Managing Anxiety, Adult

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Managing Anxiety, Adult

Managing Anxiety, Adult

After being diagnosed with anxiety, 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 your anxiety.

How to manage lifestyle changes

Understanding the difference between stress and anxiety

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

Anxiety is caused by something internal, such as imagining a terrible outcome or worrying that something will go wrong that will greatly upset you. Anxiety often does not go away even after the event is over, and it can become a long-term (chronic) worry.

Lowering stress and anxiety

An adult doing mindful breathing while practicing yoga.

Talk with your health care provider or a counselor to learn more about lowering anxiety and stress. They may suggest tension-reduction techniques, such as:
  • Music. Spend time creating or listening to music that you enjoy and that inspires you.
  • Mindfulness-based meditation. Practice being aware of your normal breaths while not trying to control your breathing. It can be done while sitting or walking.
  • Centering prayer. Focus on a word, phrase, or sacred image that means something to you and brings you peace.
  • Deep breathing. Expand your stomach and inhale slowly through your nose. Hold your breath for 3–5 seconds. Then breathe out slowly, letting your stomach muscles relax.
  • Self-talk. Learn to notice and spot thought patterns that lead to anxiety reactions. Change those patterns to thoughts that feel peaceful.
  • Muscle relaxation. Take time to tense muscles and then relax them.

Choose a tension-reduction technique that fits your lifestyle and personality. These techniques take time and practice. Set aside 5–15 minutes a day to do them. Specialized 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 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.
  • Doing visual imagery. This involves imagining or creating mental pictures to help you relax.
  • Practicing yoga. Through yoga poses, you can lower tension and relax.


Medicines for anxiety include:
  • Antidepressant medicines. These are usually prescribed for long-term daily control.
  • Anti-anxiety medicines. These may be added in severe cases, especially when panic attacks occur.

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. Spend more time connecting with trusted friends and family members. Think about going to couples counseling if you have a partner, taking family education classes, or going to family therapy. Therapy can help you and others better understand your anxiety.

How to recognize changes in your anxiety

Everyone responds differently to treatment for anxiety. Recovery from anxiety happens when symptoms lessen and stop interfering with your daily life 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.

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

Follow these instructions at home:


  • Exercise. Adults should:
    • Exercise for at least 150 minutes each week. The exercise should increase your heart rate and make you sweat (moderate-intensity exercise).
    • Do 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.


Two adults cooking together in a kitchen. Fruit and vegetables are on the counter in front of them.
  • 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 fats, added sugars, or salt (sodium).
  • Make choices that simplify your life.
  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco. These products include cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping devices, such as e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your 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 provider.
  • Keep all follow-up visits. This is to make sure you are managing your anxiety well or if you need more support.

Where to find support

You can get help and support from:
  • 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 find counselors or support groups near you:

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have a hard time staying focused or finishing tasks.
  • You spend many hours a day feeling worried about everyday life.
  • You are very tired because you cannot stop worrying.
  • You start to have headaches or often feel tense.
  • You have chronic nausea or diarrhea.

Get help right away if:

  • Your heart feels like it is racing.
  • You have shortness of breath.
  • You have thoughts of hurting yourself or others.

Get help right away if you feel like you may hurt yourself or others, or have thoughts about taking your own life. Go to your nearest emergency room or:
  • Call 911.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 988. This is open 24 hours a day.
  • Text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

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.