Helpful techniques to reduce anxiety

  Monday 23rd August, 2021

It's been a stressful time in Victoria and worldwide as we deal with COVID-19 and the uncertainty, social isolation and devastation it brings.

Even if you're not typically an anxious person, it's common to feel anxious, frustrated or angry about the pandemic and other world events that are out of your control.

If you're worried about the pandemic's effect on your mental health, you are not alone.

Here are our tips for reducing anxiety and managing your wellbeing.

1) It's OK to acknowledge that this is a tough time.

If you need help, reach out to friends or family by phone or online.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, seek professional support.

Beyond Blue (1800 512 348) and Lifeline (13 11 14) both provide excellent resources and support. Never feel ashamed to ask for help.

Psychological therapies can be done online or remotely via phone or video and are an excellent option if you're in self-isolation or worried about going to a clinic.

Importantly, be assured that for most people, anxiety is temporary and will reduce over time.

2) Establish and maintain a routine.

Maintaining a sense of control can be tough when things are changing so quickly.

Having a healthy routine across your day, blocking out even half an hour a day to relax and do things that make you happy can make a big difference to your mood and help you feel more in control.

It's natural to think of all the usual activities we may not be able to do at the moment. Try to make a conscious shift to focus on activities you're still able to do, or have more opportunity to do now that we're all at home more often.

Even if you're in lockdown, self-isolation or working from home, there are many ways to develop new routines and stay healthy.

Simple activities like reading a book, listening to a podcast or trying out a new hobby can help you carve out some calm in your day.

3) Be conscious about your sources of information and set limits around news and social media consumption.

It's understandable to want to be informed and prepared. At the same time, 'doomscrolling' or constantly reading, watching, or listening to upsetting media coverage can intensify worry and agitation.

Limiting your exposure to news and social media about coronavirus will help subdue panic, so schedule a specific time to check in with the news instead.

When you get the urge to check updates, see if you can pause, notice the urge, delay acting on the urge, and let it pass.

Misinformation and opinion can also fuel concern and anxiety. Turn to reputable sources of information like the Victorian Department of Health.

It's also OK to remove yourself from conversations about COVID-19 and suggest talking about other topics.

4) Stay connected

Social support from friends and family can help you get through stressful times - even if it's from a distance.

It may sound like a cliché, but talking helps, and there are many ways we can use technology to stay connected and both give and receive support remotely.

You can call, text, or video-chat with friends and family, start a virtual book, meal or movie club, or schedule a virtual workout together.

Showing care towards friends, family, and vulnerable people in our community is all the more important during times like these. It can foster a sense of hope, purpose, and meaning.

Send someone you care about a message of encouragement or affirmation; cook, pack and deliver a meal to someone in your neighbourhood; or donate to a cause.

Talking and sharing is an essential part of protecting your mental health. Share and receive kindness.

4) Spend time outside and exercise

Fresh air, a change of scenery and time in nature will all help you manage anxiety.

Exercise - masked up, distanced and within the limits of the current public health directions - is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress.

People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety than those who don't, and the benefits are strongest when you exercise regularly.

Exercise lowers your body's stress hormones, such as cortisol, and helps release endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers. It can also enhance the quality of your sleep.

You don't need to run a marathon to feel the benefits. Even the simple act of going for a walk creates a diversion and releases muscle tension.

Grab your headphones or earbuds on your way out, too - studies show that listening to music brings its own calming effects.

Washing your car, hiking, gardening, anything that gets you moving counts. Thirty minutes, three to five days a week can help to improve anxiety symptoms significantly, but even 10 minutes can make a difference.

5) Pay attention to the good things in the here and now. 

A great way to keep your mind off your worries is to focus your thoughts on good, beautiful, and positive things.

Appreciate the everyday blessings and try to find joy in the little things. Allow yourself to dream, wish and imagine the best that could happen for you, your family and your loved ones. Take each day step by step.

6) Take some deep breaths

When anxious, our breath becomes rapid and shallow. Deep belly breathing helps decrease anxiety by stimulating the body's relaxation response, lowering our heart rate and blood pressure.

It's a powerful technique that works because you can't breathe deeply and be anxious at the same time.

There are many variations to try, including this simple exercise: Inhale deeply for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4. Repeat several times.

All pandemics end, and this one will too. With practice, these tactics will stay with you as valuable tools for life.

Helpful resources

• Australian Psychological Society (APS): Information and resources including 'Tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety' and' Maintaining your mental health during social isolation.'
• Beyond Blue: Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak
• Black Dog Institute: Coronavirus: Resources for anxiety and stress
• Orygen Youth Health: Self-care during the COVID-19 outbreak
• Smiling Mind - free mindfulness meditation app to help manage stress and daily challenges.
• eHeadspace - free 'Weathering the Storm' program including a curated list of calming meditations, help with sleep, and at-home workouts or movement exercises.

Immediate support

• Lifeline - crisis counselling and suicide prevention services. Phone: 13 11 14 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
• Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service - phone, webchat, and online community forum support. Phone: 1800 512 348 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
• Headspace - confidential mental health and wellbeing support for young people (12 - 25 years) and their families. Phone: 1800 650 890 (9am - 1am, 7 days a week).
• MensLine - professional telephone and online support and information service for Australian men. Phone 1300 78 99 78 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

Sources used in this article

Better Health:


Reach Out:

Black Dog Institute: