Tips for Living With Anxiety

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on March 09, 2023
5 min read

If you deal with anxiety on a regular basis, medication doesn't have to be your best or only treatment.

To calm your mind and cut your stress, try to:

Move your body. Exercise is an important part of physical – and mental – health. It can ease your feelings of anxiety and boost your sense of well-being. Shoot for three to five 30-minute workout sessions a week. Be sure to choose exercises you enjoy so you look forward to them.

Pay attention to sleep. Both quality and quantity are important for good sleep. Experts recommend an average of 8 hours of shut-eye a night. If anxiety is making it hard for you to fall asleep, create a routine to help you catch your ZZZs:

  • Leave screens behind before you go to bed.
  • Try to stick to a schedule.
  • Be sure your bed is comfy.
  • Keep your bedroom's temp on the cool side.

Ease up on caffeine and alcohol. Both caffeine, which is an “upper,” and alcohol, which is a “downer,” can make your anxiety kick into overdrive. Cut back on them, or avoid them altogether if you can. Remember, coffee and soda aren't the only things with caffeine. It's also found in:

Schedule your worry time. It may sound backward to plan to worry, but doctors actually recommend that you pick a time to think about your fears on purpose. Take 30 minutes to identify what’s bothering you and what you can do about it. Have your “worry session” begin and end at the same time every day. Don’t dwell on “what-ifs.” Focus on what actually makes you anxious.

Breathe deeply. It sends a message to your brain that you’re OK. That helps your mind and body relax. To get the most benefit, lie down on a flat surface and put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Take a slow breath in. Make sure it fills your belly enough that you can feel it rise slightly. Hold it for a second, then slowly let it out.

Be the boss of your thoughts. Try to turn any negative thoughts into positive ones. The more you do this in your mind, the easier it'll be to deal with negative thoughts when they happen. They might be about people or situations, and they may even be automatic. Most of the time, they’re wrong. But they can cause you to misread things like facial expressions. This could lead you to assume people are thinking things about you that they aren’t.

Try using pen and paper for this exercise:

  1. Think of all the negative thoughts you have in a specific situation.
  2. Write them down.
  3. Write down positive thoughts that challenge your negative ones.

Here’s an example:

Negative thought: “This situation makes me so anxious, I won’t be able to deal with it.”
Challenge: “I’ve felt anxious before, but I always get through it. I’ll do my best to focus on the positive parts of the experience.”

Tame tense muscles. Relax them with this simple exercise: Choose a muscle group, tighten it for a few seconds, then let go. Focus on one section at a time and work through your whole body. This is sometimes called progressive muscle relaxation.

Help out in your community. Spend time doing good things for others. It can help you get out of your head. Volunteer or do other work in your community. Not only will it feel good to give back, you’ll make connections that can be a support system for you, too.

Look for triggers. Think of times and places where you notice yourself feeling most anxious. Write them down, if you need to. Look for patterns and work on ways you can either avoid or confront your feelings of panic and worry. If you know the causes of your anxiety, that can help you put your worries into perspective. Next time, you'll be prepared when you encounter a trigger.

Certain social situations can make anyone nervous. But if you have social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia), even everyday interactions can be challenging. You might feel more self-conscious and scared than other people do in social settings, and that can lead to low self-esteem.

But there are some ways to deal with this type of anxiety that can help you live more freely. Try these tips. (Sometimes, you may need to seek professional help.):

Prepare. Planning ahead for social situations may help you feel more confident. You might have the urge to avoid situations because they make you anxious. Instead, try to prepare for what’s to come.

For example, if you’re going on a first date and you’re scared you’ll have nothing in common, try reading magazines and newspapers to find a few topics to talk about. If going to a party or work function triggers symptoms, do some relaxation or breathing exercises to help you calm down before you go.

Start small. Don’t jump into big social situations. Schedule restaurant meals with friends or family members so you can get used to eating in public. Try going out of your way to make eye contact with people on the street or at the grocery store, and say hello. If someone starts a conversation with you, ask them questions about their hobbies or favorite places to travel.

You can build up to bigger activities as you get more comfortable.

Be patient with yourself. It takes time and practice to tackle social anxiety. You don’t have to face your biggest fears right away. Taking on too much too soon can cause more anxiety.

Take the focus off yourself. Try shifting your attention to what’s happening around you instead of what’s inside your head. You can do this by really listening to the conversation you're having. Remind yourself that others probably can’t tell how anxious you are just by looking at you. People appreciate it when you act genuine and interested, so focus on being present and a good listener.