How To Fight Anxiety: Tips And Tricks

Updated August 4, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people experience some sort of anxiety at some point in their lives, whether it’s having panic attacks or being stuck in a loop of overthinking. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults in the country, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Although it can feel incredibly isolating, if you struggle with anxiety or an anxiety disorder, you are not alone. You likely know someone else with a diagnosed anxiety disorder, even if they don’t talk about it. But, knowing this likely won’t stop your feelings of anxiety, which can affect your mental health.

One result of anxiety being so common is that it has been heavily researched. With that being said, there are many proven coping methods for people with anxiety. Although not every coping method will work for all people with anxiety, some of them can certainly be helpful. Consider trying out one or more of the different methods listed below and see what works best for you. First, however, it’s important to understand what anxiety is so that you can better recognize it.

What Is Anxiety?

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According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety is “intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.” Anxiety is a very normal feeling, as it is your brain trying to keep you safe. However, excessive worrying can be a potential sign of having an anxiety disorder. 

Other physical symptoms of anxiety can include hyperventilation, sweating, trembling, increased heart rate, and a sense of impending danger, just to name a few. However, it is very important that you do not assume you have an anxiety disorder because you have felt anxiety or some of its associated symptoms before. It is best to be seen by a licensed counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist for additional information and get professionally diagnosed if you suspect you may have an anxiety disorder. They can provide you with medical advice and a diagnosis for your condition before it becomes a bigger problem, and your overall mental health and personal wellbeing will likely be better for it.

There are several different anxiety disorders that one can have. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there are five primary anxiety disorders that exist today. First, there is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) which is explained thoroughly below. There is also obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and finally, social anxiety disorder (SAD). Every anxiety disorder has different symptoms, and many have different triggers for their anxiety. This means different anxiety disorders (and people) are likely to have better coping methods particularly suited to that particular person and type of anxiety, one of which being talk therapy. The best way to determine if you have an anxiety disorder and which one you may have is to seek medical advice and possible diagnosis from a licensed professional.

How To Fight Generalized Anxiety

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the many anxiety disorders that doctors are aware of and can provide treatment for. Someone with a generalized anxiety disorder can experience excessive worry, even when there is seemingly nothing specific to provoke it. Other symptoms of anxiety of this type can include having difficulty concentrating, restlessness, irritability, feeling sick, and tension throughout the body. 

If you struggle with generalized anxiety, try the tips listed below. They may help you reduce the symptoms and work towards improving your mental health. 

Practicing Deep Breathing Exercises

When you feel anxious, it’s important that you recognize what you’re experiencing instead of trying to ignore it, hoping that it will go away on its own. Some experts recommend trying to face your anxiety head on and start calming down by practicing breathing. Deep and slow breathing increases blood flow and oxygen to the rest of the body and brain, tricking them into thinking that you’re in a relaxed state. In turn, the brain and body are better able to become relaxed as well, thus easing your symptoms of anxiety. 

Breathing exercises are one of the most effective relaxation techniques you can use, no matter where you are or what social situations you find yourself in. With prolonged sessions of deep breathing, you might notice that your physical symptoms of anxiety start to diminish, including your body’s “fight or flight” response.

Get Enough Sleep

A lack of sleep can have a large impact on your anxiety levels. In fact, evidence suggests that a lack of sleep is very common with anxiety disorders and can contribute to being more prone to excessive worrying. Without sleep, your stress hormone, cortisol, can skyrocket, which can induce generalized anxiety and, potentially, anxiety attacks. In addition, the amygdala within the brain serves as the emotional center of the brain as well as playing an important role when it comes to sleep. 

So, sleep deprivation or not having a regular sleep schedule can result in emotional instability, leading to heightened responses to negative stimuli as well as potentially triggering or worsening anxiety. With something as simple as getting enough sleep leading to less anxiety, it is worth trying. Even the medical advice of your doctor or therapist will likely recommend getting enough sleep each night, even if you don't experience anxiety.

An easy way to implement more sleep in your daily routine is to set a bedtime. If you have to wake up early for work each morning, calculate what time you need to go to bed to get at least eight hours of sleep. Then, try to be in bed 30 minutes before that time. If you have racing thoughts around bedtime, it may be helpful to take a melatonin supplement, which doesn’t typically produce severe side effects. A bedtime routine can also be helpful for reducing racing thoughts and priming your body for sleep, such as always reading for a few minutes before bed or doing some light stretching. As always, ask your doctor before taking any new supplement or medication. 

Minimize Caffeine Intake

Although a warm cup of coffee in the morning can be exactly what you need to perk up your mood and get your energy levels going, it can also contribute to anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant and has an impact on your mind. It can make your brain work quickly, which could potentially cause an anxiety attack. This is a very difficult change for many because of the withdrawal effects of caffeine, but it can be worth it.

If you are an avid coffee or tea lover, try to limit yourself to just one or two cups a day. Or you can try decaffeinated coffee or tea to see if it wakes you up as well. However, if you don’t notice a difference in your anxiety levels after eliminating caffeine intake, it may not be worth cutting it out. Coffee and tea can both have amazing health benefits. So, monitor your symptoms for a few weeks before writing off caffeine altogether. Try keeping a daily log of how you feel, noting in particular how you feel before, during, and a couple of hours after consuming caffeine.

Never Skip Meals

Although an anxiety attack can make you incredibly nauseous, potentially to the point of actually throwing up, it is important to never skip meals. Similar to getting sufficient sleep, not getting enough nutritious food can send your body into panic mode, which can negatively affect your mental health. 

Skipping a meal can cause your blood sugar to drop, which forces the body to produce epinephrine, which is also known as adrenaline. This is the “fight or flight” hormone that forces the liver to produce more glucose in preparation for the body taking action. When this happens, you will produce more cortisol as your body will be under stress. This is why you may have more anxiety when you are hungry, or people can get “hangry”. It is important that you don’t skip meals, especially when you are already anxious.

Try to learn which foods calm you down for the short term. Perhaps there is a family recipe that is associated with happy childhood memories, or maybe there is a food you love that always makes you feel amazing or gives you a little mental boost. Even if the food is not necessarily “healthy,” it is still important to never skip a meal. If the only thing that doesn’t make you want to get sick is a granola bar, then eat that. Whatever it takes to give yourself necessary nutrition and reduce your cortisol levels and reduce stress.

Seek The Help Of A Counselor

Generalized anxiety disorder is a mental illness that can come with several complications, but it is certainly not impossible to treat. Through the help of a counselor, cognitive behavioral therapy can (and often does) lead to great breakthroughs, taking some of the stress off of your mental health. A counselor can help you on an individual level so you can learn helpful ways to cope with anxiety and provide medical advice to determine what kind of anxiety you may have.

There is a social stigma that often comes with seeking the help of a therapist or a counselor, since there are many misunderstandings attached to mental health. However, in 2014, 82% of people who received psychotherapy for a mental illness believed that their treatment was quite helpful. They can also assist you in getting to the root of your generalized anxiety, which is crucial when trying to cope with and overcome anxiety disorders. Sometimes, mental health professionals prescribe anxiety medications to help relieve disruptive symptoms. A therapist will be able to tell you whether you need to take medications after meeting with you and discussing your symptoms, though only a medical doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe them. 

Consider visiting the Anxiety and Depression Association of America for additional information on anxiety and to find an online mental health professional in your area who can help you.

Learn Your Triggers

Some types of anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), involve triggering factors that induce anxiety. 

If this is your case and you are unsure of your triggers, consider writing down when you experience anxiety in a journal. This can be incredibly helpful because with time, you may be able to notice a pattern that allows you to explore what makes you more likely to experience anxiety or anxiety attacks. Keep note of who was with you, where you were, and what you were doing. Then, evaluate your notes to see if there are any patterns or direct correlations. This could help you realize what your triggers are so that you can better avoid or cope with them in the future for better mental health.

Refocus Your Mind

Learn Tips And Tricks To Fight Anxiety From A Professional

Learning how to refocus your mind when experiencing an anxiety attack could be a helpful tool when you want to fight anxiety. Although this may be much easier said than done, it is possible. Anxiety disorders can make you feel as though you have no control over your own mind. But despite your stress responses, you do have control over your mind and your thoughts. It may take some practice to fully embrace and take advantage of this, but practicing mindfulness can help you fight anxiety.

One tip for refocusing your mind is to look at something. This can be literally anything. Look at the object and inspect it. Consider what it’s made of, what it feels like, and what it smells like. This practice is what is considered grounding. The idea is that when you focus on and inspect an object, your mind will pull away from the stress response. 

This is obviously the opposite reaction you give when you are in real danger, so it can help calm your mind quickly. Another tip is to go out for a walk or exercise. Physical activity is associated with a 60% lower risk of developing anxiety disorders. 

Remind Yourself That The Attack Will End

One of the best tips for fighting anxiety is to remember that an attack will pass. One of the most common anxiety problems is believing that you’re trapped in a state of panic forever. Thankfully, most anxiety and panic attacks last for 10 to 30 minutes. This is just a small percentage of the day. So, in the middle of an anxiety attack, try to remind yourself that the attack will end, and it does not have to control or define your entire day or being. 

Hopefully, the methods listed above will help the attack end quickly or prevent one from happening. Remember that even though if feels like the anxious feelings will prevail forever, they won’t.

Seek advice, diagnosis, or treatment as soon as you recognize that you may have an anxiety disorder. Waiting too long or trying to ignore the problem will not only make your symptoms worse, but it may make it more difficult for you to want to seek treatment later on. It’s not something that you should live with on your own, especially when there are plenty of resources out there to help you overcome these challenging moments in your life. One such resource includes the over 20,000 licensed, highly experienced online counselors and therapists at BetterHelp.

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