5 ways to manage your anxiety, according to a psychologist

18 Jun 2024

If you live with anxiety, you’re certainly not alone. Over three million Aussies experience anxiety each year – so we asked a psychologist how to deal.   

Have you ever had a racing heart and sweaty palms when you’re running from a sabre-toothed tiger late for work? How about thoughts spiralling for 20 minutes about whether you said the wrong thing to that lady serving your latte?

If you live with anxiety, you’re certainly not alone. Anxiety is the most common mental health condition – in fact, it affects 17% of Australians aged 16-85 each year. That equates to 3.3 million Aussies living with anxiety. Thankfully, there are a number of science-backed tools we can add to our game plan for when anxiety rears its head.

Scroll on as Dr Samantha Tang, Clinical Psychologist at THIS WAY UP, shares five of her best strategies for managing anxiety.

What’s the difference between everyday stress and anxiety?

“Anxiety is a normal human emotion that we experience when there is a danger in our environment. It is a part of our body’s fight-or-flight response, whereby it prepares our body to run away from, or fight, threats to our survival. 

However, anxiety can become an issue if it’s excessive, persistent, or triggered even when there is no actual danger in our environment. Anxiety should also be addressed when it interferes with our daily lives – for example, if it stops us being able to work or socialise.” 

Does connection with others help with anxiety?

“While it’s normal to feel lonely from time-to-time, experiencing loneliness for a prolonged period of time can have many adverse physical and mental health consequences, including higher levels of depression and anxiety. Having a sense of connection with others and feeling like a part of a community is essential for our wellbeing and mental health. 

It can also help to talk with trusted friends or loved ones when experiencing difficult emotions, such as anxiety, and in this way our social connections can also play an important role in feeling supported and understood.” 

What other strategies would you recommend people use to manage their anxiety?

1. Focus on the present: Anxiety often takes our minds to the past or the future, making it difficult to be in the present moment. You can practice being in the moment by focusing on your breath, or noticing the things around you, including sounds, smells and sights. 

2. Challenge your thoughts: Anxiety is often associated with catastrophic thoughts or worries (in other words, assuming the worst-case scenario). It can be helpful to challenge this style of thinking by asking yourself questions like, ‘What evidence do I have that tells me this belief is untrue?’, ‘What would I tell a friend facing this situation?’ and ‘What tells me that I’m capable of coping?’

3. Face your fears: Anxiety often causes people to avoid certain activities – for example, facing a difficult task at work – due to worries about not being able to cope. However, avoiding these activities keeps our anxiety going because we’re unable to learn that we are in fact capable of more than we think. It can be helpful to put our worries to the test by facing our fears – and, in the process, learning that the things that we worry about are unlikely to happen, and that we are capable of coping. 

Can online programs help with anxiety?

THIS WAY UP offers evidence-based online treatment programs for anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. All of the THIS WAY UP online programs use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) strategies to help ease symptoms of anxiety. CBT is considered to be one of the leading psychological treatments for anxiety. 

Our online treatment program for generalised anxiety offers practical strategies for managing persistent and hard-to-control worry. If your anxiety is not generalised about many different things, but is more focused on one particular domain, check out our other programs, such as the Social Anxiety program or the PTSD program.”  

Visit THIS WAY UP's website to find their online treatment program for generalised anxiety. 

Check out our Stories section to read more mental health-related articles.