wikiHow to Prevent Anxiety

Three Methods:Quickly Prevent AnxietyAvoid Anxious ThinkingFind Long-Term Solutions

Anxiety is characterized by worry, unease, or nervousness about a specific event or about the general uncertainties that may arise in the future. Though most people experience anxiety from time to time, if you constantly find yourself in a state of worry and want to know how to stop it, then it's time to put in the effort to prevent future anxiety so you can go back to enjoying your life. If you want to prevent anxiety, then you need to take some quick-fix approaches, avoid anxious thinking, and follow some long-term strategies for success. If you want to know how to do it, just follow these steps.

Method 1
Quickly Prevent Anxiety

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    Control your breathing. If you're feeling so anxious that you can barely think or stay still, then it's likely that your heart rate is up and that you feel like you can't get enough air -- even if you're breathing twice as quickly as you normally do. If you want to control your breathing, then you should take the time to sit down wherever you are, to close your eyes, and to focus on returning your breath to its normal state. You can also try this exercise for good measure:[1]
    • Breathe in slowly through your nose for 5-7 seconds.
    • Hold your breath in for 3-4 seconds.
    • Breathe out slowly through your pursed lips like you're whistling for 7-8 seconds.
    • Repeat these steps 10-20 times, until your breathing has returned to normal.
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    Get some sunshine. Being out in the sun has been proven to ease anxiety and depression. Just make an effort to go outdoors, be in the sun, and deal with your problems in the daylight instead of inside your own home or a dark space can make a big impact on your overall mood and your feelings about your problems.[2]
    • Your problems won't feel nearly as bad if you're dealing with them outside while feeling the sun hit your face instead of indoors.
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    Feel a comforting touch. Just being touched by a loved one can make you feel more loved, calm, and in control. Part of anxiety is feeling like you have to deal with your problems alone and that your worries are too big to tackle. Just hugging, holding hands with, or even cuddling with or kissing a loved one can ease your anxiety and make you feel more loved and in control of your world.
    • If you're prone to anxiety, spend more time with close friends who can give you a comforting touch and make you feel safe.
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    Talk to a trusted confidante. If you're a person who is plagued with anxiety, then you should have your "go to" person that you can call whenever you're feeling an overwhelming worry about something in your life. This person should not only be a close and trusted friend, but it should be someone who makes you feel better when you're worried instead of yelling at you, giving you even more reason to worry, or making you feel foolish for having anxiety.[3]
    • Just making a quick phone call to that trusted person and talking about whatever is bothering you can do wonders for quickly easing your pain.
    • There's a difference between sharing your worries and talking about them so much that you work yourself up and feel even worse. Share your concerns with your friend, but don't overdo it.
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    Do an aerobic activity. When you're feeling very anxious, your body is filled with adrenaline that has nowhere to go. You should use that worried energy and convert it into something positive, like a good a workout, whether you're jogging, running, climbing stairs, or just taking a fast-paced walk around your office building. Exercise can burn away the stress hormones that created your anxiety symptoms and it will tire your muscles, releasing all of that built-up tension from your body.[4][5]
    • Exercise also releases endorphins that can improve your mood. Your former worries won't seem so serious anymore.
    • You can plug your exercise into your routine during a time when you know you're likely to worry, such as right before or after work -- just don't work too late in the evening, or it'll be harder for you to unwind and fall asleep.
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    Listen to calming music. Find a special CD or two that always gets you into a calm "zone" no matter what you're doing. It could be Norah Jones, Adele, or even classical music or jazz. Whatever your special music is, you should keep it on hand at all times, whether it's on your iPod or in a CD, so you can take a minute to fill your ears with the music, close your eyes, and feel truly relaxed by the music.
    • Listening to the music while keeping your body still and your eyes closed will help you prevent anxiety even more.
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    Drink herbal tea. Herbal tea is known to have calming properties, and just the ritual of sitting down over a cup of tea is guaranteed to slow down your mind and body. Enjoy a variety of non-caffeinated teas with flavors such as peppermint, chamomile, and mint when you start your day or as you wind down and get ready for bed.
    • You should avoid caffeinated teas -- or any caffeinated beverages, such as coffee or soda -- because they will only contribute to your anxiety and will make you more worried and anxious.
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    Make time for a "worry period." If you've just been given some alarming news, or if there's been something that's been eating away at you all day, make time for a "worry period," when you're free to do nothing but worry about whatever is on your mind. You can even make it a ritual -- every day from 6-6:30 in your favorite chair, and use this time and this time only to sort out all of the worries in your head.
    • If you set aside a "worry period" every day, then you can make a note to save your concerns for your "worry period" if they come up earlier during the day.
    • Making time for a worry period will also force to sit there and be alone with your worries, which may make it more likely for you to recognize any irrational or unproductive feelings.
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    Tackle your worries one at a time. If you're having an anxiety-ridden day, stop whatever you're doing and make a list of all of the things that are worrying you. Once they are written down, they'll seem less unmanageable, and you may even find that a few of them can be easily tackled. For example, you may have put "haven't made doctor's appointment" or "haven't apologized to Mary" on your list, and you'll find that once you do these things, you'll feel better right away.
    • Pick your easiest manageable worry, tackle it, and cross it off your list.
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    Get knowledge. One reason that you may be feeling anxious is because you're worried about uncertainty and don't know enough about the subject. The more you know, the more in control of the situation you'll feel, and the less likely you'll be to think of the worst case scenario, or to make up consequences that couldn't possibly exist.
    • For example, if you hurt your foot while running and are worried that you'll never be able to run again, go see a doctor instead of worrying about it on your own.
    • If you're worried about how you're going to drive the family all the way to your Aunt Mary's new house next week, map the directions to her house and even look at a picture of the house to see that it doesn't have to be so unmanageable.
    • There's a difference between gaining knowledge and obsessing over a medical condition until you're convinced you have it. If you have a common cold, it's best to avoid WebMD, or you'll find a way to convince yourself that you're suffering from a much more serious condition.

Method 2
Avoid Anxious Thinking

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    Learn to recognize your anxious thoughts. If you want to prevent anxiety, then the first thing you need to know is to recognize when you're having anxious thoughts so that you can try to stop them as soon as possible. Once your heart rate is racing, you start pacing around or tapping your foot, and your thoughts turn to potential disasters, uncertain outcomes, and obsessions over the worst thing that can happen, then you're in full-on anxiety mode, and you need to cut off the problem at the source ASAP.
    • Develop a routine that helps you fight these thoughts before they're fully formed. Do whatever works for you, whether it's running, listening to Wilco, or raking your zen garden.
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    Avoid "all or nothing" thinking. "All or nothing" thinking is when you tell yourself that if something doesn't go perfectly, that you're a complete failure and that nothing will ever go right again. For example, you may be thinking that if you don't get an A on your next bio test, that you'll never be a doctor.[6]
    • To avoid this kind of thinking, just think of all of the many scenarios that can happen -- you can get a B, or even a C, and still pull up your grade. One grade won't influence your entire life.
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    Avoid overgeneralization. Overgeneralizing is when you draw from one negative experience and think that it should dictate the rest of your life. For example, if you go on one bad date, you may think, "I'll never get married." Instead of having this anxious type of thinking, you should remind yourself that you're drawing from a small set of data and that one bad date or one bad experience will have little impact on your entire life.[7]
    • Tell yourself that you will have plenty of opportunities for something in your life in the past.
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    Avoid catastrophizing. Catastrophizing means thinking that the worst possible thing in any situation will happen. For example, if your boss asks you to spend a bit more time on one report, you may think that you're going to get fired. If your plane is experiencing turbulence, you may think that it's going to crash at any minute. Avoid catastrophizing by writing down all of the possible outcomes, of varying degrees of positive or negative consequences, and see that it's likely that the worst thing ever won't happen.[8]
    • Combat catastrophizing by expecting the best possible thing to happen instead of the worst.
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    Avoid focusing on the negative. Another type of anxious thinking is focusing on the negative aspects of a situation instead of the positive. Let's say you had a really great date with a guy, that you really hit it off, but that at the end of the date, you spilled some wine on his shoe. If you tend to focus on the negative, then you'll completely discount the great night you had and will instead tell yourself that you ruined everything by spilling the wine.[9]
    • To avoid focusing on the negative, make a list of all of the positive things that happened. You'll see that the positive aspects far outweighed the negative.
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    Avoid personalization. Personalization is when you take a situation out of your control and blame it on yourself. Telling yourself that it's your fault that your best friend is suffering from depression because you haven't spent enough time with her, or that it's your fault your son has been falling behind in school because you've been a bad mother is your way of trying to deal with a sad situation. Unfortunately, blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong in the world will only increase your anxiety.
    • To avoid personalization, think of the actual cause of the problem, and realize that it's not you. Make a list of all of the things that could have contributed to the situation that have nothing to do with you.
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    Know what you can and can't control. Knowing what you can and can't control can go a long way in preventing your anxiety. Make a list of all of the things that are worrying you, and mark the ones that you can and can't control. Tackling the ones you can control will make you feel more productive, and realizing that there are some things outside of your control will help you let go of your anxious thoughts.
    • Tell yourself that you're not helping anyone, not yourself, and not anyone around you, by wasting your time worrying about things you can't fix.
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    Challenge your anxious thoughts. When you've recognized any of these anxious thoughts or any others, you can go a long way in preventing further anxiety by challenging your anxious thoughts and finding a more optimistic and productive way of looking at the situation. When you're faced with a new worry, ask yourself some of the following questions:[10]
    • How likely is it that the thing I'm worried about will actually happen?
    • If the chances of the thing happening are low, what are some more probably outcomes?
    • What evidence do I have that any of this is true?
    • How is it helping me to worry about this thing? How is it hurting me?
    • What would I say to my best friend if she was worrying about the same thing?

Method 3
Find Long-Term Solutions

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    Learn to live in the present. Learning to live in the present can take a lifetime, but it will be worth it. Embracing every moment and opportunity that comes your way will help you stay grounded in the present instead of worrying over something in the past or in the future that can cause you harm. Take the time to "wake up and smell the roses" by slowing down, enjoying your relationship, taking a daily walk, and unplugging from your computer and phone for several hours every day.[11]
    • Meditate. Meditating for 10-20 minutes every day can help you focus on your body and your mind and on what's happening around you.
    • Use all of your senses. Take the time to appreciate the sights, smells, and feelings around you.
    • Don't take a day of your life for granted. Write down all of the things you're thankful for and embrace them as much as you can.
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    Minimize situations that cause anxiety. Though preventing anxiety should come from within, there are some steps you can take to prevent anxiety in your daily life. Try to avoid situations that cause you a lot of anxiety or extra stress and make your life easier and more manageable. For example, if you're always anxious about getting to work late, leave the house fifteen minutes earlier. If you're anxious about how your best friend really feels about you, have an honest conversation with her.
    • If going to loud concerts, crowded restaurants, or big parties where you don't know many people makes you deeply anxious, avoid these situations unless you can find a way to manage them.
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    Spend time with calming friends. If you want to prevent your anxiety, then you should spend as much time as you can with friends that make you feel more calm, at ease, and at peace with yourself. Seek out the people in your life who make you feel grounded, and avoid the people who cause worry, make you more stressed, and make you feel like your problems are bigger than they really are. And if there's an acquaintance in your circle who always calms you down, seek him out.
    • Plug time with calming friends into your schedule. They'll make you feel even better about your struggles.
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    Keep a journal. Keeping a journal can help you trace your most anxiety-inducing thoughts and will make you see a pattern to your thinking. If you take the time to write in your journal for at least fifteen minutes a day, you'll feel better for having time to reflect and will get a better sense of the big picture. Writing in a journal is inherently a calming activity, and making time to do it every day can help you wind down, make sense of your day, and get ready to move forward.
    • Writing in your journal at the beginning of your day with a cup of herbal tea can help prevent anxiety.
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    Learn to accept uncertainty. A big part of anxiety stems from not knowing what's going to happen next. Unfortunately, there's no way you can predict the future, no matter how hard you work on preventing anxiety. You have to learn to be okay with not knowing what's going to happen next, controlling only what you can control, and learning to take your life one day at a time.
    • Learning to accept uncertainty, like learning to live in the present, is a process that can take a lifetime.
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    See a doctor. If you feel that your daily life is filled with overwhelming worry and that nothing you've done has improved the situation, then it may be time to see a doctor to see if getting some prescription medications or alternate treatments is the best route for you. If you're feeling completely overwhelmed with worry in your daily life, then you should see a doctor immediately. You may find that you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or another anxiety-related disorder.[12]
    • Don't be embarrassed about it -- it'll be the first big step to preventing anxiety and getting the help you need.
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    Seek therapy. Even if you don't want or need medication, talking to a therapist can still help you deal with your problems. Just discussing your every day concerns as well as your larger worries with a professional can make you feel more at ease and less alone. Talking to a therapist about your worries instead of discussing them with a close friend can also help you gain a new perspective on your worries, and can also make you more comfortable about talking about them.


  • Seek help if your anxiety becomes worse. Talk to friends and family and look for a support group. Get professional help if your fears lead you to become depressed or become so severe you cannot function normally.


  • Nicotine is also a powerful stimulant and not helpful when you are anxious.
  • Expecting the best possible outcome might not work for you; you might become upset if things don't go quite so well. If this is the case, try expecting a good (but not quite perfect) outcome instead.

Article Info

Categories: Anxiety Disorders | Stress Anxiety and Crisis Management