How to manage anxiety

A female under stress

Understanding anxiety

We all experience stress and worry when we’re feeling under pressure. Low levels of stress are healthy, but if these feelings don’t go away when the stressful situation resolves, it calls for a visit to your GP.

If these feelings of stress stay with us, and don’t have any clear trigger, we may be experiencing an anxiety disorder. If you’re experiencing anxiety, there are some techniques you can try to manage it.

It’s important to remember that if you’re struggling to manage your anxiety, you should see a health professional.

Symptoms of anxiety

How do you know if you’re experiencing anxiety? Sometimes the symptoms of anxiety are not obvious as they can develop slowly over time and you might not notice them.

Some of the common symptoms include:

  • panic attacks
  • racing heart and thoughts
  • restlessness and feeling tense
  • tightening of the chest
  • fast breathing
  • excessive fear, worry or obsessive thinking
  • avoiding situations that make you feel anxious

You could also take an anxiety self test at the Black Dog Institute. You may find this test helpful but it’s important to remember that you should always seek the advice of a health professional for questions and concerns about your mental health.

10 ways to manage anxiety

Beyond Blue outlines the following tips to help you manage your anxiety levels.

  1. Slow down your breathing 

    Fast and shallow breathing is one of the symptoms of anxiety. By slowing down your breathing, you can lower your blood pressure and reduce your levels of stress hormones. Abdominal breathing can be particularly helpful. You might also want to try Reachout’s Breathe app which can also help you slow down your breathing and your heart rate.

  2. Progressive muscle relaxation

    Relaxation exercises can help to relax your mind and body and also manage some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

  3. Stay present

    When you focus on the present moment, you’re more aware of your thoughts and less likely to think negative thoughts about the future. Practicing meditation and mindfulness can be really helpful. Mindfullness is a mental technique that can help you use Find out more about practicing mindfulness at SANE Australia.

  4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

    A healthy diet can help you manage your energy levels and make sure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs. A diet based on the Mediterranean diet has been shown to be associated with improved mental health outcomes and improve mood.  For more information, read the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and visit the Food and Mood Centre.

    Get plenty of sleep – a good night’s sleep can reduce your risk of developing mental illness. For help on getting a good rest, read our tips for getting a good night’s sleep.

    Exercise - regular moderate physical activity is one of the best ways to boost your mood. You should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise on most days of the week.

  5. Challenge critical self-talk

    Self-talk is the way you talk to yourself, or your inner voice. You might not be aware of it, but the way you talk to yourself has an impact on your mental health. It’s important to challenge critical self-talk as it can lead to lower levels of self-esteem. You can try putting your thoughts into perspective and asking yourself if what your inner voice is saying is actually true. You can find out more ways to challenge your negative thoughts at ReachOut.

  6. Be brave

    One of the symptoms of anxiety is avoiding situations and activities that make you feel anxious. If you’re able to start doing some of these activities in small doses, you may begin to build up tolerance to them over time.

  7. Plan worry time

    Setting aside a specific time to write down your worries each day can help to get them off your chest. It can also mean you’re less likely to worry at other times during the day.

  8. Get to know your anxiety

    It’s a good idea to get to know what the different triggers are for your anxiety and what’s the best response to each of them. It’s also good to notice what behaviours you start doing when you’re becoming anxious. You can find out more about developing a Stay Well plan at Beyond Blue.

  9. Learn from others

    Talking with others also experiencing anxiety can be a great way to help you feel less alone. It’s also a great way to learn tips and tricks that work for others. You could try joining a support group or an online forum.

  10. Be kind to yourself

    It’s important to be gentle with yourself and to remind yourself that you’re not your anxiety or any other mental health condition. It’s not a sign of weakness or inferiority, it’s simply a health condition you haven't mastered to manage.

Where to get more help

Get help now

If you or someone close to you needs help now, there are phonelines and websites available.

For immediate help in a crisis:

Seeing your GP

If you have concerns about your mental health, it’s best to see your GP.

When you see your GP, they can:

  • make a mental health assessment
  • prescribe some medications to treat anxiety or depression
  • refer you to a mental health professional
  • refer you to other support services

They can also put you on a mental health plan, and this means Medicare may subsidise up to 10 sessions with a mental health professional. You can learn more about the different types of mental health professionals at Healthdirect Australia.

Online programs and apps

The Generalised Anxiety Program online course at MentalHealthOnline can help you to learn skills to manage your anxiety.

MindSpot’s Wellbeing Course is also online and can help you to manage mild, moderate and severe symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Reachout’s Breathe app can help you slow down your breathing and heart rate when you’re on the go.

More information


All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.

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