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Tools to help you manage anxiety

03 Dec 2018
Anxiety can sometimes be difficult to manage, but there are some ways to make it easier.

If you experience anxiety sometimes, it may help to know that you’re not alone. 1 in 6 young Australians (12-17 years old) experience anxiety. So while you may think that you’re dealing with something unusual – it’s actually something that lots of people go through, and that we've discussed in detail within our eheadspace community. While it can be very distressing at the time, remember that your anxiety will pass, and there are plenty of things you can try to help overcome it.

If anxiety is getting in the way of you doing what you want, try some of these useful tools.

 

Meditating

Meditation isn’t exactly a new concept. It’s been around for generations, but lots of recent studies have found how it can be used to stop the flow of anxiety.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out our guide for how to meditate – and remember, you don’t need to be the best at meditating for it to start having results. Keep working at it every day, and even if you feel uncomfortable or distracted, you’ll still be doing wonders for your anxiety.

You can find some great meditation exercises online, or you can even attend mindfulness classes. There are also some great mindfulness apps out there. Here are some of our favourites:

One of the main techniques used in mindfulness exercises is breathing. It allows you to focus on your breath to help bring your mind away from all the anxious thoughts it’s having, and focus on your body at the present moment.

You can find some great breathing exercises within apps (ReachOut Breathe is a great one) or even by Googling some techniques.

 

Keeping a gratitude journal

Gratitude is the act of expressing appreciation for things or people in your life. There’s always something you can think of to be grateful for. This might include things like:

  • your best friend

  • the delightful feeling of sun on your skin

  • delicious food

  • a good book

  • your pet

  • the ability to take a relaxing walk

  • or anything else that makes you feel good!

Gratitude helps with keeping anxiety at bay  because it helps you focus on things that make you happy.

Keeping a gratitude journal is one way to help with your anxiety. Take a moment every day to write down 3 to 5 things that you’re grateful for. When you’re having an especially difficult day, you can look back over your entries to see all the good things you have to be thankful for.

Looking after yourself physically

When you're going through a time of anxiety, it can be difficult to remember to look after yourself properly. However, it's really important to keep yourself physically healthy even when you're not feeling the best. The basic things you should remember to do to take care of yourself physically are:

Stay active

Exercise has huge benefits, both to your physical and mental health. So whether it's taking a walk, surfing, going to the gym, or playing a team sport, make sure you stay active during anxious times.

Prioritise sleep

While anxious thoughts may make it difficult to switch off at the end of the day, getting enough sleep is something you need to prioritise when going through an anxious time. That means turning off your computer, TV and mobile phone, and setting aside enough time for sleeping.

Eat well

Cooking up a nutritious meal may be the last thing you care about doing, but eating well is also useful for overcoming anxiety. Good, healthy food can make you feel better – so consider ditching the takeaway for something that's tasty and good for you.

 

Noticing avoidance

Experiencing anxious thoughts and their physical effects – such as constant worrying, feeling unwell or difficulty breathing – can be really upsetting. It may feel tempting to just avoid facing the issue altogether, but it's important to recognise that this can actually make your anxiety worse.

Avoidance is a key driver of anxiety, and even if you choose to do nothing about it for now, you're unfortunately perpetuating your anxiety and possibly making it an even bigger issue to deal with.

 

Making a list

Coping with anxiety can be made easier by making a list of what helps you during anxious times. Start by paying attention to your thoughts and feelings. You might keep a journal to track your moods and what contributes to them, or you could have a regular catch up with a trusted friend or mentor to discuss what is affecting your emotions and what helps you feel better. Taking note of how you're thinking and feeling can help you build up your resilience when anxiety hits.

If you’ve been dealing with anxiety for a while, you may have already noticed some useful things that work for you when you’re feeling anxious. However, it can be hard to know what to do when you’re in the midst of a bout of anxiety. Your brain might go foggy and it may be difficult to remember what to do to help yourself.

It can be helpful to make a physical list of things that help you (like meditation exercises, talking to a friend etc.). Store this in the notes section of your phone, on a post-it note in your room or on a card in your wallet so you can access this and try some of the techniques listed when you need it.

 

Talking

Possibly one of the best tools you have on hand when you feel anxious is the act of talking. When you’re feeling anxious, it can be useful to talk to someone about it. Focusing on a conversation may distract you from your anxious thoughts, while discussing your feelings may help put them in perspective. Think about who you can talk to about your anxiety, whether it’s a parent, friend, your mob, an elder or a mentor.

If you need someone to talk to, you can chat to an expert online or over the phone at eheadspace, or contact your local headspace centre to talk to someone in person.

You may also be interested in

What is anxiety
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How to deal with hard days
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How to get a mental health care plan
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