Anxiety - managing anxiety

Stressful situations eg. problems with money, housing or relationships can cause anxiety. Symptoms include "butterflies" in the tummy, trembling, palpitations or difficulty sleeping (insomnia). While feeling anxious is unpleasant, it can be a warning that there is something wrong in our lives. To get rid of anxiety we may have to deal with the underlying problem. Below is a simple technique which some people use to help them solve problems:

  • Write the problem down focusing on the facts not your feelings.
  • List possible ways that you could tackle the problem.
  • Decide what action it would be best to take.
  • Take action.

If the problem is serious you may need to seek advice from a specialist agency. Their names can be found in telephone directories, libraries etc.

Thoughts and feelings
Some people worry even when there is no reason to. This is because the way we think affects how we feel. If we always see the bad side of things (negative thinking) this makes us more likely to worry and feel anxious. If you are a "born worrier" you can overcome this by learning to replace negative thoughts with positive or realistic ones. This takes practice but with time you will begin to feel less anxious and more in control of your life. Some therapies are designed to help you do this eg. cognitive behavioural therapies.

Overcoming panic attacks
A panic attack is a sudden surge of anxiety. It doesnít last long but it is very frightening. Fears of having an attack can make them worse but, with practice, they can be overcome. Each time you stay and deal with the situation you reinforce the fact that nothing terrible happens to you. You do not faint or have a heart attack. Panic attacks donít stop overnight but with practice they become less severe and will go in time

  • If you feel an attack coming on, stay where you are - don't run.
  • Say to yourself: " This won't last. I was alright last time. I'll be ok soon."
  • Put the breathing exercise outlined below into action.

Breathing exercise
When we are anxious we tend to over breathe. This can cause dizziness, trembling etc. which in turn increases our anxiety. As our anxiety increases, we breathe even more rapidly and so the anxiety spirals. Controlled breathing helps overcome the physical effects of anxiety.

    Breathe in slowly to the count of four, pushing your stomach out.
  1. Hold your breath for a moment.
  2. Breathe out slowly, letting your stomach relax.
  3. Repeat until you feel calmer.

There are other relaxation exercises and relaxation tapes can be obtained from many shops or loaned from libraries. If you would like more information on how to deal with anxiety, self-help books are available from libraries and bookstores. If the anxiety continues and is severe, see your doctor. You could be referred to a counsellor or a psychologist

Further information

Mental Health Foundation

Phobics Society


This article published on
01 August 2005

Next review date 8/1/2013


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