Anxiety is a common mental health problem, affecting around one in five people. It can be a debilitating condition, causing people to feel anxious and stressed all the time. It can be hard to understand how to deal with anxiety, but there are a few simple techniques that can help. Here are five research-informed techniques that I’ve found to be particularly helpful for managing anxiety:
Relaxation technique — One of the best ways to relieve stress is to do something relaxing or meditative, such as taking a hot bath, reading a good book, or meditating. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to be particularly effective for reducing anxiety and stress. A study conducted in 2014 found that mindfulness meditation was more effective than drug therapy for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and stress in teenagers. So try to find some time to relax each day and practice mindfulness meditation when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.
Cognitive behavioural therapy — CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing unhelpful patterns of thinking or behaviour that are contributing to your stress and anxiety. It involves having regular meetings with a therapist to talk about your thoughts and feelings and how you handle them. The therapist will give you exercises to help you change these patterns and will help you to develop healthier ways of thinking and behaving. Studies have shown that CBT can be very effective for treating depression and anxiety in adults, and can be effective for young people as well. This type of therapy is usually delivered in a group setting, but there are also online programmes available that are suitable for adults or children.
Exercise — research has shown that exercise has many benefits including improved mood, lower levels of anxiety and depression, and reduced stress levels. Not only that, but studies have also found that people who exercise regularly tend to sleep better and have more energy throughout the day. This can be a good way to reduce stress and refresh yourself when you feel tired or stressed. It can also help you get motivated and improve concentration, so try to take some time out to exercise every day if you can. If you have access to a gym, that’s a great place to start, but you can also go for a walk, swim, or do some other form of physical activity like yoga or Pilates at home. Aim to do something you enjoy and make it part of your routine so that it becomes part of your daily life.
Get enough sleep — a lack of sleep can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. This can lead to a cycle of stress and sleep deprivation that can leave you feeling exhausted and unwell. It’s important to try to get between 7–9 hours of sleep each night to give your body a chance to recharge and recover. Try to limit screen time before bed to avoid stimulating your brain too much and making your mind race as you struggle to fall asleep. You can also get more tips on how to get more sleep here.
Seek support — it’s important to make sure you have people around you who can support you when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Whether it’s a friend, family member, partner, or health professional, having a strong support network can help you to feel better when things are tough and help you to cope with any problems you might be facing. Talking through your problems can help you get your thoughts and feelings under control and it can help you feel more relaxed. If you don’t have anyone you can talk to, try talking to a counsellor or other health professional who can help you find support when you need it. You can also speak to someone through any of the available life support lines in your region if you need assistance or support.