Anxiety

On this page, we share practical strategies and techniques that may help you manage feelings of anxiety right now and over time.

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Short-term strategies for managing feelings of anxiety

If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, Lifeline is here to support you. You can reach us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via phone, text, and chat. If your life is in danger, please call 000.

Anxiety can look and feel different for everyone, which means different strategies will work for different people.

Finding the ones that are right for you may take a bit of trial and error and that's okay. The most important thing is that you're showing yourself kindness and compassion.

Remember:

  • Anxiety is a natural human emotion we’ve developed to keep us safe from danger
  • Criticising yourself for experiencing anxious thoughts or feelings can make you feel worse. We’re often far more critical of ourselves than we would be of a friend in the same situation. What would you tell someone else if they were in your situation?
  • It’s okay to cut yourself some slack. If you’re feeling particularly anxious, try reducing the expectations you’ve set for yourself.

Scroll down to learn more practical and evidence-supported techniques that can help reduce feelings of anxiety right now and in the long term.


Practical strategies for managing anxiety

  • Challenge anxious thoughts

    When you're having anxious thoughts about something potentially happening in the future, try asking yourself questions such as:

    • Am I safe right now?
    • How have I handled fears like this in the past?
    • What new information could ease my fear?
    • What's the best possible outcome?
    • What would I say to a friend in this situation?
  • Talk to someone you trust

    Sometimes even just saying our fears out loud can make them feel less overwhelming.

    Opening up about your anxiety can be challenging but talking to someone you trust can:

    • Make the fear feel smaller
    • Remind you that it's normal to feel anxiety
    • Allow you to feel connected and supported
    • Give you ideas for managing your worries.
  • Schedule a worry time

    Creating a designated worry time once a day can help you interrupt the repetitive thinking cycle and take control of your worries and thoughts.

    As worries arise throughout the day, jot them down and tell yourself that you'll acknowledge them during your worry time.

    When your worry time comes around, use it to review the worries you’ve added and ditch the thoughts that no longer matter to you.

    Ideally, choose a time and space that's comfortable and not too close to your bedtime.

    You can also check out this handy WorryTime app.

  • Try the 5 senses technique

    Sometimes when we’re feeling overwhelmed, our thoughts and feelings can spiral out of control.

    Grounding techniques that bring our thoughts and attention back to the present moment can help short-circuit unhelpful or distressing thoughts.

    One effective grounding approach is the ‘5 senses’ technique which uses our five senses to focus our attention away from our anxiety and back to the present.

    To do it, name five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

  • Journal your thoughts and feelings

    Sometimes when we feel anxious, it can be challenging to stop the endless stream of thoughts in our head.

    Journaling can be a helpful tool in making sense of things. If you can name it, you can tame it - simply naming our emotions has been shown to reduce their power over us.

    You might like to write your thoughts down on a piece of paper, record a voice memo, or even draw a picture – whatever works for you is perfect.

    You might like to get started with any of these questions that feel right for you:

    • What emotion are you mostly feeling right now?
    • What do you think is causing these feelings?
    • What makes you feel good? What are you excited for?
    • Write about your experience with resilience. When have you shown it?
    • What are five things you’re grateful for?
    • Which elements of your life are within your control? Which aren’t?
    • How would you help a friend if they felt the same way you did?
  • Distract yourself

    It’s important to accept how you feel, but sometimes in a particularly anxious moment, taking your mind off your emotions can be helpful in the short term.

    You might like to try:

    • Watching a TV show or reading a book
    • Playing a game
    • Listening to a podcast
    • Phoning a friend
    • Going for a walk or doing some exercise.
  • Do deep breathing

    If you’re feeling anxious or like a panic attack coming on, it can be helpful to engage in a deep breathing technique.

    Breathing can help by distracting your mind, calming your nervous system, and decreasing the overall stress in your body.

    There are a number of different helpful breathing techniques to try, but an easy one is box breathing which involves inhaling for 4 counts, holding for 4 counts, exhaling for 4 counts, holding for 4 counts, inhaling for 4 counts, and so on.


Instead of having to deal with my anxiety alone, it takes an immense amount of pressure off myself when I let someone else in.
Clare


To learn more about what it's like to experience anxiety and ways to manage it, you can:

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