How to deal with anxiety disorders

Naomi Carr
Author: Naomi Carr Medical Reviewer: Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD Last updated:

Anxiety disorders are very common and can have a negative impact on daily, professional, and social functioning. Although there are various medications and therapeutic interventions available to help treat anxiety disorders, there are also many tips and techniques that can be used at home to help manage and reduce the symptoms.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is something that everyone feels from time to time and can cause physical and emotional symptoms. When anxiety worsens or becomes very persistent, it can be due to an anxiety disorder, which can have negative consequences on your quality of life or ability to cope with academic, professional, or social activities [1].

Some common anxiety disorders include:

Symptoms can differ from person to person and depending on the type of anxiety disorder, but often include [1][2]:

  • Physical sensations, such as increased heart rate, sweating, shaking, dry mouth, nausea, and stomachache
  • Excessive worrying which is difficult to control or stop
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling as though something bad is going to happen
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Feeling very tired and struggling to concentrate

How to manage anxiety

There are many tips and techniques that you can try at home that might help you to manage your anxiety, such as:

1. Talking to others

Talking to someone else about your anxieties or worries can help to make them seem more manageable. Your close friends or family members may be able to offer reassurance, advice, a different perspective, or simply just listen while you share your feelings [3][4].

2. Breathing exercises

A common symptom of anxiety is feeling your heart rate and breathing get faster. This physical sensation can increase the mental and emotional symptoms of anxiety, so it can be useful to control and reduce this by using breathing exercises [5].

Try breathing slowly, in through your nose and out through your mouth, feeling the air reach all the way into your belly. You might find it useful to count to 5 as you breathe in, hold for a second or two, and then count to 5 as you breathe out [6].

Doing this for a few minutes can help to reduce the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety and can be especially useful during a panic attack when these symptoms are severe.

3. Sleep schedule

Resting and a good night’s sleep are crucial to physical and mental wellbeing, as sleep is restorative and healing [7].

Try sticking to a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. This is the best way to ensure you get restful and energizing sleep, ensuring you are alert the following day and more able to cope with stress [3][4].

4. Healthy diet

Try to eat healthily, ensuring you drink plenty of water and consume the types of food that your body needs, such as those that are rich in vitamins and minerals. This can help to improve your mood and boost your energy levels [3].

Try to avoid too much processed food, caffeine, and alcohol, as these can all contribute to a worsening of anxiety symptoms and make you feel more tired [5].

5. Exercising

Engaging in regular exercise not only improves physical health but also helps with your mental wellbeing. Exercise is a good way to use up adrenaline and excess energy that build up with anxiety, so it helps to reduce symptoms and calm the body and mind [4].

Exercising outside can improve these benefits by increasing the amount of natural air and sunlight your body receives, as well as drawing you closer to nature [3][8].

6. Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been shown to be a very effective technique in managing symptoms of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression [9].

Mindfulness is based on staying focused on the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future, allowing for a clear and calm mindset. Yoga and meditation are useful practices for becoming more mindful, as both promote a focus on breathing, movements, and clearing the mind [10].

Mindfulness can help to reduce feelings of anxiety as well as increase self-awareness of unhelpful or harmful thoughts and sensations in the body, making it easier to notice and reduce these feelings [9][10].

7. Relaxation

Similarly, relaxation exercises can help to calm the mind and reduce feelings of tension in the body that often arise with anxiety. This could include a full body scan, tensing and releasing each individual muscle group from head to toe [6][8].

8. Lists or small steps

If you often feel overwhelmed with worries and thoughts, it can be useful to write them all down in a list. This could help you to see them as more manageable problems, as well as to reduce the exhaustion that comes with feeling flooded with concerns [2][3].

Similarly, if you have one big problem that feels difficult to manage, it can be useful to try and break it down into manageable small steps, that can be approached one by one. This can help to reduce anxiety, provide a confidence boost as each step is completed, and improve problem-solving abilities, contributing to an improvement in managing challenges that may arise in the future [6].

9. Boosting self-esteem

Low self-esteem can often contribute to feelings of anxiety, so improving confidence and self-esteem can help to reduce these symptoms.

You could try [3][6][8]:

  • Positive affirmations: You might find it useful to start each day by repeating positive affirmations, such as ‘I am strong’, ‘I am powerful’, or ‘I am capable’. Maybe write these affirmations on sticky notes and put them on mirrors or places in your house where you will see them and remind yourself.
  • Complimenting yourself: Similar to positive affirmations, you could start or end each day by thinking of one positive about yourself from that day, such as ‘I worked really hard today’, ‘My hair looked really good today’, or ‘I was very kind to my friends today’. Being kind and positive about yourself can greatly increase your confidence.
  • Reassessing challenging situations: In situations that feel overwhelming or scary, try reassessing and recognizing your feelings, by asking yourself, ‘Am I really unable to manage this, or is it just my anxiety telling me I can’t?’. Consider what makes the situation feel scary and if there is anything you can do to overcome that or change your way of thinking, so you can cope with the situation with a more positive and confident mindset.

10. Gradual exposure

If there is a certain situation or event that causes you to feel very anxious, try working up to it by gradually exposing yourself to similar but more manageable situations.

By starting small and working your way up to the large event, you can increase your tolerance to this fear or anxiety, gradually becoming increasingly able to cope with it. This can also help to prevent avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations, which potentially reinforces feelings of anxiety [2][8].

11. Learning triggers

You may find it useful to keep a diary or a record of when you feel very anxious. This can help you to recognize what triggers your anxiety and find ways to manage these triggers. It can also help you to recognize the early signs of anxiety, so you can start utilizing your management techniques early and stop your anxiety from worsening [3][4].

When to seek professional help

If your anxiety feels like it is becoming worse and worse, to the extent that you are avoiding professional or social responsibilities, or feel unable to take care of your wellbeing because of your anxiety, you should seek professional help [2].

A doctor or mental health professional can help to create an appropriate treatment plan for you to manage your symptoms and reduce the impact your anxiety has on your life.

They may prescribe you a medication, such as an antidepressant or anxiolytic, which can help to reduce your symptoms [1].

They may also advise that you attend therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help you to learn positive coping strategies and alter negative thoughts and behaviors [1][6].

  1. National Institute of Mental Health. (Reviewed 2022). Anxiety Disorders. NIH. Retrieved from
  2. National Health Service. (Reviewed 2023). Anxiety, Fear and Panic. NHS. Retrieved from
  3. Mind. (2021). Anxiety and Panic Attacks. Mind. Retrieved from
  4. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. (Updated 2022). Tips and Strategies to Manage Anxiety and Stress. ADAA. Retrieved from
  5. National Health Service. (Reviewed 2022). Breathing Exercises for Stress. NHS.
  6. Victoria State Government Department of Health. (Reviewed 2022). Managing and Treating Anxiety. Better Health. Retrieved from
  7. Scott, A.J., Webb, T.L., Martyn-St James, M., Rowse, G., & Weich, S. (2021). Improving Sleep Quality Leads to Better Mental Health: A Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 60, 101556. Retrieved from
  8. Beyond Blue. (2022). Anxiety Management Strategies. Beyond Blue. Retrieved from
  9. Wielgosz, J., Goldberg, S.B., Kral, T.R.A., Dunne, J.D., & Davidson, R.J. (2019). Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 15, 285–316. Retrieved from
  10. Mind. (2021). Mindfulness. Mind. Retrieved from
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Naomi Carr
Author Naomi Carr Writer

Naomi Carr is a writer with a background in English Literature from Oxford Brookes University.

Published: May 5th 2023, Last edited: Nov 10th 2023

Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD
Medical Reviewer Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD LSW, MSW

Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD is a medical reviewer, licensed social worker, and behavioral health consultant, holding a PhD in clinical psychology.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: May 5th 2023