Anxiety is a normal emotion that evolved as an age-old survival instinct from when humans faced frequent threats. That response to stressful situations still exists inside all of us, and it can be overwhelming. If anxiety starts to interfere with our ability to enjoy life, it’s time to manage those feelings in a healthy way.
Anxiety has physical side effects like chest tightness and shallow breathing, which can make it hard to think clearly and feel calmer. Breathing exercises can alleviate that physical reaction and help us cope in the moment.
Distracting ourselves to anxious feelings may provide temporary relief, but when it’s not addressed directly, anxiety can come back with a vengeance. Leaning into anxious feelings can help us identify coping strategies to use. Start by asking these questions.
What triggered an anxiety spike?
Anxiety can be disorienting because we don’t always know what caused it, and that’s okay. But if you’re able to pinpoint the source of your anxiety, that can be a helpful first step toward addressing it. Is there a particular person or situation that’s causing those anxious feelings?
Have you felt this way before?
Thinking back to other times we’ve felt anxious can help identify triggers — especially those that are less obvious. Journaling is a great way to discover those patterns. For instance, maybe you feel more anxious when your morning routine is rushed or after interactions with certain people.
Can you change it?
If you are able to pinpoint triggers for your anxiety, think about ways you can make changes to lessen those feelings. This can include limiting contact with a specific person, adjusting your schedule, having a conversation you’ve been avoiding or asking for help.
Can you accept it?
Sometimes we can’t change the things that contribute to our anxiety. For instance, if we’re struggling with an illness or a challenging dynamic at work or school, we may need to accept a certain level of anxiety and find ways to cope with those feelings.
If you’re anxious a lot, it can help to explore what’s known about anxiety and how to effectively manage it.
Effective coping strategies are a powerful tool that anyone struggling with anxiety can access at any time. What works can differ from person to person, so try out different methods until you land on strategies that are right for you.
Get Tips from ADAA
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has put together a list of tips and coping strategies
8 best anxiety apps
A list of 8 apps recommended and reviewed by mental health experts (and most of them are free).
Bottling up anxiety can make it worse. Talking about it often makes it better. If anxiety is interfering with school, work or relationships, it’s wise to reach out for support from a professional before things get worse.
Need help now?
If you’re struggling and need to talk to someone, you are not alone. There are many free, confidential resources available 24/7.