Eight strategies for tackling anxiety

Pablo Vandenabelle
Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK
31 December 2018

From concerns about our family, work or social lives to financial stresses and strains, all of us experience a degree of anxiety sometimes. The term anxiety really just means a feeling of unease or worry about the future. While mild anxiety is a very normal emotion to some extent, it can also become a mental health problem if you worry too much and too often.

In this article, I’ll look at some useful strategies for coping with feelings of anxiety. They might not all work for you personally – so see which of them might be most helpful.

1. Learn to recognise anxiety

Becoming aware that you feel anxious is a useful first step. Look out for signs of anxiety like feeling irritable, feeling tired, or having trouble concentrating or relaxing. You may also experience physical symptoms such as tension in your muscles, a racing heartbeat, sweating or a headache.

Try to ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do you have any ideas about where the anxiety might be coming from? Can you link it to anything happening in your life?
  • Do you feel worried all the time or just in particular situations?
  • Is there anything you’ve noticed that helps you to feel less anxious?

Don’t worry if you don’t have the answers to these questions – you may well not do. Hopefully just thinking about them will put you in a better position to take positive steps towards managing your emotions.

2. Keep a mood diary

If you’re spending your days worrying about things, write these down to help you understand what might be making you anxious. Phone apps are available that can help you record your thoughts on the move.

Once you have a record you can refer to and look back on, some of your worries might not seem so bad, or you can figure out ways to tackle them.

3. Learn to relax

Anxiety can be all-consuming. It’s vital to give yourself a break and set aside some time each day to relax. This might be a challenge at first, but there are self-help books and online resources that can help you. Even going for a 15 minute walk can help you to relax.

4. Tackle your worries head on

Try not to bury your head in the sand. If you avoid situations or scenarios that make you anxious, you won’t ever overcome them. Challenge yourself to confront these environments – you might find they really aren’t as bad as you thought. But take it slowly.

5. Clear your mind

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment and may help you to deal with anxiety. You can use different techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga to do this – try a few out and see what works best for you.

Mindfulness has been shown to help people become more aware of their thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, it’s easier to manage them. A number of apps can teach you the techniques – two popular examples are Headspace and Calm.

6. Strive for a healthy lifestyle

Taking steps to live in a healthier way can make a real difference to your mood.

  • Avoid drinking lots of alcohol or taking recreational drugs to cope with anxiety. These can make your symptoms worse. Try to cut down on caffeine too, as it can make anxiety worse.
  • Aim to eat a healthy diet, as there’s early research to suggest this can help your mental health as well as your physical health.
  • Couple this with exercise, which is a natural anxiety buster. Read our article about how exercise can help with low mood to find out more.
  • Prioritise sleep, as getting a good night’s rest can really boost your mental health too.

7. Be kind to yourself and manage your expectations

Sometimes anxiety stems from having lots to do, and feeling that you aren’t on top of everything. Remember that there’s only so much that any of us can do, and try not to expect too much of yourself. Focusing on being kind to yourself can go a long way.

8. Reach out

If you feel it will help, try to tell someone you trust about how you’re feeling. This might be a friend, a relative or your GP. Support organisations such as Samaritans and Mind are also there to help you and provide advice and information.

If you would like to find out more, our information page about anxiety details the symptoms of anxiety and when it can become a mental health problem. There are treatments available to help if you develop an anxiety disorder, including talking therapies and medications.

If you’re worried about your mental health, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. If you’re covered by your health insurance, you’ll be able to get mental health advice and support usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

Pablo Vandenabelle
Pablo Vandenabeele
Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK

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