3 Expert-Backed Steps to Help Ease Anxiety

Follow these tips from psychologist Tamar Chansky on how to help manage worry.

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Updated on February 9, 2024.

A little anxiety is a part of daily life for most people. Will I make the bus in time this morning? Will my boss interpret that email the way I intended it? Will the baby wake me up tonight (again)?

But for some people, anxiety can become more severe and persistent. When your anxiety is consistent, interferes with your daily life, and worsens with time, you may have what’s known as an anxiety disorder. If you do, you’re not alone. As many as 31 percent of adults in the United States experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

If you have persistent or debilitating anxiety, it’s important to seek help from a healthcare provider (HCP) on ways to manage its symptoms. If you have occasional anxiety, there are ways you can tamp down worries when they crop up. Tamar Chansky, PhD, is a psychologist, author, and an expert in anxiety and stress. Read on for some of her top self-care techniques to reduce occasional anxiety and its symptoms.

Analyze your worries

Chansky says there are a few strategies that people can use to gain more control over anxiety. The key to all of them, she says, is learning to outsmart irrational thoughts, which are a major part of anxiety.

"Rather than let worry run round and round through your mind, take control and fact-check it," says Chansky. She recommends writing your thoughts down on a piece of paper. This simple act can help you find out what your worry is trying to tell you.

Next, turn the paper over. On the back side, take each point of your thought and turn it into a question. In other words, ask whether you think something you’re worried about is truly going to happen.

For example, if you're worrying you'll flop at an interview, ask yourself, "Have I done everything I can to prepare?" and "Will I really forget everything I know?"

Add a "yes / no" column next to your questions and check off your answer for each.

"Since anxiety tends to be unreliable, this process helps your mind be more honest with you," says Chansky. It helps you pinpoint why your anxiety started in the first place. By fact-checking your worry, you become more rational in the short-term, which affects how rational you are in the long-term.

Put things into perspective

Another way to fight irrational thoughts is to get the opinion of people you trust.

"Get perspective on your worry from other people, like a friend or colleague,” says Chansky. “Think of two to four people you really trust. Then think about how they would advise you in that situation. Both of these strategies help you rely less on the emotional part of your brain and more on the thinking part of your brain."

If your anxiety causes you to feel like a situation is “terrible” or that everything is "awful," try looking at it from a new perspective.

"A great way to replace that emotion is through relabeling or looking at an event in a completely different way to help you understand the source of your worry," says Chansky.

For example, could getting a traffic ticket be a much-needed warning that you really do need to slow down? Could you relabel an unwieldy project at work as a chance to show off your organizational skills?

Talk to your healthcare provider about what's right for you

For many people with occasional anxiety, these strategies offer ways to cope in the moment. But if anxiety becomes a regular occurrence for you, having a though discussion with a healthcare provider can help you better understand the roots of your worry and help you get the treatment for anxiety you may need.

If you have panic attacks, you may need other strategies to get through them. Chansky says the best way to deal with panic is to talk to a therapist to discuss what has happened. During an attack, it can help to say calming things to yourself instead of asking questions. Tell yourself things like, “This is a panic attack. I’m fine. I’m not going to die.”

"All in all, it's always a good idea to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider,” says Chansky. “That way, you can gain a better understanding of what works and what doesn't work for your specific disorder.”

Article sources open article sources

National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety Disorders. Last Reviewed: April 2023.
National Institute of Mental Health. Any Anxiety Disorder. Accessed February 9, 2024.

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