Dealing with your mental health

How can I manage my anxiety?

There are a number of things you can do to help manage your anxiety.

In this information we explain how you could:

Breathing techniques

Depending on what lung condition you have, there are different techniques. So it’s a good idea to speak to a physiotherapist to find out the best techniques for you. If you don’t already have one, ask for a referral.

As you try these techniques, stay calm and relaxed. This will help you breathe without using so much energy. It also helps keep the small tubes in your airways open. If you support your shoulders and arms in a relaxed way, your shoulder and neck muscles can work more efficiently. Tensing these muscles uses more oxygen and may increase your breathlessness.

Find out about breathing control and breathing techniques.

I was lucky to be invited to join a course of mindful breathing exercises which had excellent results for everyone who took part. Focusing on the breath as something to cherish and nurture is the best antidote to anxiety and low mood.

Fran

Talk

Talking to someone you trust about your anxiety can help. You could:

Regular links to others with a lung condition like mine in a patient support group is a huge resource for good. If you had seen us all at our recent Christmas lunch, the warmth, friendship, humour and understanding in the group would have been obvious. And the importance of frequent communication, including by email and Skype, with friends and family cannot be underestimated.

Diz

Keep active and exercise

In an attempt to cope with breathlessness, some people become less active. But if you reduce your levels of activity, you can actually make your breathlessness worse in the long term. Choosing to make yourself moderately breathless by being active is actually good for your lungs and won’t harm you. In fact, keeping active builds up fitness in your muscles, and can improve your breathing and general health.

Keeping active will take your mind off your anxious thoughts. It will also help to keep you fit and can help you to sleep better. Exercise can also help reduce feelings of stress and tension.

I like to keep myself busy, either in the garden or the man shed, walking as a regular pastime, and even expanding on my twice weekly exercise routine with the Breathe Easy group.

Garry

You can also keep active by going on a pulmonary rehabilitation course, which combines physical exercise and covers ways you can cope with feeling anxious and short of breath. It has been proven that pulmonary rehabilitation improves not only your fitness, but also your mental wellbeing. Ask your health care professional to refer you to the nearest programme.

Keep a diary

You may find keeping a note of what happens each time you get anxious or have a panic attack can help you spot patterns and triggers. You could also make a note of times when you’re able to manage your anxiety successfully.

You could use our record of your mood form (PDF, 207KB).

Writing things down is always a good way to cope.

Pat

Learn to relax

Relaxation is a way to stop anxiety once you spot early signs of tension. It involves being quiet, relaxing the muscles in your body, breathing slowly and deeply, and clearing your mind. Relaxation is a skill, and like any other, it takes time to learn.

There are many ways to relax. Some people can relax by exercising, listening to music, watching TV or reading a book. Other people use relaxation techniques and follow a set of exercises. You could do this on your own, or you could join a relaxation or yoga class. There are also lots of books and apps that could help you.

Try mindfulness

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that involves giving your full attention to what is happening in the present moment. Studies show that practising mindfulness can help reduce worry and anxiety.

It involves observing what is happening in your body, mind or surroundings in a non-judgmental way. It’s a way of approaching your thoughts and feelings so you become more aware of them and react differently to them.

You can learn about and practise mindfulness by joining a group, finding one-to-one help, using an online course or app or finding a self-help book.

I do suffer from bouts of anxiety: making use of CBT approaches is helpful; so is keeping busy to ward off worries and allowing myself set worry times, and cognitive behavioural therapy. I find mindfulness, aromatherapy and facials relaxing. Walking too, but this can be difficult at times now.

Margaret

Eat a healthy diet

You may find it easier to relax if you avoid stimulants such as coffee and alcohol. Some people also find eating a healthy diet helps them manage anxiety better.

Next: What treatment can I get for anxiety? >

Download our mental health information (354KB, PDF)

Last medically reviewed: March 2018. Due for review: March 2021

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.