What Can I Do for Anxiety?


Recommendations for symptoms of anxiety:

The following section was written in the perspective of a psychiatrist (Dr. Saleh), and what they might recommend for someone who has anxiety.

As mentioned in the encyclopedia section, there are different causes and different kinds of anxiety, depending on the signs presented. An assessment through your family doctor can help exclude physical conditions and to understand what’s going on. Talk with a health professional to help determine the best course of treatment for you. 


Prevention is better than Treatment

Addressing your anxiety early on can help prevent future episodes and keep your anxiety from getting worse.


Basic Lifestyle Recommendations

  • Self-care: Look at your own self-care – are you eating enough and sleeping enough? Irregular behaviours in these areas may trigger anxiety. Read more about sleep here.
  • Relax: Take some time for yourself to relax, away from work or school. For example, see a friend, listen to some music, or watch a movie.
  • Get active: Give your life an active balance by going to the gym, riding your bike to work, practising breathing exercises or yoga. Read more about why exercise can help here.
  • Staying healthy: Keep a healthy lifestyle by watching your diet and other behaviours because your physical and mental health are related. For example, substance use may affect your anxiety symptoms.
  • Organize: Look at the way your day is organized and what your schedule is like. Do you keep a to do list and prioritize your day, or do you just wake up and see where the day takes you? To maintain good self-care it is very important to organize your time and plan for future events, like exams and your free time. Anxiety can be triggered by being overwhelmed by many things at the same time, and this can happen if you haven’t prepared or planned out your time. Avoid stress by planning your day and keep a realistic daily schedule, for short- and long term tasks. It’s important to keep it realistic so you can get it done! It is also crucial to break down huge tasks in small ones and do them step by step.


Being Aware of Your Thoughts


Think about your thought processes. Do you catch yourself avoiding objects, situations, or places? Do you feel like you have fearful or even absurd thoughts? Try to think about the what’s, when’s, why’s and how’s around these thoughts. For instance:

  • What are these thoughts?
  • How do these thoughts start?
  • When do they start?
  • Is this the first time that you’ve had these thoughts?
  • How often do they occur?
  • What makes the thought better or worse?
  • Do they happen to occur in a certain time or place?


By doing this you can identify what triggers these thoughts. For example, if you are short of breath just after running up a flight of stairs, this would be normal and not a result of a panic attack. However, if you can figure out what the triggers are, you can be more aware to help control these symptoms or stay away from these triggers.


Journal your thoughts. Keeping a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours can help you to identify thought patterns that are not unhelpful and that may be affecting your anxiety and your mood. For example, some thought patterns you have may be negative (e.g., “I’ll never be able to do this and I’m a failure”) and constructing these thoughts in a different way can be more helpful (e.g., “If I divide the work, I can take it on in small”). Being aware of the way you verbalize your thoughts in your head can help you to modify your negative thought patterns into more positive ones.


Improving Social Skills

Sometimes, improving your communication and social skills can help ease your anxiety and improve your social relationships.

  • Be friendly and attentive, but not judgmental. Use empathy to think about how they might be feeling. (e.g., “It sounds like you’re feeling really upset right now.”)
  • Try not to interupt too much and avoid asking too many questions of someone
  • Summarizing what you have heard the other person say can help them feel heard
  • Use the “sandwich” technique for giving criticism- sandwich your criticism between 2 constructive comments.
  • Try to encourage your friend to make their own decisions instead of pushing your advice onto their thoughts
  • Learn how to say no politely. Sometimes we can feel like we’re under stress from taking on too many obligations from others; it’s useful to know what your limits are and what you can handle right now.


For Specific Anxiety Problems


Specific phobias. Sometimes you might need psychotherapeutic guidance to help you to work on your recovery, especially in situations, where you may be confronting your greatest fears. You can do this gradually, for example starting virtually and then in reality to help you overcome these fears. In a more mild situation, you could force yourself to face the situations you dread until you feel like you have mastered the situation. For example, if you are anxious of dogs, you can try to stay on the same side of the street of a dog in passing, gradually lessening the distance between you and the dog. By doing this gradually and using relaxation methods before you enter these situations, you can feel more comfortable and at ease.


Social Anxiety. If you are anxious in social situations, try to take small steps towards the situations that make you feel most anxious. For example, try giving a presentation in front of a friend, then in front of a group of friends, and then in front of your class.


Obsessions and Compulsions: If you have constant, intrusive thoughts, it may help to try to face the fears behind these thoughts. For example, if you have fear of contamination, then you may be washing your hands more than usual. By getting yourself to touch things you usually avoid and trying to cut down on the hand washing, you might notice that everything is fine even though you haven’t washed your hands.


General Anxiety. If you have general fears (e.g., your job, family, health), often you may worry about what would happen in a worst-case scenario. Instead of thinking in this way, try to think more productively to work on solutions to reduce your fears. For example, if you fear having a heart attack, you may want to address these fears by going to a doctor to have your health evaluated. In time, you may notice some of your fears are irrational.



If you have been part of a traumatic event (e.g., a car crash), you may feel like you are reliving it constantly and avoiding reminders of what happened in the past. Sometimes people in these situations feel guilty afterwards for making it through the event. You should try not to place blame on yourself for the event occuring, and it may help to talk to someone about the event as well.


Seeking Further Help

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help - it may be useful to you to seek professional help from a mental health professional to help address your anxiety. For example, they may help to guide you through treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy, to address your thought patterns in a more structured way. Sometimes anxiety may be treated also with medications, so your mental health professional may discuss this with you as an option.

By Firyal Saleh