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About This Resource

What It Does

This article explains:

Information about anxiety
Tips for shifting to a healthier mindset

How It Helps

This tool can help you:

Understand what anxiety is and how to manage it
Learn coping strategies
Break the cycle of anxiety

This article explains:

Information about anxiety
Tips for shifting to a healthier mindset

This tool can help you:

Understand what anxiety is and how to manage it
Learn coping strategies
Break the cycle of anxiety

In addition to resources like this one, Homewood Health and Kids Help Phone also offer 24/7 confidential counselling at no cost.

If you'd like to speak to somebody, you can call or text the numbers below:

📞 Phone. Call 1-866-585-0445 (Adults) or 1-888-668-6810 (Youth) to speak with a counsellor.

📱 Text (SMS). Text WELLNESS to 741741 (Adult) or 686868 (Youth) to connect with a trained volunteer crisis responder for support.

However, If you’re interested in finding more resources like this one, including self-guided courses, webinars, peer-to-peer support groups, live counselling, mindfulness meditations, and more, you can create an account for free. You’ll also be able to complete a wellness assessment and track your progress towards your wellness goals.

Were you ever afraid of the dark when you were a child? Were you convinced that a boogeyman lived in the darkest corner of your closet? Did the sight of certain bugs, like spiders or earwigs, make your skin crawl?

We are all blessed with the gift of imagination. When used wisely, our imaginations are the source of creativity. But if misused, our imagination can become the source of our anxieties.

Anxiety and fear are a part of everyone’s lives. They are natural and necessary emotions. They arise whenever situations threaten us or place extreme demands on us.

When we experience these emotions, our stress response is triggered. It kickstarts our sympathetic nervous system into action. Adrenaline is released into our blood, our hearts beat faster, and our major muscle groups get ready to go. This “supercharging” helps us protect ourselves quickly and effectively.

For some people, events such as public speaking or completing a report on time can trigger a severe stress response. In these cases, the perceived threat is subjective. That is, there is no actual physical risk. Those of us who suffer from anxiety have an overactive stress response, which is triggered by subjective fears. The end result is that we suffer from worries, doubts, and avoidance. All of this reduces our ability to enjoy life.

About 30% of the general population will have anxiety at some point in their lifetime. Anxiety can manifest in many ways. For example, it can cause dry mouth, headaches, muscular tension, insomnia, rapid heartbeats, poor concentration, or digestive problems.

In severe cases, anxiety is associated with compulsive behaviours, phobias, or the avoidance of certain situations. Luckily, anxiety disorders are treatable. Even though some of us may always have a tendency to be anxious, we can learn ways to minimize anxiety’s impacts.

Managing anxiety

The physical symptoms associated with anxiety are a misguided way in which our bodies attempt to protect us from harm. By knowing this, we open the door to identifying coping strategies that are more helpful than anxiety-based responses.

We may not be able to control the thoughts and feelings that accompany anxiety. But we can develop new ways to respond to them. We can choose to implement strategies to soothe ourselves, rather than rushing into an anxiety attack.

If you have anxiety, before exploring counselling or self-help, it is important to ensure this condition doesn’t have a medical cause. Anxiety can be associated with a range of medical conditions. Be sure to have a complete medical exam to rule out these potential causes.

The symptoms of anxiety can be intense and physical, as anyone who has ever had a panic attack knows. We need to be sure these symptoms result from emotional issues rather than physical ones. This knowledge lets us explore effective treatments.

More often than not, anxious behaviours are habitual and unconscious responses. We often develop these habits to cope with upsetting events in the past. When faced with an overwhelming situation, such as having to present in front of the class, a child may develop the habit of over-rehearsing and over-planning the presentation. As an adult, these behaviours become problematic when, as an employee, there is an expectation to participate in meetings without an opportunity to prepare. Over time, what was once a solution to a problem becomes a new problem.

So what are some of the ways we can manage anxiety? What do we need to do to become more peaceful in stressful situations? How do we learn to be less anxious?

Here are some suggestions to help you manage your anxiety. As with any behavioural change, you will need to give yourself time to learn new habits. You will also need to practise new skills regularly so they can become established. Don’t be shy about seeking help.

Healthy thinking is a choice.

The first place to start is to separate your current thought habits from your core identity. Give yourself space to change how you think and respond to situations. You are not your thoughts. You can select what you think about. Just as you can change the TV channel, you can select whether to attend to your anxious thoughts or to replace them with calming ones.

Although life itself is not controllable, you can choose how you respond to events. If you believe you are going to be anxious forever, you probably will be. But if you give yourself permission to try out new ways of thinking and being, you will discover options you didn’t know about. You may just end up changing your beliefs about yourself in the process.

Stay grounded in the present.

Anxious thoughts are focused on the future. We may think we can control how we will feel or think in the future. But this is an illusion. We can imagine the future, but we can’t actually know what will happen until it arrives.

When we are anxious, we travel forward in our minds, making plans about “what ifs.” We worry about things that may happen, and try to control events that haven’t occurred.

Our bodies cannot distinguish between imagination and reality. If we are imagining something bad will happen, we feel the anxiety and tension that goes along with that experience. We create a negative experience for ourselves, whether or not it actually ever comes to pass. This is why if you spend all night lying awake worrying about getting your work done, you wake up exhausted. You’ve been “working” all night! No wonder you feel tired.

To counter this tendency, we need to develop ways to stay grounded in the present. Practising deep breathing, going for a walk, paying attention to your surroundings, or journaling are common ways to connect to the present.

Strategies like these let you short-circuit anxiety. Whatever strategy you choose, the goal is to stay here and now, in the reality of the moment. We make choices about how we will think and act in each present moment, not in the one that just passed or the one that is yet to come. Right here, right in this minute, is where we have control. The present moment is where we have the ability to choose health and refuse anxiety.

Learn to accept feelings — don’t resist or judge them.

Feeling emotionally or physically out of control, or experiencing anxiety symptoms, is frightening. Sometimes we react to these symptoms by becoming even more anxious. This self-generated, negative reinforcement is counterproductive. We end up creating more of the condition that we are trying to escape.

To break this cycle, we need to be able to see the symptoms of anxiety with neutrality. For example, identifying “rapid heartbeat” or “sweating palms” without telling ourselves that it is only going to get worse. If I experience a rapid heartbeat, I can take several deep breaths and remind myself that I’m OK, that I can slow down and take a moment to centre myself. Then, I will start to calm down. But if I interpret my rapid heartbeat as a possible heart attack, I will increase my anxiety.

It takes effort to reinterpret our perceptions of events. We have to be open to new possibilities. We have to be willing to experiment. We have to value being healthy. We may need help from others to show us what to do. But the rewards of making this change are sweet: we reclaim our self-esteem, we get to participate in our lives again, and we show ourselves that we have the courage and ability to take on big challenges.