What is anxiety?


Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling of fear, uneasiness, or concern that something bad may happen. Anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as trembling, shaking, muscle aches, restlessness, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, sweating, and clammy hands.

If anxiety interferes with your daily activities, you may need treatment with medicines (such as antidepressants or antianxiety medicines) and/or professional counseling.

Anxiety: Treatment Options

Caring for yourself when you have anxiety

A healthy lifestyle may help you feel better when you have anxiety.

  • Be kind to your body.
    • Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. Walking is a good choice.
    • Eat a healthy diet. Include fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains in your diet each day.
    • Get enough rest. Try to go to bed at the same time every night. Try for 8 hours of sleep.
    • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, marijuana, and illegal drugs. They can increase your anxiety and cause sleep problems.
  • Engage your mind.
    • Learn and do relaxation techniques. These may include guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation.
    • Get out and do something you enjoy. Go to a funny movie, or take a walk or hike.
  • Make a plan to handle worries.
    • Plan your day. Having too much or too little to do can make you anxious.
    • Go to your counseling sessions and follow-up appointments.
    • Recognize and accept your anxiety. Then, when you are in a situation that makes you anxious, say to yourself, "This is not an emergency. I feel uncomfortable, but I am not in danger. I can keep going even if I feel anxious."
    • Learn how to handle negative thoughts. Healthy thinking can help you prevent or control anxiety.
  • Find support.
    • Discuss your fears with a good friend or family member. Talking to others sometimes relieves stress.
    • Get involved in social groups, or volunteer to help others. Or join a support group. Being alone sometimes makes things seem worse than they are.
  • Talk to your doctor if your anxiety is getting in the way of work, relationships, or daily life.

Anxiety: Is Treatment Right for You?

Anxiety: How to Change Anxious Thoughts

Anxiety: What Is It?

Anxiety: Paying Attention to How You're Doing

How to choose helpful thoughts when you have anxiety

It's common for people to have thoughts that make them feel stressed or worried. Sometimes you may have thoughts that make a big deal out of something that's not so bad.

But you can replace those thoughts with more helpful ones. Here's how.

  1. Notice your thoughts.

    Pay attention to your thoughts and how they make you feel.

    • Example: Nothing is going right for me today.
  2. Think of why a thought might be true.

    If you think it's going to be a bad day, write down the evidence for that thought.

    • Example: The traffic was bad today, and I was late for work.
  3. Think about why this same thought might not be true.

    You may feel frustrated, and that's okay. But try to come up with a new view of the situation.

    • Example: The slow traffic allowed me to finish my audiobook. What a great ending.
  4. Choose a new positive thought.

    This can help you feel less anxious.

    • Example: My morning started out bad, but I can turn it around. I'll focus on having more helpful thoughts.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.