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Tips and Techniques of Coping with Anxiety and Worry

Mar 06, 2024

Anxiety and worry are feelings that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. These emotions, while uncomfortable, are natural responses designed to keep us safe and alert. However, when these feelings become overwhelming and interfere with daily life, it’s important to understand them and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Left unattended, worry and anxious feelings can escalate over time, potentially leading to anxiety disorders, panic attacks, depression, and significant disruptions in daily life. This article looks at anxiety and worry, exploring their causes and how they differ from each other.

We’ll also explore strategies for managing these emotions, including seeking support, practising mindfulness, engaging in healthy habits, and using grounding techniques like square breathing and exercise. It also helps to reach out to a mental health provider near you.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, discomfort, or nervousness. It’s a natural response to threats and the unknown and a way for your body and mind to prepare for possible danger. An anxiety attack doesn’t always have a specific source or reason.

While it can be triggered by real or perceived threats, it can also be caused by:

  • Uncertain situations
  • Upcoming events
  • General worries about everyday life
  • Past negative experiences

Anxiety symptoms can range from mild to severe. When anxiety levels become excessive and interfere with daily life, it can be a sign of an anxiety disorder, and you need anxiety therapy.

What is worry?

On the other hand, Worry is like the mind’s way of playing detective, trying to predict the future, more like a storyteller spinning tales of “what ifs” and potential plot twists. A bit of worry time can be helpful, like having a cautious friend reminding you to double-check the stove or not forget your keys. But when worry becomes a reality in your waking moments, you need to do something about it.

Anxiety is the broader emotional and physiological response to a perceived threat, while worry refers explicitly to the cognitive process of repetitive and often intrusive thoughts about potential future threats.

Why people get anxious

In her book ‘’Why has nobody told me this before’’, Dr Smith mentions that fear is part of our survival response. It’s supposed to be intensely uncomfortable, and the urges to escape and then avoid the feared situation are supposed to be strong. If we are in a survival situation, that system works incredibly well to keep us safe.

Unfortunately, the urges are still the same even in other situations when your life is not in danger. Avoiding a fearful situation is a tempting manoeuvre, a sidestep away from discomfort and unease. However, the things that give us immediate relief from fear tend to feed that fear in the long term.

Every time you say no to something because of fear, you reconfirm your belief that it wasn’t safe or that you couldn’t handle it. Then, attempts to control and eliminate fear become the real problem that dictates your every move. That is called avoidance. The thing is, fear is around every turn, in every novel situation humans face, in every creative endeavour and in every learning experience.

Anxiety and the avoidance trap

Avoidance often entangles individuals in a web of limitations, hindering personal growth and resilience. It thrives in the comfort zones you create for yourself. These zones act as protective bubbles, shielding you from the discomfort associated with fear and anxiety-inducing scenarios like social situations (social anxiety). Contrary to avoidance’s soothing security, discomfort is not the enemy.

Rather, it’s the catalyst for growth, resilience, and personal development. Through exposure therapy or gradually exposing yourself to feared situations and reframing discomfort as a stepping stone rather than an obstacle, you can foster a sense of empowerment and mastery over your fears. Human brains learn like scientists, recording every experience, whether good or bad, as evidence to support our existing beliefs.

But just telling our brain that something is safe is just not enough. You must experience it. When you learn to face things that make you feel afraid, you get stronger. So, you need to keep repeating the behaviour. The things you do most often become your comfort zone over time.

Tips for coping with anxiety and worry

Feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and worry? Here are some tips to help you cope effectively.

  1. Talk about it

    Sharing your feelings with a friend, family member, or a mental health professional can help lighten the load. Ensure you have a good support system around you.

  2. Stay present

    Mindfulness or focusing on the here and now can help calm anxiety and worry.

  3. Healthy habits and lifestyle changes

    Regular exercise, enough sleep, and eating well can greatly affect our feelings.

    Remember, it’s okay to feel anxiety, worry, and fear. They’re natural parts of life. But they shouldn’t take over your life. Learning to manage these feelings can help you live more freely and happily. If you’re finding it hard to handle these feelings on your own, reaching out for help is a strong and brave step.

Anxiety management techniques

There are a couple of grounding techniques you can try to manage the feelings of worry and anxiety. Here are two main ones:

Breathing exercises

One of the most common relaxation techniques is known as “square” or “box” breathing because each of the four steps is the same length, forming the sides of a square when visualised. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Breathe in

Take a deep breath slowly through your nose, counting to four (or more as you practice). Focus on filling your lungs completely with deep breaths, allowing your abdomen to rise as you take in the air.

Step 2: Hold

Gently hold your breath, keeping the air inside for another count of four. Try to do this without tensing up your body.

Step 3: Breathe out

Slowly exhale through your mouth for the same count of four, releasing all the air from your lungs and abdomen. Engage your core to ensure all the air is expelled.

Step 4: Repeat

After exhaling, hold your breath once more for a count of four, keeping your lungs empty before starting the next inhalation.

This breathing pattern can be repeated for several minutes. By focusing on the count and the square pattern, square breathing can help distract from stressors and negative thoughts, reduce rapid breathing, and bring about a sense of calm. This is just one of the self regulation and grounding techniques you can practice almost anywhere, and anytime you need to centre yourself or manage your stress levels.

Movement Exercises

Exercise is another best anxiety management technique because it follows the natural course of the threat response. Your body is geared up to move. Physical movement will relieve your body of physical stress so that when you sit down to relax, you can feel calm and help you to replenish.

Walk in nature, do yoga or tai chi, do gentle movements or stretches, take a short jog outside, or go for a swim. Basically, do whatever physical activity makes you feel good, keeps you moving and helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Anxiety, worry, and fear are all related. They’re part of how humans react to stress and the unknown. The main difference is how immediate they are. Fear jumps out when danger is right in front of us. An anxiety attack is like a warning signal for future danger. Worry is our mind trying to juggle all the potential problems we might face.

If your anxiety or worry is too much to handle or is greatly affecting your everyday life, don’t hesitate to seek help from support groups and a mental health provider. Minds Online offers personalised advice, treatment options, and assistance to assist you in developing effective ways to manage your emotions and live a fulfilling life.



Director, Clinical Psychologist



Clinical Psychologist



Registered Psychologist



Mental Health OT / Counsellor