Coping with Anxiety


Everyone feels anxious at some point, but different situations affect people in different ways, so something that makes you anxious might not have the same effect on your family member.

Anxiety is there to protect us, it is part of our fight or flight mechanism that we use to respond to potentially dangerous situation. Sometimes our anxiety responses are out of proportion for the situation, or occur without us knowing why. 

Anxiety can manifest in lots of different ways, some people struggle to breathe, tap their feet or fingers, have an increased heart rate, or sweaty palms. It can also cause you to overthink situations or worry that something terrible will happen.

What to do

  • Learn to understand to understand your anxiety – what are your triggers?
  • Share your worries and triggers(if you no them) with someone close to you for support
  • Identify your coping strategies and add to them – breathing exercises or muscle relaxation can be useful. Hint- if your current coping strategy is smoking, that shows slowing your breathing helps so try the breathing exercise below
  • Believe you can do it, this anxiety is part of you, you are strong enough to control it
  • Check your concerns- are they realistic? Are the outcomes you’re worried about likely to happen?
  • Explore your concerns, think through the situation (in a calm, safe space) and put back up plans in place that might make you feel more comfortable
  • Remember that coping techniques can be very helpful, but to deal with your anxiety in the long term you need to understand what is causing it and why

A simple breathing exercise

Try breathing in through your nose for three counts, holding it in for three counts (skip this step if it is not comfortable), then breathing out through your mouth for three counts. You can adapt this to whatever feels helpful for you. It might take a few minutes before you feel calmer but stick with it!

A muscle relaxation exercise

Try tensing your muscle groups, working your way from your feet up to your eyebrows. Starting with your toes, tense your muscles for five counts, relax for five counts, then repeat. Then move up to the next muscle group, can you tense your ankles? Then your calves? Your knees? Once you work up to tensing and releasing your eyebrows, your concentration should have been diverted enough to lessen your feeling of anxiety. If not start at your toes again.

What not to do

  • Don’t give yourself a hard time – dealing with anxiety is tough particularly on your own
  • Don’t expect people to understand your anxiety unless you tell us about it – only you know how it feels for you
  • Don’t expect to cure your anxiety overnight- it might never go away completely, but you can learn to control it and live with it
  • Don’t ignore your anxiety, the more you bury it the harder it will be to tackle it

Always remember, everyone gets anxious. The physical symptoms of anxiety can be really scary and feel very out of control, but they always pass. Living with anxiety is hard but doable, it takes practice and support but it can be done.