Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Last updated 12/7/2021
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear or apprehension that your body often develops in response to stress. It’s normal to feel anxious in certain situations, but when you have excessive worries or persistent anxiety, it’s often a sign that something isn’t quite right.
Millions of American adults live with anxiety disorders every day. In fact, almost a third of all US adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in life.
If you’re prone to anxiety, developing the right habits can make dealing with excessive worries and other common symptoms much easier.
Here are 11 tips for living with anxiety you can use to help manage your symptoms without allowing anxiety to interfere with your everyday life.
When you’re affected by anxiety, breaking out of your mental prison can seem impossible. The good news is that it’s often possible to control your anxiety with the right combination of habits, support and effective self-care.
The next time you feel anxious, try one of the following techniques to manage your worries and gain more control over your thinking.
Feeling anxious? Try keeping a journal of your thoughts, including those that cause you to worry or feel stressed.
Journaling has long been used as a treatment for mental health conditions, including anxiety. In fact, research shows that positive-affect journaling — an emotion-focused form of journaling — is associated with reductions in mental distress in people with anxiety.
One easy way to journal is to set a timer for five to 15 minutes, and then write down whatever you’re currently thinking about. Focus on describing what’s causing you to feel anxious, as well as anything else that’s taking up space in your mind.
Once you’re finished, read your latest journal entry. Ask yourself how realistic your thoughts are, especially those that cause you to feel anxious. Are your fears likely to happen? What steps could you take now to make your concerns less of a problem for you?
If you experience anxiety throughout the day, try keeping a pen and journal nearby so you can take notes whenever you feel your anxiety symptoms returning.
When you have anxiety, it’s easy to worry that your feelings are unusual or strange. The reality is the exact opposite. Not only is anxiety common, but many anxiety disorders rank among the most common mental disorders in the United States.
Every year, tens of millions of people are affected by generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders. These mental disorders can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, and they range from mild to severe in nature.
Put simply, you’re not alone or unusual. Know that plenty of people have experienced the same feelings that you’re currently experiencing. And with the right habits and other forms of treatment, it’s possible to control and overcome anxiety.
Exercise is associated with countless physical health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
It’s also a great habit for improving your mental health and treating forms of mental illness such as anxiety and depression.
Experts believe that exercise improves anxiety by stimulating the release of chemicals such as serotonin and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), which are involved in regulating your moods and feelings.
Working out also serves as a distraction from the things you’re anxious about, allowing you to avoid rumination and other habits that can worsen your anxiety.
When it comes to exercise, there’s no need to train like an athlete to treat anxiety. Instead, aim for the CDC’s recommendation of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise (like brisk walking) and two strength training workouts (like lifting weights or bodyweight exercises) per week.
For many people, anxiety symptoms are set off by certain events, people, items or behaviors referred to as anxiety triggers.
If you’re prone to anxious thoughts, identifying your anxiety triggers can be an important part of learning to control your anxiety.
Common anxiety triggers include stressful situations, medications, foods and stimulants such as caffeine. For some people, specific objects or environments, such as a crowded room or large, open space, can also trigger anxiety symptoms.
Over time, you may start to notice that your anxiety symptoms flare up in certain situations, or in times that are stressful or demanding.
When you notice your symptoms, make a note of the factors you think could have triggered your anxiety. You may begin to notice common patterns and can then change your behavior and avoid items, people or situations that cause you to experience anxiety.
When you’re alone, it’s easy to let your thoughts get the best of you by worrying endlessly about certain things, people or events.
This is called rumination, and it’s a major mechanism that links stressful life events to symptoms of depression and anxiety. People ruminate for different reasons, but many do so because they wrongly believe that they’re gaining insight from the process.
One way to stop ruminating is to distract yourself. You can do this by focusing on your interests and hobbies, spending time with friends and family, or by focusing on solving problems instead of thinking about the factors that caused them.
Bucking rumination isn’t easy, but over the long term, it can help you change the way you think and reduce the severity of your anxiety.
We realize this is a little on repeat, but your friends and family can help you.
And of course, it’s easy to isolate yourself from other people when you’re feeling unwell, including when you’re feeling anxious or depressed.
Isolating yourself can make your anxiety symptoms more severe, however. So if you’re feeling stressed and anxious, one of the best things you can do to improve the way you feel is to spend time with your close friends and family members.
Not only can spending time with other people distract you from the things that cause you to feel anxious — it can also give you a valuable support network for when you’re feeling worried.
Another option is to spend time with a support group. You can find local anxiety support groups in most cities. We also provide anonymous online support groups, allowing you to connect with others to learn about how to cope with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation that involves training your attention to help you feel calm and positive. It’s often used as part of treatment for anxiety, depression and chronic stress.
As part of mindfulness meditation, you’ll learn how to tune your attention to what’s occurring in the present, and then learn how to accept your feelings and thoughts without judgment.
Research shows that meditation can help to treat many forms of mental illness, including some anxiety disorders.
You can practice mindfulness meditation at home by setting a timer for five to 15 minutes, and then focusing on your breath. As your mind begins to wander, focus on bringing your attention back to the present moment.
If you prefer to meditate with other people, try looking for a mindfulness meditation class in your community.
In addition to mindfulness meditation, several other techniques for relaxing and reducing stress may help to make living with anxiety easier.
Popular relaxation techniques include progressive muscle relaxation, self-hypnosis, visualization and breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing.
Research is mixed on the effectiveness of different relaxation techniques. However, some study findings suggest that techniques like diaphragmatic breathing and heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback may help treat general stress and some anxiety symptoms.
Like mindfulness meditation, most relaxation techniques can be performed at home in just a few minutes as part of your daily routine.
Believe it or not, the food you eat has a significant impact on your mood, including your level of anxiety.
If you have an anxiety disorder, changing your diet may help reduce the severity of your symptoms. For example, research has found that omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and other nutrients appear to help people with anxiety better cope with their symptoms.
Our guide to the best foods for anxiety shares ingredients to prioritize, as well as ingredients to avoid, if you’re prone to experiencing anxiety.
Caffeine can be a great stimulant for perking you up in the morning, but it can also make many of the symptoms of anxiety worse.
According to the American Psychological Association, drinking excessive amounts of caffeine — defined as more than five cups of coffee per day — may cause anxiety, headaches, agitation and other symptoms.
Worse yet, if you’re a regular coffee drinker, skipping your daily dose of caffeine may also cause symptoms such as headaches, depression and difficulty concentrating.
If you drink coffee, energy drinks or other caffeinated beverages, it’s best to limit your intake to a reasonable amount. Avoid overindulging in caffeine, as it could lead to everything from the jitters to insomnia, a rapid heartbeat and other physical anxiety symptoms.
Although severe anxiety is best treated with therapy and medication, some natural remedies are often helpful for relieving mild anxiety.
Common natural remedies for anxiety include chamomile, valerian root, passionflower, lavender oil and cannabidiol (CBD). Many of these ingredients can be found in herbal supplements and other over-the-counter products.
Our guide to natural anxiety remedies provides more information on how these ingredients work along with the latest research on their effectiveness.
It’s normal to feel anxious from time to time, especially if you’re going through a stressful period in your life. However, if you have severe or persistent anxiety that doesn’t get better over time, it could be a signal that you have an anxiety disorder and need professional help.
It’s best to reach out to a mental health provider when your anxiety begins to interfere with your daily life.
You can get expert help by mentioning your anxiety to your primary care provider and asking for a mental health referral, or by contacting a psychologist or psychiatrist in your city.
You can also consult with a licensed psychiatry provider about your anxiety online via our online psychiatric evaluation service.
When you meet with a mental health professional, you’ll be able to discuss your symptoms and talk about treatment options in a non-judgmental safe space. Your mental health provider might suggest several treatment options for dealing with your anxiety, including:
Psychotherapy. Also referred to as “talk therapy,” this type of therapy involves talking to a mental health provider about your symptoms, feelings or anything else you think is relevant. During therapy, you’ll learn techniques to help you adjust the way you think, behave and respond to feelings of anxiety or worry.
Medication. Anxiety is often treated with medication. Your psychiatry provider may give you antidepressants, benzodiazepines or other medications for anxiety to help you gain control over your symptoms and improve your quality of life. If you’re prescribed medication, make sure to take it exactly as directed by your mental health provider.
Overcoming anxiety can take time, but with the right combination of behavioral therapy, healthy habits and medication, it’s almost always possible.
Living with anxiety is unfortunately common. In fact, for many people, anxiety can be a changing challenge that causes everything from occasional worries to severe physical symptoms.
If you’re affected by anxiety, the tips listed above may help you to calm your mind, put irrational fear behind you and prevent your anxiety from interfering with your life.
If you have severe anxiety, or think that you may have an anxiety disorder, it’s important to seek expert help. You can do this by reaching out to a healthcare provider locally or from home using our online mental health services.
Worried about anxiety? Our guide to the types of anxiety goes into greater detail about the most common anxiety disorders, as well as how they can affect your moods, thoughts and feelings.