How can I manage my anxiety?
On this page we explain the different things you can do to help manage your anxiety. You can also read about the different possible treatments available for anxiety.
There are a number of things you can do to help manage your anxiety:
- try out different breathing techniques
- share how you feel
- keep active and exercise
- keep a diary
- try relaxation techniques
- eat a healthy diet
- take up a hobby
- spend time outside
- try mindfulness
Depending on the lung condition you have, there are different techniques that help improve your breathing and help you feel better. It’s a good idea to speak to a physiotherapist or respiratory nurse to find out the best techniques for you. If you don’t already have one, ask for a referral. Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) courses are another way to learn effective breathing techniques.
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 in our breathlessness information.
Talking to someone you trust about your anxiety can help. You could try talking to someone close to you – a friend or family member.
We know not everyone will feel comfortable talking to family and friends about their anxiety. In fact, lots of people find it easier to talk to people who don’t know them about how they’re feeling.
- talk to someone with a similar lung condition at one of our support groups, exercise groups, singing groups or on a pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) course
- join our online forum, to chat to other people with lung conditions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- talk to your GP, practice nurse or respiratory nurse.
- ask your GP to refer you to talking therapies, which may include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
If you’re not sure where to turn, our helpline is there for you. Call 0300 222 5800
I’d recommend talking to someone about how you’re feeling. I spoke to people with lung conditions on the online forum, but you could also go along to a Asthma + Lung UK support group. You could talk to a friend or a member of your family too – they don’t need to know all about your lung condition. The important thing is that you talk to someone, especially when you’re down.Andy, who lives with a rare interstitial lung disease, shares the impact having a long-term lung condition has had on his mental health.
Keeping active is good for our body and minds. Keeping active will take your mind off your anxious thoughts and reduce feelings of stress and tension. It will also help to keep you fit and can help you to sleep better
If feeling short of breath is a symptom of your lung condition, don’t avoid physical activity. Some people become less active to cope with breathlessness. But if you reduce your levels of activity, you can actually make your breathlessness worse in the long term. Making 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 with a lung condition advice
- online exercise videos, designed for people with a lung condition
- exercise handbook, with activities you can do at home and ways to track your progress.
You can also keep active by going on a pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) course, which combines physical exercise and covers ways you can cope with feeling short of breath and feeling anxious. 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.
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 my Asthma + Lung UK support group.Garry
You may find keeping a note of what happens each time you get anxious or have a panic attack could 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, 161KB).
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.
What you eat can affect the way you feel, as well as your physical health. Eating a healthy diet can do a lot to improve your mood and your sense of wellbeing.
Managing your caffeine intake can help reduce anxiety symptoms, as caffeine use often mimics symptoms associated with anxiety. For example, restlessness, nervousness, and trouble sleeping. You may find your anxiety symptoms improve if you avoid stimulants such as coffee and alcohol.
Your gut (how you digest food) can be a good indicator of how you’re feeling. If you’re anxious, it can make your gut slow down or speed up. For a healthy digestion you need to have plenty of fibre and fluid, and exercise regularly.
Read more about eating well for healthier lungs.
Taking up a new hobby is a good way to ease anxiety. It gives you something positive to focus on, while taking your mind off negative things you might be feeling. It’s also a great way to meet new people and have some fun!
You could try:
- craft work, such as drawing, crochet or knitting
- music, whether it’s discovering new artists or genres, or learning an instrument yourself
- exercise, like walking, running, or cycling. There are plenty of local groups across the UK you can get involved with – take a look at our Keep Active information for suggestions on where to start
- cooking, gardening, reading or writing.
What works for some people won’t work for everyone, so explore different options of things you might enjoy.
Spending time outside is good for your physical and mental wellbeing. It can help improve your mood and reduce feelings of stress.
We know not everyone will be able to easily spend time outdoors. For example, you might not have access to a garden, or your lung condition might make it difficult to get outside easily.
You can still reap the benefits of being outside by increasing the amount of nature in your everyday life. This could include growing a houseplant, planting vegetables, or listening to natural sounds like the ocean or rainfall.
Read more about how nature benefits our mental health on the Mind website.
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. Read more about how mindfulness can help your mental wellbeing on the NHS website.
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
What treatment can I get for anxiety?
We explain the different treatments available for anxiety and when you should seek help.
Looking after your mental health
We explain why mental health can be affected when you have a lung condition, the different mental health issues you might face and ways you can manage or treat them.