You don’t need to struggle with anxiety – there are lots of ways to manage it. One of the most important things you can do is be kind to yourself. Try not to judge yourself (e.g. “what’s wrong with me?” or “why can’t I handle this?”) as this can make you feel worse. Instead, acknowledge your feelings and remember you’re doing the best you can.
Approaching your anxiety with curiosity instead of judgement will help you understand it and find ways to manage it.
Remember, anxiety is a very common condition and there are lots of things you can do to get help.
What works for each of us will be different. You may need to try a few different approaches before you find one that helps you. Your health professional can also help you find the best approach.
Practical places to start
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Relaxation, mindfulness and meditation
Online programs and apps
It’s a good idea to try a range of self-help strategies. You might find different strategies work for different situations or symptoms. There is no right or wrong formula, so don’t be afraid to try them all.
There are often things, known as triggers, that can lead to anxiety. These can be different for everyone. You can also have more than one trigger. You may not always be able to avoid your triggers, but when you recognise them, it can help you to manage your anxiety.
Common triggers include:
You can try to understand what is contributing to your anxiety by following these eight steps:
It can also help to talk about this strategy with someone you trust. They might help you or give you other ideas.
When you have anxious thoughts like “I can’t”, switch to positive thoughts like “I can”. Try to imagine a calm or coping thought, for example, “This too will pass.” And remember: anxiety is a feeling, not a fact.
Choose positive words you use regularly. The words should also focus on what you want to happen. When you say the words, try to believe they are true. Be confident about your ability to cope. You can also imagine a trusted person is advising you on how to handle the situation.
Select one or two statements from the list below or make up your own. Repeat the statements at least seven times each day. You can repeat them when you remember to, or when you feel anxious.
When you were growing up, you might have learnt to keep your feelings and concerns inside. If you have anxiety, keeping your feelings inside can make you feel alone. When you talk to others, you will feel better and might learn some new strategies.
You might talk to your partner, friend, a family member or work colleague.
Find someone who:
There are lots of ways to express your thoughts and feelings to reduce your anxiety. We have listed some ideas, but you might like to express yourself in other ways.
You can write your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Buy a notebook or write your thoughts on your computer or an app. You might do this when you notice anxious thoughts or as part of a regular routine, for example, daily or weekly. It’s totally up to you. But make sure this activity is helpful and doesn’t make you feel stressed. It’s important be honest and non-judgemental about your feelings. Remember to keep your journal private – unless you choose to share it with someone you trust.
It can be helpful to change your focus from thinking to doing. You can distract yourself and reduce your anxiety with things like household tasks or creative activities. Depending on your interests, you might try things like creative writing, gardening, painting, knitting or singing. Being creative helps you let go of anxious thoughts and gives you a sense of achievement.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment that can be used to help manage anxiety. It aims to change unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving that can trigger anxiety or make you feel more anxious.
CBT may involve learning:
There are many ways to learn about CBT (e.g. online programs), but you will get the most out of your therapy if you work with a therapist. Therapists who are trained in CBT can tailor a program to meet your individual needs.
Relaxation and mindfulness techniques can slow down your heart and breathing rates, reduce blood pressure, and decrease muscle tension. They can also help you to focus on the present moment. There are many different relaxation classes and apps to explore. Remember, everyone is different so if one technique doesn’t work, try another one.
Muscles tense up when your body is anxious. Progressive muscle relaxation can help lessen your anxiety. Try tensing different muscle groups (e.g. shoulders) then slowly relaxing them.
This video shows how to do progressive muscle relaxation.
You can try deep breathing as part of your daily routine or when you start to feel anxious. This technique can be done anytime, anywhere.
Follow these simple steps:
This video shows how to do deep breathing.
Mindfulness is when you pay attention to what’s happening right here, right now. Research shows that mindfulness helps to reduce anxiety. Mindfulness techniques are similar in effectiveness to cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) or psychological therapy.
Emerging evidence also shows that when mindfulness practices focus on building self-compassion they could be even more effective.
Self-compassion means being kind to yourself when you’re having a hard time or notice something you don’t like about yourself. It’s important to acknowledge these moments and think about how you can take care of yourself.
Mindfulness can be a useful starting place to help with your anxiety, or it can be used in addition to other interventions.
Try this mindfulness exercise:
Next time you go for a walk, breathe deeply and notice what’s happening around you. Focus on what you see, hear, smell, feel and taste. Be interested and curious. Try to stay in the moment.
In this podcast, mindfulness expert Peter Muizulis guides you through a mindfulness meditation that you can practise right now, and return to time and again. Remember, mindfulness takes focus and practise, so keep trying!
Meditation is a type of mind-body relaxation therapy. There is some evidence to suggest meditation might help reduce anxiety, stress, blood pressure, chronic pain and insomnia.
Meditation involves concentrating your mind on one thing such as breathing, body movements, sounds, or even a mantra (chant). Meditation can help you to stay calm and focused in the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or future.
There are many different types of meditation, including mindfulness meditation and visualisation meditation. All can be beneficial. But it’s important to find a practice that works for you.
Mindfulness meditation involves slow breathing and letting thoughts come and go without paying too much attention to them. The aim is to reduce the number of thoughts and focus on the present moment.
This involves imagining a scene where you feel at peace and are free to let go of tension and anxiety. For example, using your five senses, imagine:
If you find it hard to quiet your mind and imagine a different scenario on your own, you can try a guided imagery meditation app.
Yoga is a form of meditation. The gentle body movements can help you feel relaxed. Research suggests yoga can:
Yoga classes might help you to:
Laughter can reduce feelings of anxiety. Have you ever noticed how you feel after a good belly laugh?
That’s because laughter produces natural chemicals that:
To add a bit more laughter to your life, you could:
Pets can improve your physical and psychological wellbeing. If you cannot take on the responsibility of a pet, you could offer to mind or walk someone else’s pet.
You might be able to get an emotional support animal (ESA). ESAs are trained to keep people grounded during panic attacks, reduce social anxiety and provide comfort.
If you’re looking for information online, it is best to use websites, apps, and blogs from well-respected sources such as those with government backing or from an organisation with experts who understand anxiety.
Read tips on how to write a journal.
Watch this video about progressive muscle relaxation.
Watch this video about deep breathing.
In this podcast, mindfulness expert Peter Muizulis guides you through a mindfulness exercise that you can practise at any time.
Watch the video featuring Dr Craig Hassed from Monash University talking about mindfulness and how it can help you feel calm and relaxed.
You can try:
Read the Australian alcohol guidelines.
For health advice about smoking visit Quit.org.au
In this podcast, psychologist Moira Junge talks about night owls, sleep disorders and why we shouldn’t panic when we can’t doze off.
For health advice about sleep visit Sleep Health Foundation.
Thanks to Liptember Foundation for supporting Jean Hailes to produce these pages on anxiety. Each year, the Liptember Campaign raises funds and awareness for women's mental health during the month of September.
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at June 2022.
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