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 Managing Anxiety, Adult

Managing Anxiety, Adult

After being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you may be relieved to know why you have felt or behaved a certain way. You may also feel overwhelmed about the treatment ahead and what it will mean for your life. With care and support, you can manage this condition and recover from it.

How to manage lifestyle changes

Managing stress and anxiety

Stress is your body's reaction to life changes and events, both good and bad. Most stress will last just a few hours, but stress can be ongoing and can lead to more than just stress. Although stress can play a major role in anxiety, it is not the same as anxiety. Stress is usually caused by something external, such as a deadline, test, or competition. Stress normally passes after the triggering event has ended.

Anxiety is caused by something internal, such as imagining a terrible outcome or worrying that something will go wrong that will devastate you. Anxiety often does not go away even after the triggering event is over, and it can become long-term (chronic) worry. It is important to understand the differences between stress and anxiety and to manage your stress effectively so that it does not lead to an anxious response.

Talk with your health care provider or a counselor to learn more about reducing anxiety and stress. He or she may suggest tension reduction techniques, such as:
  • Music therapy. This can include creating or listening to music that you enjoy and that inspires you.
  • Mindfulness-based meditation. This involves being aware of your normal breaths while not trying to control your breathing. It can be done while sitting or walking.
  • Centering prayer. This involves focusing on a word, phrase, or sacred image that means something to you and brings you peace.
  • Deep breathing. To do this, expand your stomach and inhale slowly through your nose. Hold your breath for 3–5 seconds. Then exhale slowly, letting your stomach muscles relax.
  • Self-talk. This involves identifying thought patterns that lead to anxiety reactions and changing those patterns.
  • Muscle relaxation. This involves tensing muscles and then relaxing them.

Choose a tension reduction technique that suits your lifestyle and personality. These techniques take time and practice. Set aside 5–15 minutes a day to do them. Therapists can offer counseling and training in these techniques. The training to help with anxiety may be covered by some insurance plans. Other things you can do to manage stress and anxiety include:
  • Keeping a stress/anxiety diary. This can help you learn what triggers your reaction and then learn ways to manage your response.
  • Thinking about how you react to certain situations. You may not be able to control everything, but you can control your response.
  • Making time for activities that help you relax and not feeling guilty about spending your time in this way.
  • Visual imagery and yoga can help you stay calm and relax.


Medicines can help ease symptoms. Medicines for anxiety include:
  • Anti-anxiety drugs.
  • Antidepressants.

Medicines are often used as a primary treatment for anxiety disorder. Medicines will be prescribed by a health care provider. When used together, medicines, psychotherapy, and tension reduction techniques may be the most effective treatment.


Relationships can play a big part in helping you recover. Try to spend more time connecting with trusted friends and family members. Consider going to couples counseling, taking family education classes, or going to family therapy. Therapy can help you and others better understand your condition.

How to recognize changes in your anxiety

Everyone responds differently to treatment for anxiety. Recovery from anxiety happens when symptoms decrease and stop interfering with your daily activities at home or work. This may mean that you will start to:
  • Have better concentration and focus. Worry will interfere less in your daily thinking.
  • Sleep better.
  • Be less irritable.
  • Have more energy.
  • Have improved memory.

It is important to recognize when your condition is getting worse. Contact your health care provider if your symptoms interfere with home or work and you feel like your condition is not improving.

Follow these instructions at home:


  • Exercise. Most adults should do the following:
    • Exercise for at least 150 minutes each week. The exercise should increase your heart rate and make you sweat (moderate-intensity exercise).
    • Strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
  • Get the right amount and quality of sleep. Most adults need 7–9 hours of sleep each night.


  • Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein. Do not eat a lot of foods that are high in solid fats, added sugars, or salt.
  • Make choices that simplify your life.
  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and chewing tobacco. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and certain over-the-counter cold medicines. These may make you feel worse. Ask your pharmacist which medicines to avoid.

General instructions

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Where to find support

You can get help and support from these sources:
  • Self-help groups.
  • Online and community organizations.
  • A trusted spiritual leader.
  • Couples counseling.
  • Family education classes.
  • Family therapy.

Where to find more information

You may find that joining a support group helps you deal with your anxiety. The following sources can help you locate counselors or support groups near you:

Contact a health care provider if you:

  • Have a hard time staying focused or finishing daily tasks.
  • Spend many hours a day feeling worried about everyday life.
  • Become exhausted by worry.
  • Start to have headaches, feel tense, or have nausea.
  • Urinate more than normal.
  • Have diarrhea.

Get help right away if you have:

  • A racing heart and shortness of breath.
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or others.

If you ever feel like you may hurt yourself or others, or have thoughts about taking your own life, get help right away. You can go to your nearest emergency department or call:
  • Your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.).
  • A suicide crisis helpline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This is open 24 hours a day.


  • Taking steps to learn and use tension reduction techniques can help calm you and help prevent triggering an anxiety reaction.
  • When used together, medicines, psychotherapy, and tension reduction techniques may be the most effective treatment.
  • Family, friends, and partners can play a big part in helping you recover from an anxiety disorder.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.