10 Coping Strategies For Anxiety
Everyone experiences anxiety at some point. While some people only experience anxiety when there is an anticipated change in life circumstances, others feel anxious much more frequently. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion that is characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes.” While anxiety can be a healthy emotion, learning to cope with anxiety using strategies for dealing with it can help prevent anxiety from becoming uncontrolled and resulting in a medical issue.
Is Anxiety Controlling Your Daily Life?
Risk Factors For Anxiety
Several risk factors have been identified that increase the likelihood of a person experiencing anxiety and resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Some of the most common include trauma, stress, other mental health disorders, family history of anxiety disorder, and the use of drugs or alcohol.
- Both children and adults who have endured abuse or trauma or who have witnessed a traumatic event are at higher risk of developing an anxiety-related disorder at some point in their lives.
- Having a physical health condition or serious illness can result in increased worry about issues related to the illness. Further, stress at work or in the home can increase feelings of anxiety. Some examples of this would be work about finances, relationship strain, or a death in the family.
- While not everyone with a mental health disorder is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, having a history of a mental health disorder does increase the chances of being affected by an anxiety disorder. Additionally, individuals who have a family history of anxiety or ineffective coping skills often experience anxiety, as well.
- Both alcohol and drugs can cause or worsen symptoms of anxiety. The symptoms may be felt while using the substances or when withdrawing from use.
Identifying Causes Of Anxiety
Before strategies to manage anxiety can be effective, it’s helpful to look at possible causes, also known as triggers or stressors, and try to determine which of those is leading to the anxiety you are experiencing. Feelings of anxiety may occur for several different reasons. Medication or drug side effects, physical conditions, environmental factors, and mental conditions can all contribute to anxious feelings.
Physical conditions: Hormone imbalance, heart failure/disease, diabetes, asthma, digestive issues, and sleep apnea are some possible sources of anxiety.
External Factors: External factors for anxiety are any stressor that happens as the result of something that occurs without the presence of a medical cause or mental illness. For example, stress at work or school, financial difficulties, moving to a new home, or a change in a significant relationship can all lead to feelings of anxiety.
When Anxiety Becomes An Anxiety Disorder
While feeling anxiety for various reasons is normal, when anxiety is not addressed and resolved, it can lead to the development of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders, unlike general anxiety, are classified as a mental illness. When left untreated, the stress they cause can lead to major disruptions in daily life. There are different categories of anxiety disorders. Identifying what type of anxiety you are experiencing and its effect on you is important to begin effective coping. The two most common anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks/panic disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common type of anxiety. It is best described as an ongoing state of physical and mental tension and nervousness, either without the ability to break away from the anxiety or without a specific cause. The person with a generalized anxiety disorder feels worried, anxious, and constantly “on edge” to the point that the emotions disrupt daily life. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include irritation, feeling out of control, lethargy, low energy levels, and obsessing over negative thoughts.
Panic Attacks/Disorder occur when severe feelings of doom cause both physical and mental symptoms. The feelings can be so intense that some people seek emergency medical care because they fear something is seriously wrong with their health. Panic attacks are intense sensations that can be triggered by stress or anxiety. Mental distress is present, as well as physical symptoms such as hot/cold flashes, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, and nausea.
Coping With Anxiety: 10 Strategies
Although anxiety is a natural emotion, it does not have to become so overwhelming that it creates major interference in your life. Learning to identify when feelings of anxiety begin to emerge, and ways to cope with them can help prevent complications later. Coping with anxiety can be as simple as a change in routine or habits. Let’s look at some coping strategies for dealing with anxiety.
#1: It’s Important To Practice Self-Care
Self-care is simply the practice of actively taking measures to improve or preserve one’s health. Although the concept of self-care is theoretically simple, many people overlook its importance. Self-care is not selfish. Taking care of yourself, both physically and emotionally, can help improve overall health and decrease anxiety.
Self-care measures include recognizing when life seems more difficult that it’s okay to slow down, getting enough sleep, and having a healthy diet and exercise routine. Practicing self-care means that you want to get to know you better. What makes you happy? What hobbies do you enjoy, or would you be interested in trying? Anything you can do to give yourself time to decompress when situations feel stressful is part of self-care and can help relieve the symptoms of anxiety.
Taking the time to slow down can help make you more productive, which can reduce anxiety. Slowing down may mean taking some time each day to have a cup of coffee and read a book or write in a journal, do some yoga or meditate. For some, simply saying “no” to extra commitments that don’t benefit, you can be helpful.
Spend at least 5 minutes each day to stop and meditate. If you’ve never meditated before, there are some great apps to help get you started. The Mindfulness App, Headspace, and Calm are some great resources for tips and tricks to learning the art of meditation.
#3: Take A Bath
Baths are a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. You can create a relaxing detox bath by mixing 1 cup of Epsom salt, ½ cup of baking soda, ½ cup of sea salt, and your favorite essential oil. Light a candle and let the bath do its work!
#4: Get Creative
Whether you like to write, paint, or cook, anything you can do that gets your creativity flowing will help reduce anxiety. Focusing your mind and energy on things you enjoy doing helps give a positive release for some of the weight that anxiety can cause emotionally.
#5: Get Moving
Exercise releases endorphins also referred to as the “happy hormones” of the body. A walk in the park or around the neighborhood, a leisurely bike ride or a workout are all ways to get your body moving and to relieve anxiety. Not to mention, there are great physical health benefits, such as reducing the risk of stress-related illnesses like high blood pressure and heart disease.
#6: Get Enough Sleep
Lack of adequate sleep can affect both physical and mental well-being. Make it a priority to set aside at least 8 hours for sleep each night. Be intentional about your sleep routine. If you need to set the alarm on your phone to remind you that it’s time to wrap up the activities of the day, do it. When it’s time for bed, turn off any electronic devices such as your phone or television as these can stimulate your brain and make falling asleep more difficult. Make sure your thermostat is set to a comfortable setting and that your room is quiet and calm
#7: Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing exercises, when done correctly, help to control breathing, which helps reduce heart rate. Reduced heart rate can help calm anxiety. Breathe in for a count of 4; then breathe out for a count of 4. Do this for 5 minutes. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much more at ease you feel after just a few minutes of deep breathing.
#8: Learn To Control Your Thoughts. Don’t Let Them Control You
Negative thoughts can increase feelings of anxiety. In fact, if they are not controlled, they can cause a situation to become worse and can leave feelings of distorted reality. One way to control your thoughts is to ask yourself: 1.) “Is this true?” and 2.) “Will thinking about this make me feel better or worse?” Anything that does not improve your thought pattern and relieve stress is something you should avoid focusing on as much as possible.
#9: Make Sure You Have A Support System
Dealing with anxiety can feel overwhelming at times. Having a friend or family that you can talk to about your feelings is a good way to sort through emotions and try to gain perspective. One thing you should consider when deciding who your support system/support person is going to be is whether that person/people can offer you nonjudgmental support. Anxiety is difficult on its own. You need to rely on supportive people who will let you talk about your emotions and offer some positive reinforcement without passing judgement or being overly opinionated, which could lead to increased anxiety.
#10: Knowing When To Ask for Help
Even the strongest people experience times when help is beneficial. If anxiety has become an all-too-often occurrence for you, or if you feel unable to manage the symptoms of anxiety alone, seeking the help of a counselor or therapist could be helpful. Mental health counselors are professionals who are trained to assist with problems, such as anxiety. They can listen to your concerns and suggest options to help resolve the issues and help minimize the symptoms related to anxiety with a plan that is tailored specifically for you.
Whether you choose to see a local counselor, join a support group, or engage in online counseling, it’s important to address any anxiety and try to resolve the issues. If you have a counseling center or therapist in mind, call for a consultation. If you don’t know of someone locally, your primary care provider can offer resources to get you connected with someone to help.
Also, if you prefer, online counseling options are available from several sources. Online counseling, such as that provided by BetterHelp allows individuals to connect with licensed, professional counselors, from the comfort of their own home.
You Can Reduce Anxiety Symptoms
While experiencing anxiety from time to time is normal, you don’t have to be controlled by the overwhelming presence of anxiety every day. Consider these steps for coping with anxiety and enjoy your best, anxiety-free life!
Other Commonly Asked Questions
What are some anxiety coping skills?
There are general practices you can use to manage or improve anxiety symptoms on a regular basis to set yourself up for success, and there are coping strategies you can use when you are feeling anxious or notice a spike in your anxiety symptoms. Here are some anxiety coping skills or coping strategies that you can try:
- Practice yoga or engage in another form of physical activity.
- Try a guided meditation (you may even be able to find one for anxiety or stress).
- Taking a walk outdoors or spending time on other nature activities.
- Use progressive muscle relaxation or other similar techniques.
- Use art or another creative activity as a distraction.
- Call someone (e.g., friends and family).
Be mindful that the best coping strategies may vary from person to person. For example, exercise may be a great coping strategy for one person, but other coping strategies might be more appropriate for another. Not only does everyone deal or cope with symptoms in different ways, but the healthiest way to deal with or cope with symptoms can vary. For example, people affected by certain mental health or medical conditions may not be able to use physical activity or exercise as a go-to coping skill because they might need to limit or moderate it more than other people. For individualized medical advice diagnosis or treatment, make sure to speak with a medical or mental health professional who works with patients regularly and can review your personal history and discuss your needs.
What is the 333 rule for anxiety?
There are a number of different coping strategies or coping techniques that people can use when they experience anxiety symptoms. This is one of the common coping strategies or grounding strategies that you might hear about. The 333 technique is a technique where you focus on identifying three things you can see, three things you can touch, and then proceed to move three parts of your body, such as your arms, toes, and hands. Strategies like these can help people manage anxiety. To this day, we continue to learn more about treatment for conditions like anxiety and depression. For example, the international journal of affective disorders publishes research on topics such as anxiety, depression, stress, and mood that is used in the mental health field.
What are positive coping strategies?
Everyone, including both kids and adults, can benefit from having coping strategies or skills that work for them. Positive coping strategies or skills typically refer to coping strategies that are healthy and positive in nature. There are many different positive coping strategies a person can use for concerns such as anxiety, depression, and life stress. Here are some examples of coping strategies:
- Social support. You can find social support in a support group, from friends, family, or in other settings. In spaces such as support groups, individuals may personal stories, and it can be an overall cathartic experience for people who want or need extra support. You may attend a support group independent of or alongside treatment.
- Thought and/or cognitive reframing. Cognitive reframing is when you take a negative thought and replace it with one that is more beneficial. This is one of the coping strategies that many therapists teach if they offer cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, a form of therapy and treatment often used for conditions such as anxiety and depression as well as related disorders.
- Breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques. Research shows that deep breaths can help the body Other options might include but are not limited to various grounding exercises (e.g., the 333 exercise or the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise) you can do on your own and guided meditation, which you may be able to find for free online.
Positive affirmations, art, and journaling are other examples of positive coping skills people might use when they are feeling anxious. Some coping strategies can be unhealthy; if you work with a therapist or counselor, they may be able to help you find coping strategies that are more healthy, adaptive, or positive. Individuals may seek coping strategies for specific situations, such as when they have a panic attack, or they may want to find ways to stay healthy and support themselves emotionally in their daily life. A meta analysis and systematic review of research on people affected by social anxiety disorder found that treatment options like CBT are effective for patients with the condition. Whether you are working to cope with or are seeking treatment for an anxiety disorder, depression, or another mental health condition, deal with life concerns such as stress related to work and school, or need support in another area, online therapy may be an option for you. With BetterHelp, online therapy is a safe space to get the care you need. Click here to sign up or read our FAQs to learn more.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are some coping strategies for anxiety?
Coping techniques may vary from person to person. However, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, these are good methods of dealing with anxiety medically reviewed and typically effective:
- Eating balanced meals
- Limiting alcohol and caffeine
- Mediation, mindfulness, and relation techniques
- Exercise daily
- Deep breathing and counting to 10
- Learn what triggers your anxiety
- Know that you are in control of your thoughts
- Stop anxious thoughts by practicing positive self-talk
- Find a treatment center and talk to a medical professional about how you are feeling and ask for advice on how to cope with anxiety
What are the 5 types of coping strategies?
The five types of medically reviewed strategies for coping with stress and anxiety are:
Appraisal-focused coping strategies for anxiety
These types of coping methods occur when an individual changes the way they think by actively denying how they are feeling or distancing themselves from the problems that they are facing. They may also change their anxious thoughts by changing their values and goals.
Adaptive behavioral coping strategies for anxiety
People will focus on trying to deal with what is causing the problem. This type of coping focuses on taking control and changing or removing the source of their stress and anxiety.
Emotion-focused coping strategies for anxiety
These methods to cope with anxiety include:
- Releasing emotions that have built up over time
- Mindfulness practices
- Distracting yourself
- Trying relaxing techniques when you’re anxious
- Seeking support from others
- Finding a therapist
Reactive and proactive coping strategies for anxiety
These strategies include the anticipation of long term or future stressors so you can prepare for them.
Social coping strategies for anxiety
Individuals will embed themselves in a social environment such as hanging out with friends or family or looking to find a treatment center.
Humor is used by individuals as a quick coping method that can provide some time for finding a long term coping mechanism. By having a humorous mindset, people can reduce their overall anxiety greatly.
What helps severe anxiety?
If you are experiencing severe anxiety that is disrupting your everyday routines and causing you a great deal of distress, the best thing for you to do is to speak with a mental health professional, find a therapist, and find a treatment center to get medical advice on how to properly cope. Your therapist will most likely prescribe you types of therapy such as behavioral therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy to help you deal with your anxiety long term.
What are effective coping strategies?
Medically reviewed coping strategies for long term coping/quick coping of anxiety, panic attack, addiction ADHD, bipolar disorder, and stress are:
- Seeking support, medical advice, visiting a treatment center, find a therapist
- Problem solving to try and locate the source of your anxiety
- Relaxation to help with physical symptoms of anxiety, self-care
- Adjusting expectations and preparing for a stress associated event
- Venting once you find a therapist
When experiencing anxiety self care can be one of the best things you can practice. Even if it feels silly, taking a bubble bath might calm you down a little or even just spending time walking your dog. Self care isn’t medically reviewed, but it can still be helpful.
How can I deal with anxiety naturally?
According to Healthline media, some medically reviewed natural ways to deal with anxiety and a panic attack are:
- Staying active as much as possible
- Refraining from alcohol and drugs
- Stopping your smoking habit
- Stopping your consumption of caffeine
- Getting enough sleep and rest each night
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet
- Practicing deep breathing and mindfulness
- Engaging with aromatherapy for anxiety self-care
- Drinking chamomile tea
What helps panic attacks fast?
According to Healthline media, if you are experiencing a panic attack you should try the following quick coping methods:
- Use deep breathing techniques
- Recognize that you are having a panic attack instead of having heart palpitations or a heart attack
- Close your eyes to block out extra stimuli
- Practice mindfulness
- Focus on an object and give that object your full attention
- Use muscle relaxation techniques
- Visualize your happy place
- Try doing a light exercise to boost endorphins in your body
- Use lavender oil to soothe your stress
- Try and repeat an internal mantra to calm your racing thoughts
What are 3 coping strategies?
When dealing with anxiety medically reviewed strategies are:
- Calming coping strategies such as taking a moment to yourself, deep breathing, relaxation techniques
- Emotion-focused coping strategies such as journaling your emotions, meditation, and visualization
- Solution-focused coping strategies such as problem-solving strategies, conflict resolution, time management
What are emotional coping skills?
According to Healthline media, medically reviewed, emotional coping skills for long-term coping include:
- Positive thinking
- Reframing situations (types of therapy for this include behavioral therapy)
- Talking it out with others
- Try to find a therapist (a mental health professional can refer you to one)
What are unhealthy coping skills?
Unhealthy long term coping skills include:
- Projecting thoughts, angers, and feelings onto others to distract what is actually going on
- Dissociating to escape from overwhelming emotions associated with any traumatic memories we may have
- Self-medicating which can lead to addiction or other mental health issues such as low self-esteem and other addictive behaviors. When dealing with addiction ADHD or other mental disorders can make coping difficult.
- Denial or repression of thoughts and feelings to yourself from what may come such as a medical advice diagnosis
What are 3 positive coping strategies to deal with stress?
Positive psychology methods that help people focus on long term positive aspects of their lives to deal with stress include:
- Listening to music
- Going to church or practicing spirituality (if applicable)
- Getting a massage
When approaching anxiety self care can make a big difference. Although not medically reviewed, they are still effective.
What are 4 strategies for managing stress?
If you are trying to manage stress, try the 4 A’s of stress management:
- Avoid: take control of your surroundings, avoid people and situations that cause stress, learn how to say no to others
- Alter: communicate your feelings openly to others, ask others to change their behaviors in a respectful way, practice better time management
- Accept: talking to someone (find a therapist), practice positive psychology methods such as positive self-talk, learn from your mistakes
- Adapt: look at the big picture of things instead of worrying about the details, adjust your standards for long term benefit, and reframe your thoughts
What do you do when coping skills don't work?
If your coping mechanism is not working, try the following:
- Visit a treatment center and speak with a mental health specialist
- Find a new coping mechanism to try
- Try giving your old coping mechanisms a second chance
- Stay connected to people and reach out for help
How do you develop coping skills?
Developing coping skills that are healthy is key to overcoming anxiety, stress, and any other types of mental health disorder. Therefore, to develop coping skills you should:
- Take time to breathe throughout your day
- Analyze your feelings and put things into perspective by looking at the big picture
- Develop habits that are healthy and positive such as exercising, positive self-talk, eating healthy, mediation
What are 3 signs of stress?
According to Healthline media, three signs of stress include:
- Chronic pain
- Decreased energy and insomnia
How do you teach coping skills?
Teaching kids from a young age to develop positive coping skills will help them deal with stress, anxiety, and more mental health disorders when they are older should they develop them. Therefore, from a young age you should:
- Teach them how to do deep, controlled breathing. For example, you can do this by blowing big bubbles or blowing up balloons.
- Engage them in positive self-talk. Teaching your kids to practice positive affirmations from a young age is a great way to teach them to be confident in themselves and focus on the positive aspects of life rather than the negative ones.
- Create a book of feelings. Knowing how to cope in a healthy way starts with learning how to properly identify your feelings and connecting to them.
- Keep active. Keeping your kids active from a young age when they are restless or uneasy is to encourage them to use physical activity to deal with their emotions.
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