Short on time? For the key points on how to deal with anxiety, stick to the bold text and the conclusion.
Anxiety is something very complicated. It’s a tense and uncomfortable feeling of fear and worries about what will or could happen. It’s often hard to find the causes. They could be in your environment but there could also be an underlying anxiety disorder.
As much as we would like to stop your anxiety, we will probably not be able to. That’s the truth. We can try to help but you might need to seek professional advice if the anxiety persists.
We know how annoying anxiety can be. It affects our concentration, decision-making, productivity and mental health. When you try to figure out how to deal with anxiety, a lot of tips can either be too technical or not nuanced enough. As we’re no experts, we’ll just give you three tips that have really helped us.
So what is the best way to deal with anxiety according to Top Three Guide? It’s a mix of different strategies to calm anxiety. Keeping a schedule and creating routines help deal with insecurities. They add purpose and structure. While they won’t fully get rid of anxiety, they will prevent higher levels of it. The below tips for dealing with anxiety, however, will give a strong boost to stop worrying and overthinking altogether.
Our tips for dealing with anxiety:
Avoid anxiety triggers
Anxiety triggers are stressful or unfamiliar situations that cause us to worry and feel uncomfortable. Some examples are: being in crowded places, giving a presentation or preparing for a performance review.
The news, for many people, is also a big trigger and one you can easily avoid. It is very often full of negativity, lies and exaggeration, without mentioning the media trying to control how we think and what we should think about.
Several studies have found that increased news media consumption leads to more present anxiety symptoms, such as sleeplessness,  lower levels of optimism  and more worrying about possible outcomes of events .
If you think this might cause another kind of anxiety, like missing out on important information, don’t worry. For the last five years, I’ve only consumed two minutes of news per day and I’ve never missed anything important because when something ground-breaking happens, people will tell you. For me, it means that I don’t get distracted by negative thoughts and worries. Moreover, while I’m not watching the news, I can spend more time on myself.
Anxiety can also be caused by doing too many things at once, or wanting to do more than you can handle. When’s the last time you said no to something you didn’t want to do? Learn to protect your time and space because an overloaded schedule will make you anxious and stressed.
As we said, anxiety can be caused by many other triggers as well. Knowing the cause of your anxiety might help release tension. When you’ve found the trigger, you can try to reduce it or look for solutions.
Chest pain, for instance, makes me very anxious, even though I know it’s caused by doing too many push-ups or a bad posture while writing. Having figured this out, I can find a solution, such as doing fewer push-ups, taking a day off and sitting up straight.
Anxiety can have a big impact on your life. Where possible, eliminate the triggers. Cutting down on news consumption is the biggest and easiest thing you can do right now.
Learn from the stoics
Sadly, some anxiety triggers will always be around. No matter how much we’d like to eliminate them, there’s no way around them. Sometimes, it’s also better to deal with your anxiety in a hands-on manner. If public speaking makes you very anxious, it’s a better idea to learn how to deal with anxiety than to eliminate public speaking entirely.
‘How you habitually think determines how you habitually feel. In cognitive psychology, this is known as the theory of cognitive mediation. And it states that things don’t cause emotions; it’s our thoughts about things that cause us to feel the way we do.’ – Nick Wignall
Enter stoicism. A couple of thousand years ago, a few Greeks and Romans had loads of time for meditation and philosophy. Especially the stoics came up with many brilliant solutions to stop worrying and overthinking. Even today, these practices are useful. That’s why stoicism plays an important role in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) nowadays. 
One of them is called premeditatio malorum, you might’ve heard of it. In this practice, you are encouraged to meditate about everything that could possibly go wrong and what you would do in the worst-case scenario.
How does this help? It prepares the brain for all the bad things it might have to deal with, making the eventual impact a lot more bearable. Besides, you’ll understand that you’re overestimating the possible consequences and underestimating your own abilities to cope.
This practice also reduces the fear of failure. All the possible bad outcomes are no longer unknown. When you have a good idea of what the worst-case scenario looks like and how to manage it, taking action becomes a lot easier. You can stop worrying and start doing.
There are two more stoic phrases worth mentioning: Amor fati and memento mori. The first one means “love your faith”. Many things are out of control. Focus on what is within control and accept what isn’t.
“If there is no solution to the problem, then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem, then don’t waste time worrying about it.” — The Dalai Lama.
Memento mori is basically a old way of saying ‘Valar Morghulis’, ‘all men must die’. Although this doesn’t seem very comforting, it helps to remind us that in the end, rich or poor, handsome or ugly, loved or hated, we will all die. Whether you spend 10, 20 or 30 hours worrying about a problem, it won’t make a difference. So why worry?
Instead, try to enjoy living in the moment. Practise meditation or mindfulness to experience the present moment.
Of course, stoicism is a whole lot deeper than this. We simply don’t have time to dive into all the details but you get the basics, right? If you want to learn more about the stoics, Ryan Holiday and the Tao of Seneca are good places to start.
Remember to differentiate between what’s within control and what is not. Don’t waste time worrying about the future but prepare yourself with stoic practices.
Release your anxiety
And if you can’t prevent it? Release it!
Mediation, sports, mindfulness and breathing exercises are some of the best strategies to calm anxiety. Besides, most of these won’t only help your mental well-being but also your physical health. ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’. (A healthy mind in a healthy body, I tend to forget English native speakers are mostly terrible at foreign languages. No offence.)
These practices will also make you a lot better at dealing with idleness. This is important because idleness leads to anxiety. The human mind is made to be occupied all the time and technology has made things worse. Say you’re on a date and your date goes to the bathroom for a few minutes? What do you do? You grab your phone, right? Same when you’re having a beer with a mate, waiting two minutes for the next tube or standing in line at Costas. You get anxious, fidgety and bored. You don’t know what to do with yourself and you grab your phone.
These habits just make things worse. Your monkey brain gets upset by seeing all the fun things people are doing while you are bored. You get more anxious. You get more FOMO. The urge to do more and experience more kicks in. Your 9/10 life isn’t good enough anymore because everybody seems to be living a 10/10 life. That’s the problem with social media. It’s all a big fat lie. Don’t get trapped. Don’t get your phone out.
I’m not going to claim that phone use will definitely cause anxiety issues. Yet, the more you get your phone out, the closer you might get to addiction. And addictions do lead to problems with depression  and separation anxiety .
Writing, finally, is another excellent strategy to deal with anxiety. One study with MS patients  has found positive effects. Other studies with medical students and nurses show promising results, although not conclusive.
While it might not be 100% clear yet if journalling has positive effects for all, it has worked for us. Penning down all your feelings after a heartbreak, keeping a daily gratitude journal or sending a message to a friend have all proven to be successful ways of dealing with anxiety and stress for us.
Journal, meditate and exercise to release your anxiety and stress. Learn to still your mind and stop worrying.
Bonus: Three tips to deal with stress
If you struggle with anxiety, you might experience some problems with stress as well. They are kind of related yet different. That’s why we also did some research on a couple of tactics to manage stress.
3 tips to deal with stress
- Identify the sources of your stress
- Expose yourself gradually to find solutions
- Write or talk about your stress
Read the full article on how to manage stress.
Dealing with anxiety in a nutshell
If eliminating anxiety triggers does not affect your personal or professional life, then cut away those triggers. Avoiding external triggers such as the news is a good start.
When anxiety stands in the way of success, however, deal with it. Face the challenge step by step. Use stoic practices to stop worrying and never forget to release your anxiety on a daily basis.
Remember that you don’t need drugs, alcohol or fast food to deal with anxiety. You’re strong enough to face the problem. Moreover, these cravings will only make things worse. And when you feel like giving in to them, reach out to someone. Call a friend, send us an email or contact a professional if the problems persist.
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Sources and further reading about dealing with anxiety
- The news is full of negativity, lies and exaggeration, without mentioning the media trying to control how we think and what we should think about. Moran Bodas, Maya Siman-Tov, Kobi Peleg & Zahava Solomon (2015) Anxiety-Inducing Media: The Effect of Constant News Broadcasting on the Well-Being of Israeli Television Viewers, Psychiatry, 78:3, 265-276, DOI: 10.1080/00332747.2015.1069658
- Mary E. McNaughton-cassill (2001) The news media and psychological distress, Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 14:2, 193-211, DOI: 10.1080/10615800108248354
- Caporino, N.E., Exley, S. & Latzman, R.D. Youth Anxiety About Political News. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev51, 683–698 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-020-00972-z
- Murguia, E., & Díaz, K. (2015). The philosophical foundations of cognitive behavioral therapy: Stoicism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Existentialism. Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies, 15(1). https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2015-15699-004
- Hasanzadeh P, Fallahi Khoshknab M, Norozi K. Impacts of Journaling on Anxiety and stress in Multiple Sclerosis patients. cmja. 2012; 2 (2) :183-193 URL: http://cmja.arakmu.ac.ir/article-1-21-en.html
- Sarah M. Coyne, Laura Stockdale, Kjersti Summers, Problematic cell phone use, depression, anxiety, and self-regulation: Evidence from a three year longitudinal study from adolescence to emerging adulthood, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 96, 2019, Pages 78-84, ISSN 0747-5632, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2019.02.014.
- Nancy A. Cheever, Larry D. Rosen, L. Mark Carrier, Amber Chavez, Out of sight is not out of mind: The impact of restricting wireless mobile device use on anxiety levels among low, moderate and high users, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 37, 2014, Pages 290-297, ISSN 0747-5632, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.05.002.
- Ashley Whillans. TED Ideas – https://ideas.ted.com/which-of-these-6-time-traps-is-eating-up-all-your-time/
- Nick Wignall – https://nickwignall.com/emotionally-secure-people/
- Nick Wignall – https://nickwignall.com/chronic-anxiety/
- Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., Ally Hirschlag. Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-to-cope-with-anxiety#quick-coping-methods
- NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/understanding-panic/
- ADAA – https://adaa.org/tips
- ADAA – https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/how-deal-your-covid-19-stress-anxiety-ocd
- This Way Up – https://thiswayup.org.au/learning-hub/anxiety-and-worry-explained/
- Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP, Charlotte Lillis. Medical News Today – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326134#:~:text=Anxiety%20is%20the%20feeling%20of,what%20people%20call%20anxiety%20triggers.