Managing Anxiety: A Quick Guide

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Virtually all of us will experience some anxiety from time to time, such as before a job interview or a first date. In addition, some people live with diagnosable anxiety disorders, which are when feelings of anxiety have escalated to a point at which they disrupt daily functioning and cause significant distress. Regardless of the intensity of your anxiety, learning healthy coping mechanisms may help you manage its impacts on your everyday life. Here, we’ll explore five simple tips that may be useful to those living with anxiety.

Experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder?
Defining anxiety disorders

The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by apprehension and somatic symptoms of tension in which an individual anticipates impending danger, catastrophe, or misfortune.” Again, anxiety is a natural emotion, but it may qualify as a disorder when it’s persistent, hard to control, and interferes with daily functioning. 

There are various types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, and others. Each one has their own unique set of symptoms, but some common symptoms of anxiety disorders in general can include:

  • Feeling like you can’t stop worrying
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Panic attacks
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches

Treatment for anxiety disorders can depend on the specific illness a person has, their symptom severity, and other factors. In general, however, some form of talk therapy is typically the first-line treatment for anxiety. In some cases, certain medications may also be prescribed to help control symptoms. A mental health professional might recommend certain lifestyle changes as well, including some of the tips listed below.

Techniques to cope with anxiety

If you’re experiencing signs of an anxiety disorder, it’s generally recommended that you meet with a licensed healthcare provider for support and treatment advice. They can also provide support to individuals who do not have a diagnosable disorder but are looking for a listening ear or tips for coping with challenging emotions. In addition to seeking professional treatment, the following tips could help you learn to ease anxiety or better manage this feeling.

1. Build time-management skills

A common source of stress and anxiety is feeling like you don’t have enough time to do what you need or want to do. If this sounds familiar, it could be helpful to look at your schedule and time-management practices with a critical eye to see where you might improve. Some practices that could help a person build better time-management skills to decrease anxiety and worries and reduce stress can include the following:

  • Track how much time you spend on various activities (working, cooking, watching TV, etc.) every day for a week to see where you might carve out more time for productivity or rest
  • Prioritize your tasks on a daily, weekly, and/or monthly basis to ensure you cover your most important bases
  • Manage procrastination by setting achievable goals, using productivity tools or methods like the Pomodoro technique, or getting an accountability buddy
  • Keep an organized environment, since clutter in your workspace or your home could be distracting when you’re trying to stay on task
iStock/Courtney Hale

2. Engage in activities that help you feel relaxed

Humans aren’t designed to be on the go every waking minute. The need for rest and relaxation is built into our DNA, and ignoring this need may increase anxiety. While it may seem difficult to build time for rest into a busy schedule, it can be paramount for physical and mental well-being. Finding relaxation practices that work for you and then building them into your regular routine can be a healthy goal worth pursuing. 

For example, you might find solitude and time to think on a daily morning walk or run. Or, you could carve out time to take a hot bath or read a good book each evening, spend time with friends every weekend, or take a yoga or meditation class on your lunch break twice a week. Exactly what promotes relaxation can vary from person to person, but spending some time figuring out what works for you and then baking it into your routine may help you feel less anxious in your daily life. 

3. Cultivate healthy habits

You’ve probably heard this advice before: Exercising regularly and eating nutritious foods are two habits that can play a significant role in overall mental and physical well-being. A robust body of peer-reviewed studies continues to suggest these practices as effective strategies for improving emotional control, boosting resilience, decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression, increasing longevity, and lowering the risk of various physical health problems, among other potential benefits. 

When it comes to anxiety in particular, consider the findings of a scoping research review published in 2021. It suggests links between less anxiety and eating habits such as:

  • Consuming more fruit and vegetables
  • Incorporating foods with omega-3 fatty acids
  • Eating breakfast
  • Eating foods with nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and selenium
  • Getting adequate protein and whole grains
  • Limiting intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates

Each person is different and there’s no one set of eating patterns or “healthy foods” that’s right for everyone. It’s also recommended that you meet with a doctor or nutritionist before significantly altering your eating habits. That said, it can be generally productive to incorporate nutrient-dense foods whenever possible if you’re looking for a natural way to help manage anxiety.

In addition, getting regular exercise is another healthy habit that may help reduce symptoms of anxiety. Physical activity can produce endorphins, which can boost mood. Staying active may also provide a distraction from the loop of anxious thoughts that can exacerbate symptoms. Finding a type of exercise that you enjoy and can engage in regularly is generally the most effective way to implement this habit.

4. Engage in deep breathing exercises

The fight-or-flight response associated with anxiety can lead to rapid, shallow breathing. This may keep an individual feeling tense and may prevent the heart, brain, and other vital organs from getting enough oxygen. Engaging in deep breathing techniques or a routine meditation may counteract this response and enable you to feel calmer, less anxious, and more aware of the present moment.

Experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder?

5. Speak with a mental health professional to address anxiety symptoms

Whether you feel occasional anxiety or suspect you may be living with an anxiety disorder, it can be difficult to manage these feelings on your own. A qualified mental health provider like a therapist can act as a valuable source of support in either situation. 

They can recommend a treatment plan and/or healthy coping mechanisms that may help you learn to manage feelings or symptoms of anxiety, from breathing exercises to cognitive reframing to support groups. They can also help you learn to identify and then shift distorted thought patterns that may be contributing to these feelings.

If you live with some form of anxiety, the prospect of calling local therapy offices to find a provider who is accepting new clients and then regularly commuting to appointments can seem overwhelming. Online therapy can represent a more convenient and approachable option if this feeling resonates with you. 

Through a platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with remotely from anywhere you have an internet connection. Research shows that online therapy may potentially result in “sustained and clinically meaningful improvements” in symptoms of anxiety and depression, so it may be worth exploring if this format appeals to you.


Whether it’s occasional anxiety related to stressful situations or symptoms of an anxiety disorder, this feeling can be difficult to live with. If you’re looking to regain control from feelings of anxiety, some techniques for coping with anxiety can include engaging in deep breathing exercises, improving your time-management skills, and speaking with a therapist who can offer advice. 
Regulate anxiety in a compassionate environment
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