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10 Ways to Manage Your Anxiety: Your Guide to Anxiety Coping Skills

Living with anxiety brings daily challenges. Seeing friends becomes an effort fraught with worry, your commute to work on stifling subways is a tunnel of pain. And when you’re home after a long day, your wired mind won’t let you sleep before you begin all over again tomorrow.


Anxiety gnaws away at us, and it can take over completely if we allow it to eat away for too long. But anxiety can be managed too, and there is solace to be found in the multiple anxiety coping skills you can draw on.


So if you’re suffering, struggling or simply surviving, maybe it’s time to for a change. Here are 10 anxiety coping skills that can have a big impact on your mental health.



10 Anxiety Coping Skills to Help Manage Your Anxiety


1. Get intro exercise


There’s a huge body of evidence that exercise can help reduce anxiety [1] and while these habits can be hard to start with, integrating even a small amount of physical activity can have a big impact on your mental well-being.


You don’t have to be overambitious: set yourself small targets, such as a daily walk or a couch to 5k program, or ask a friend to introduce you to their gym.


2. Examine your diet


Our diet also impacts our mental health. An improved diet and the introduction of anxiety supplements can have wide-ranging impacts, such as boosting your mood, helping you sleep better and causing chemical changes in your brain.


A ‘Mediterranean’ diet packed with fresh fruit, vegetables and fish has been found to positively impact mental wellbeing [2] and increasingly, ultra-processed foods are linked to poor mental health.


3. Improve your sleep


Anxiety and poor sleep can become locked in a vicious cycle, but if you can break that cycle with good habits then you’re one step closer to conquering your anxiety. Build a strong bedtime routine that sees you take to the sheets at the same time every evening, training your body to sleep at a certain time. Try cutting out screen time and snack foods in the evening to help your body wind down.


4. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine


Yep, it's another anxiety article telling you to cut out alcohol and caffeine! It's true, though: alcohol consumption [3], cigarette smoking [4], and caffeine are all associated with an increased risk of anxiety. While you might find that alcohol or cigarettes provide a short-term release from anxiety, they’re doing overall damage to your mental health.


Meanwhile, caffeine intake can harm your sleep as well as elevating your heart rate and causing anxiety-simulating jitters. Switch from wine to ginger beer and from coffee to chamomile tea to cut back.


5. Practice mindfulness


Grounding techniques, yoga and meditation can all impact anxiety, both in the moment (such as with a body scan) or in the long term, by helping you process your emotions and giving you a better understanding of your mental health.


Another important anxiety coping skill is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method: identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. By diverting your focus to your physical senses, you can quieten the mind and regain presence in the moment.


6. Learn breathing techniques


Controlling your breath can have a powerful effect on anxiety, and some researchers have proposed that self-regulation of breathing should be a primary treatment for anxiety, before medication [5]. There are a number of breathing techniques to explore, but the simplest is the counting method. Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, pause for another count of four and then begin again.


7. Try journaling


Sometimes our thoughts are muddled, confused and lacking clarity. Writing them out on the page helps us untangle confused emotions and allows us to process the events of our lives. Journaling, or more formal writing therapy, come as a psychologist-recommended tool for managing anxiety [6].

If you have trouble with a blank page, start with journaling prompts to get the thoughts flowing.


8. Identify your triggers


For some, anxiety can be triggered without warning. Often, however, there are actions or situations which cause anxiety to spike: it could be public speaking, travelling on a crowded subway, or social interactions. Learning the triggers of your own anxiety can allow you to plan strategies to help you cope in those situations.


This isn’t about identifying and avoiding those scenarios: this only compounds your anxiety or fear, and can lead to the development of a phobia. Understanding your triggers allows you to plan ahead to mitigate the impact on your anxiety, so you can keep living your life unconstrained.


9. Build a support network


According to the World Health Organization, over 300 million people worldwide have an anxiety disorder so it’s fair to say you’re not alone. Building a support network of friends and family gives you someone to lean on when times are tough, and sharing your struggles reduces the stigma about mental health.Anxiety can be isolating, so work on maintaining your social connections. Technology can help: make time to message an old friend on social media or share your story with an online support group.


10. Seek help


If your anxiety impacts your life then it’s time to take the next step. Finding a therapist can be challenging, but there are many ways to seek help, including our self-guided social anxiety treatment program. The oVRcome app pairs professional-level psychoeducation with cutting-edge virtual reality exposure therapy so you can face your fears, reframe your negative thoughts, and resolve your anxiety around social situations.


Wrapping Up


When you’re in the grips of anxiety, it can feel like there’s no way out. But in fact, there’s so much you can do to manage your anxiety and learning the anxiety coping skills that work for you is a step in the right direction. Whether it’s making powerful lifestyle changes, practising mindfulness or setting out on your treatment journey, anxiety coping skills are about making small changes for a big impact.


Ready to get started? oVRcome’s proven programs for phobias and anxiety disorders are here for you today.


References


1. Aylett E, Small N, Bower P. Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice - a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Health Serv Res. 2018 Jul 16;18(1):559. doi: 10.1186/s12913-018-3313-5. PMID: 30012142; PMCID: PMC6048763.


2. Firth J, Gangwisch J E, Borsini A, Wootton R E, Mayer E A. Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? BMJ 2020; 369 :m2382 doi:10.1136/bmj.m2382


3. Schuckit MA. Alcohol, Anxiety, and Depressive Disorders. Alcohol Health Res World. 1996;20(2):81-85. PMID: 31798156; PMCID: PMC6876499.


4. Moylan S, Jacka FN, Pasco JA, Berk M. How cigarette smoking may increase the risk of anxiety symptoms and anxiety disorders: a critical review of biological pathways. Brain Behav. 2013 May;3(3):302-26. doi: 10.1002/brb3.137. Epub 2013 Mar 26. PMID: 23785661; PMCID: PMC3683289.


5. Jerath, R., Crawford, M. W., Barnes, V. A., & Harden, K. (2015). Self-regulation of breathing as a primary treatment for anxiety.


6. Sohal M, Singh P, Dhillon BS, Gill HS. Efficacy of journaling in the management of mental illness: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Fam Med Community Health. 2022 Mar;10(1):e001154. doi: 10.1136/fmch-2021-001154. PMID: 35304431; PMCID: PMC8935176.

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