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.
How Severe is Your Anxiety?
Anxiety management requires an idea of how severe your anxiety is, and how it compares to others. Our free 7-minute anxiety test can help you score your anxiety severity and provide you with ideas for how to manage it.
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. For more about your own anxiety, take our free 7-minute anxiety test.
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 you 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 on you.
But you can also make it weaker, and you can do that by using unhealthy anxiety management practices. For example:
- Overusing medications
- Reckless behaviors
These are always unhealthy, 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 lose your ability to cope naturally even more. 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, not 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 easily 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, and 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 to reducing anxiety. First, it is a slower form of exercise without being any less challenging. Those with anxiety need an opportunity to slow their lives down so that it feels more manageable. Yoga also teaches breathing techniques that can be very valuable for fighting anxiety.
- Memory Creation Yes, another strategy that many people don't realize is effective involves 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 them to go out into the world, but the more you can force yourself to do and enjoy every day (they need to be happy memories, of course) 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 re-learn how to cope with stress naturally.
- Distractions Distractions are also an important part of anxiety management. Your thoughts tend to be your enemy when you suffer from anxiety. So distractions allow you to stop focusing on those thoughts and give yourself a break to simply calm down. Talking on the phone with someone you like about positive things (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 thoughts down 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 gives you a chance to simply let out your thoughts - something that far too many people hold inside them. Second, writing down your worries puts your thoughts in a permanent place, and that tells your brain that it doesn't have to focus on remembering them as much as it did previously.
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 simply 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 still come, and they can be devastating even for those that are used to them. But there are still ways to manage your anxiety attacks as well.
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 getting dizzy. 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 start to expect them and fear them everywhere you go. So if you get panic attacks when going to the mall, for example, go to the mall anyway. As bad as the panic attack will 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 there thinking about the problem. If possible, go for a jog too. This type of plan won't necessarily stop the panic attack, but it should decrease its strength, and again - the weaker your panic attacks, the less you'll fear them.
These aren't perfect strategies, of course, but they will help. Panic attacks, like all forms of anxiety, can be cured with the right treatments, so make sure that you're seeking out these treatments so that you can rid yourself of anxiety forever.
Managing Anxiety Permanently
In some cases, you may find that anxiety management was all you needed to live with a high 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.
But still, most people need something more. So while you should use the above anxiety management tips and information, you should also remember that cures are out there, and you don't have to live with anxiety forever.
I've helped thousands of people that suffer from daily anxiety genuinely cure it. But before I can help you, I need you to fill out my free anxiety test. This test will compare your symptoms to others, and recommend a detailed plan based on the outcome.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Nov 29, 2017.