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How to deal with anxiety

Discover expert strategies for managing one of Australia's most common mental health conditions.

Anxiety can make it hard to cope with simple tasks—from rushing home from work to putting dinner together or supervising your children’s homework. And it’s one of the most common mental health conditions there is. It’s estimated that anxiety affects one in four Australians. 

Below is a list of the topics we’ll cover in this article. Go ahead and click on any of these links and you’ll be taken to that specific section.

What causes anxiety?

There are many causes of anxiety. Feeling anxious or nervous about a situation can be normal. But if these feelings last for a long time, or aren’t linked to an event, your ability to cope with daily life might be affected.  

Symptoms of anxiety can include: 

  • feeling nervous, scared or worried 
  • avoiding going outside, participating in activities or seeing people 
  • finding it hard to concentrate 
  • worrying about your daily activities 
  • avoiding activities  
  • having difficulty sleeping 
  • feeling short tempered and/or irritable 
  • changes in appetite or sleeping patterns.  

Anxiety can also cause physical sensations, including: 

  • feeling dizzy or sweaty 
  • having a racing heart 
  • finding it hard to breathe or breathing very fast 
  • having muscle aches or feelings of tension throughout your body 
  • experiencing panic attacks 
  • feeling sick to your stomach 
  • having shaky legs and/or arms 
  • hot and/or cold flushes. 

To reduce feelings of anxiety, it’s helpful to identify what’s triggering these feelings. 

Triggers for anxiety can be different for everyone. Some triggers might be more obvious than others— like drinking too much caffeine, smoking or drinking alcohol.  

Other triggers anxiety can include: 

  • having a stressful work environment or job 
  • travelling or driving 
  • fearing closed spaces (claustrophobia) or open/crowded spaces (agoraphobia) 
  • having another mental health issue like depression 
  • withdrawing from certain medications, alcohol and/or drugs.

Do you need help to identify your anxiety triggers or to manage physical symptoms? Book an appointment with our team of highly trained and experienced GPs.  

How to reduce the physical sensations of anxiety 

It’s possible to reduce anxiety’s physical symptoms. Here are just a few ways to lessen feelings of anxiety and prevent an anxiety attack. 

Exercise: A brisk 15-to-20-minute walk can help your body release endorphins and feel-good hormones. If you’re unable to go for a walk, you could try an online yoga video. 

Breathe: When stress and anxiety levels rise, your breathing can get faster. Slowing your breathing down and taking a few deep breaths can calm your mind, as well as reducing muscle tension. You could try a technique called ‘square breathing’—when you inhale, count to 4 slowly. When you exhale, count to 4 again slowly. 

Take some time out: Doing something you enjoy can help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Reading a book, calling a friend, or listening to your favourite music could all help you feel calmer. Scheduling regular ‘me time’ is a good way to nurture your mental health. 

Get organised: It’s easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed when things are a little bit chaotic. Using to-do lists with deadlines can help you stay on track, and feel less anxious.  

Long-term anxiety management strategies 

The following strategies are just a few of the things you can try to reduce stress and anxiety. 

  1. Adopt a healthy lifestyle. This doesn’t mean you have to join a gym. Consider taking a bike ride, walking with a neighbour or practising yoga at home. Eating healthy food and getting a good night’s sleep can also help reduce anxiety. 
  2. Reduce or remove caffeine and alcohol from your diet. Too much caffeine or alcohol can worsen the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety. In some people, too much caffeine or alcohol can also trigger panic attacks.
  1. Try progressive muscle relaxation. This relaxation technique can reduce muscle tension caused by anxiety. Sit in a chair or lie flat and close your eyes. Start to slowly tense each of your muscle groups from your head to toes. Hold the muscle tension for 3 seconds, before releasing quickly. You can ask your psychologist or mental health worker more about learning this technique.
  1. Stay in the present moment. If you’re always thinking about the future or pastfeelings of anxiety or dread can get worse. Our mental health professionals can teach you how to pay more attention to the present moment. 
  1. Track your anxiety. Tracking your anxiety can be a helpful way to manage it. Keeping a diary every day can help you figure out when your anxiety is better or worse. You might also find out more about your triggers. This information can help you see patterns and is useful for when you’re planning your week, or trying out new coping strategies.
  1. Let others know you’re feeling anxious. When you let your family and friends know that you’re feeling anxiety or dread, they can help support you. If this isn’t an option, book an appointment with one of our GPs or mental health professionals. 
  1. Get involved with your local community. Volunteering in your local community can help bring meaning and purpose to your life. It can also help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Not only will you help your community, but you’ll meet other like-minded people.  

Need help managing your anxiety? Book an appointment with our team of mental health professionals. 

When to see a mental health professional 

Many of us experience anxiety, dread or difficult emotional issues at some point. You don’t have to deal with these by yourself—a mental health professional can help 

Common reasons to see a mental health professional include: 

  • Learning how to manage the anxiety and stress in your life that’s making it hard to cope. 
  • Learning healthy coping behaviours, and letting go of ones that might be damaging your health. These can include using alcohol or other substances more than usual, or not taking as much care of your physical health. 

Access Health and Community have a team of highly trained and experienced GPs and mental health professionals including Psychologists and counsellors.  

The GPs at our Richmond and Hawthorn clinics can develop a mental health care treatment plan for you. This allows you to claim up to 20 counselling sessions every calendar year with a mental health professional. If the health professional bulk bills, Medicare covers the cost of these counselling sessions.  

For free mental health care services or to find a Psychologist near you, visit HeadtoHelp and headspace. 

Contact us

After-hours contacts

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For after-hours medical care call 132660.

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