiety in two ways:
    • First, journaling provides an opportunity to release thoughts - something that far too many people hold inside.
    • Second, writing down worries puts thoughts in a permanent place and tells your brain that it doesn't have to focus on remembering them as much. These are only examples of anxiety management strategies. You may also find your own strategies that work for you. For example, perhaps you find skipping stones at a park to be therapeutic, or maybe reading happy poetry gives you warmer feelings.

Remember, anxiety management is about helping your mind learn to cope with stress better so that the symptoms of anxiety aren't as severe. Anything that promotes relaxation may be helpful.

Panic Attack Management

Living with panic and anxiety attacks can be a bit harder. Unfortunately, without the right treatment, these attacks will continue, and they can be devastating even for those that are used to them. But there are still ways to manage your anxiety attacks.

The key is to reduce their severity. The weaker your anxiety attacks are, the less likely you'll fear them, and the less you fear them, the less power they have. Here are some examples of how to manage panic attacks:

  • Get Used to the Symptoms Also known as exposure therapy, getting used to the symptoms will help you fear them less. You can do this by hyperventilating to simulate lightheadedness and poor breathing or spinning in a chair to simulate dizziness. The more you're used to the triggers and symptoms of panic attacks the less they'll affect you.
  • Actively Face the Fears It's also imperative that you never let panic attacks hold you back from places or events. It's easier said than done of course, but the truth is that the more you let panic attacks control you, the more they will control you, because you may start to expect them and fear their presence. So if you get panic attacks when going to the mall, for example, try to go to the mall anyway. As bad as a panic attack might be, it'll be worse if you let it control you.
  • Panic Attack Plan - When you feel like you're about to have a panic attack, have an emergency plan in place. Call a friend that understands your condition and talk to them to provide you with a mental distraction and the feeling that someone knows where you are and that you're okay. Drink water and walk around so that you're moving and not sitting around thinking about the problem. If possible, try going for a jog. This type of plan won't necessarily stop the panic attack, but it can decrease its strength. Again, the weaker your panic attacks, the less you'll fear them.

These aren't perfect strategies, of course, but they can help. Panic attacks, like all forms of anxiety, can be relieved with the right treatments, so make sure that you're seeking out these treatments so that you can properly improve your symptoms.

Permanently Managing Anxiety

In some cases, you may find that anxiety management was all you needed to create a better quality of life. Not everyone suffers from severe anxiety, and in some cases, a bit of management may be enough to "essentially" cure your anxiety, at least enough that you can function happily with anxiety having little impact.

Still, most people need something more. So while you should use the above anxiety management tips and information, you should also remember that options are available, and you don't have to live with anxiety forever.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

Ask Doctor a Question

Question:

Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient

Answer:

You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

Ask Doctor a Question

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