Everyone feels anxious sometimes worried or afraid of something happening, or obsessed about something happening in a certain way. When that fear or anxiety becomes something that gets in the way of your life (school or work, relationships, ability to enjoy things or cope), doesn’t go away and causes you distress.
Wanting to avoid or run away from things we’re worried about, or afraid of, is normal – it’s a reaction that has developed over the course of evolution and helps us respond to life-threatening situations. Having an anxiety disorder means that this response is causing you more problems than good. Around 15% of young people have anxiety disorders, with most having their first symptoms before the age of 15.
Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress
Connect with others. Loneliness and isolation set the stage for anxiety. Decrease your vulnerability by reaching out to others. Make it a point to see friends, join a self-help or support group, or share your worries and concerns with a trusted loved one.
Practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being.
Exercise regularly. Exercise is a natural stress buster and anxiety reliever. To achieve the maximum benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days.
Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can exacerbate anxious thoughts and feelings, so try to get seven to nine hours of quality sleep a night. If you struggle with sleep, check out 7 tips for better sleep.
Be smart about caffeine and alcohol. If you struggle with anxiety, you may want to consider reducing your caffeine intake or cutting it out completely. Same with alcohol, which can make anxiety worse.
Train your brain to stay calm. Worrying is a mental habit you can learn how to break. Strategies such as creating a worry period, challenging anxious thoughts, and learning to accept uncertainty can significantly reduce anxiety and fear. See: How to stop worrying
When to seek professional treatment for anxiety disorders
While self-help coping strategies for anxiety can be very effective, if your worries, fears, or anxiety attacks have become so great that they’re causing extreme distress or disrupting your daily routine, it is important to seek professional help.
The specific treatment approach depends on the type of anxiety disorder and its severity. But in general, most professionals treat anxiety with behavioral therapy, medication, or some combination of the two.
Therapy for anxiety disorders
Anxiety disorders respond very well to therapy and often in a relatively short amount of time. The following types of therapy can help with issues such as panic attacks, generalized anxiety, and phobias.
Cognitive-behavior therapy focuses on thoughts—or cognitions—in addition to behaviors. In anxiety treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you identify and challenge the negative thinking patterns and irrational beliefs that fuel your anxiety.
Exposure therapy for anxiety disorder treatment encourages you to confront your fears in a safe, controlled environment. Through repeated exposures to the feared object or situation, either in your imagination or in reality, you gain a greater sense of control. As you face your fear without being harmed, your anxiety gradually diminishes.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are types of behavioral therapy, meaning they focus on behavior rather than on underlying psychological conflicts or issues from the past.