Managing anxiety

Emotions and Self
Key Points

  • Anxiety is a feeling of worry and apprehension.
  • It has physical and emotional symptoms.
  • Identify potential triggers to your anxiety.
  • Practice some of these strategies to manage it.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease. It is your body's natural response to stress. It's a feeling of fear or apprehension about what's to come. It is a persistent feeling of worry or nervousness. An emotion characterized by feelings of tension and worried thoughts.

Psychological Symptoms of Anxiety

The psychological symptoms of anxiety feel like a chain of thoughts and images, which can progress in increasingly catastrophic and unlikely directions. These are ruminating thoughts that can be difficult to stop.

Chain of thoughts of anxiety

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Muscle tension or aches and pains
  • Restlessness and an inability to relax
  • Clenched fists/ tightly clasp hands
  • Shallow breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweaty palms
  • Shaking lips or hands
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling easily fatigued
  • Increased cravings for tobacco, sugar, alcohol
  • Persistent focus on event/person/circumstance
  • Negative language towards ourselves/others

  • Common Trigger for Anxiety

    • When basic human needs are not met
    • Situations that are uncertain
    • Situations that are new
    • Situations that are unpredictable
    • Loss and grief
    • Injustice/criticism/threat
    • Values and beliefs are challenged

Strategies to Manage Anxiety

1) You are not your anxiety
In order to break the chain of worry and anxiety, start by acknowledging that you are not your anxiety. Instead of sayingI am anxious”, start by saying I feel anxious”. As soon as you switch the dialog from I am to I feel, you detach your identity from your feelings and the work of managing the intensity of those feelings is possible.

2) Real worry vs hypothetical worry
Practice identifying whether your worry is 'real problem' worry, or 'hypothetical worry’. Real problem worries have practical solutions and there is something you can do about it, either now or in the future. Hypothetical worries don’t have practical solutions to solve them.
  • What am I worrying about?
  • Is this something I can do something about?
  • If no, let go and focus on something important to you right now.
  • If yes, but in the future, plan what you could do and when you will do it.
3) Practise postponing your worry
Worry is insistent – it can make you feel as you have to engage with it straight away. But you can experiment with postponing hypothetical worry. When you notice a worry, tell yourself: “I’m not going to engage in this worry now, I will engage in this worry later”. In practice, this means deliberately setting aside time each day to let yourself worry (e.g. 30 minutes at the end of each day).

4) Speak to yourself with compassion
Anxiety and worry can lead to the use of negative language towards ourselves. Start by writing down your emotions and find a different compassionate way of responding to them.

Compassionate response table

5) Ask for help when you need it
Sometimes it can be difficult to manage anxiety and worry by ourselves. Get professional help if any of your answers to the questions below is ‘yes’:
  • Feel unable to manage anxiety or worry?
  • Feel disconnected from yourself, others, work or environment?
  • Feel emotional exhaustion, like you have nothing left to give?
  • Feel lack of accomplishment/pleasure?
  • Feel like your emotions are paralyzing you and keeping you from getting on with life?
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