Anxiety Busters: 5 Ways to Overcome Your Anxiety


Do these scenes sound familiar:

  • You've been in bed for an hour, tossing and turning, but you can't sleep. You keep re-hashing the day's events and worrying over everything that needs to get done tomorrow. Now you start fretting about the fact that you can't get to sleep.
  • You're trying to quickly get in and out of the grocery store, because mom has a doctor's appointment this afternoon and the kids have to be dropped off at soccer practice. Suddenly your heart starts beating fast, and your hands start to sweat.

Feeling stressed is normal for caregivers. But constant worrying, unrelenting doubts and pre-occupation with the "what ifs" and worst-case scenarios can be unproductive and even paralyzing. Anxiety causes physical symptoms -- trembling, heart palpitations, insomnia, sweating, fatigue – and mental anguish that interfere with day-to-day life.

The good news is that chronic worrying it is a mental habit you can learn how to break. Here are some techniques for coping with anxiety.

Recognize Physical Changes

The first step is to identify when you're becoming anxious. Listen to your body and recognize physical changes in your body: butterflies in the stomach, feeling as if your heart is beating out of your chest, shortness of breath. Don't let your body's symptoms scare you, let them talk to you. That rapid heartbeat doesn't mean you're having a heart attack; it's your body's natural response to anxiety and stress. Once you know the sensations, you can control them. Think of the physical symptoms as a fire engine going to another place. You've noticed them; now let them pass by.

Practice Relaxing

Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, can instantly lower the physical symptoms and mental worry associated with anxiety. Place one hand on your stomach above the navel, and the other hand on your chest. Breathe in slowly until the stomach rises and hold your breath for three to five seconds. Then, exhale slowly. Another exercise to try is muscle relaxation. Tense, and then relax your muscles, one by one. Tense your shoulders, then feel the sensation as you relax those muscles. Continue tensing and relaxing down the body: forearms, hands, abdomen, buttocks, legs and feet. In addition, learning yoga, meditation or prayer will teach you techniques that you can use throughout the day to reduce stress.

Accept Uncertainty

Fear of the unknown plays a huge role in anxiety. Chronic worriers can't stand doubt or unpredictability. They need to know with 100 percent certainty what's going to happen. The problem is, no one can predict the future or control of the outcome of every situation. Thinking about all the things that could go wrong doesn't make life any more predictable and it won't keep bad things from happening. It will only keep you from enjoying life. Stop worry by asking yourself these questions:

  • What's the probability that what I'm scared of will actually happen? Is there a more likely, alternate outcome?
  • Is the thought helpful? How will worrying about it help me and how will it hurt me?
  • What would I say to a friend who had this worry?

Schedule Worry-Time

Our worries tend to be like the constant dinging of emails: they show up throughout the day, and we stop everything to address them. If you find yourself constantly fretting about things, set aside a 30-minute period each day where you do nothing but worry. During your worry period, you're allowed to worry about whatever's on your mind. The rest of the day, however, is a worry-free zone. After worry time has expired, vow not to think about your problem again until your anxiety time the following day. When you find yourself worrying, jot down what you are worrying about and resolve to think it through later. By the time the worry zone rolls around, many of your troubles won't even matter anymore – and you will have spent almost an entire day anxiety-free.

Avoid Triggers

Avoid things that can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as poor diet, caffeine, sugar, smoking, over-the-counter cold medications and alcohol. Research has shown that the top three dietary causes of increased anxiety are caffeine, sugar, and alcohol.

In many cases, taking these five steps will be enough to significantly reduce your anxiety. However, if you cannot control your anxiety, see your doctor. Anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications are available that can help reduce symptoms. In addition, some people may benefit from counseling and therapy.

You May Also Like

Free AgingCare Guides

Get the latest care advice and articles delivered to your inbox!


I read on a yoga newsletter that one should develop being "compassionately indifferent". At first I thought that was not a positive way to live your life but as I am entering my 4th month with two sick and elderly inlaws living with me, I am believing it is a very good thing. It means you are caring and do what you have to do and communicate care and love but you dont internalize their fears and pains and anger. I am learning not to be responsible for their happiness. I am giving them a safe and comfortable environment with their grandsons coming and going three good meals a day and I that they are immensely better off than they would be if still in Florida. It is hard to develop but try becoming compassionately indifferent. All health care professionals and caregivers have mastered it or they would not be able to continue in their stressful jobs.
I have been taking care of my mother who has dementia and cancer for the past 7 years. At first I thought I can do this. Well, as my son turned into a teen and my mother got worse; I thought I could never continue. My days grew longer and my stress level became higher. I had constant worries and problems arise. I thank God I have a level head and went to a Doctor. He put me on anti-depressants and anti anxiety medicine. I believe in prayer and I set up alone time to pray. I also use meditation as a stress reliever as well as take walks whenever I can. I have found other friends that are caregivers. It helps to talk to them to know you are not alone and to get tips. I must say I am so happy to be able to take care of my mother. I am learning to take one day at a time and not to think of the inevitable. That is the key try to live moment to moment. Enjoy the ones you are taking care of.
I think learning to become compassionately indifferent is the key and the challenge. I have found exercising everyday the key to relieving stress and anxiety. I get up very early before my father-in-law arises and do stretching and weights. I try also to go for an hour swim once a week. I don't believe in medications but when my stress level wouldn't go down and I was experiencing stroke like symptoms I started an antipressesant which really helped with no apparant side effects. Caring for an elderly person with dimentia, family and working is a lot, but keeping loved ones out of neglectful nursing homes is worth the stress to me.