How to Manage and Cope With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Updated on July 29, 2019
DavidCory profile image

David Cory is a father and husband. He has lived with generalized anxiety disorder for much of his life.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Those who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) live with a constant feeling of dread or worry. Being able to cope with anxiety is vital to living a joyful, fulfilled life. Like most mental health issues, it exists on a continuum from mild GAD all the way to severe and crippling GAD. It's important to remember that when finding ways to cope and overcoming your generalized anxiety disorder, relief will not come overnight. It can take a long time to master the art of using healthy coping skills. Understanding this can lessen the burden of trying to get better while still facing daily anxiety.

"Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere."

— Glenn Turner

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Trouble sleeping
Tight chest
Muscle tightness/tension

Coping Skills for Anxiety

Some ways to cope with GAD include:

  • Deep breathing
  • Aromatherapy
  • Exercise
  • Music
  • Meditation

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is simply taking a long breath into your lower diaphragm and slowly exhaling. This coping skill allows for the parasympathetic nervous system to activate. The parasympathetic nervous system is what calms the body after stress, either physical or mental. After a bout of anxiety, it's a good idea to find a quiet place where you can deep breathe for about 10 minutes. Not always, but often enough this is sufficient to bring the mind and body back into a state of balance.


Not everyone with anxiety may know about aromatherapy and its benefits. By utilizing therapeutic grade essential oils, an anxiety sufferer can reap numerous benefits. Oils such as lavender and cedarwood can impart a calm feeling to the user. This is a great coping skill to use when at home. All that is needed is water, essential oils of your choosing, and a quality diffuser. Breathe deeply and enjoy its calming effects.


Exercising is one of the best coping skills for someone with GAD. No matter the form of exercise you choose, it will help calm your nervous system and thus reduce your anxiety. You can walk, run, practice yoga, or any other activity that you find enjoyable. The most important point to keep in mind is consistency. Exercise as a coping skill is most effective when consistently performed.


Sometimes it will be the upbeat music of your favorite song that can cheer you up and other times, the calming sounds of classical instrumental music. Use whichever will help you at the particular moment of your anxiety. Soft classical instrumental music is great for overall calmness, and upbeat music can be used as a great distraction.


Various types of meditation exist. Again, it doesn't matter what you choose, so as long as you decide on one and use it. Meditation as a coping skill can be very effective. As with exercise, consistency is key. This is another great way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for calming the body after stress. You can meditate anywhere or at any time. Combining meditation with deep breathing can provide even more of a relaxing response to your anxiety.

"Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy."

— Leo Buscaglia

The Big Picture

Using any or all these coping skills can help greatly with your generalized anxiety disorder. None of them, however, work immediately and usually they take significant practice for you to become proficient. The important thing to remember is the big picture. Life is a long journey and anxiety does not simply go away. Be kind to yourself and allow for plenty of rest and time to feel better. Using these coping skills and others can certainly help you along the way on your journey to a more joyful and fulfilling life.

"We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don't allow our bodies to heal, and we don't allow our minds and hearts to heal."

— Thich Nhat Hanh

Which of the following coping skills work best for you?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 David Cory


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    • DavidCory profile imageAUTHOR

      David Cory 

      2 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I'm glad you could relate to the article. I also do many of the things you mention. I especially like when you mentioned eating small meals. Eating small meals is super important to keep one's blood sugar stable. Good point! Thanks for the comment. :)

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right! Anxiety doesn't just "go away," as you say. I have found similar results using the techniques described here. The ones I use most are regular exercise, deep breathing, music, and meditation. I have also found that if I eat smaller meals more frequently, I am less apt to become anxious. When I am hungry, my anxiety escalates considerably. The same happens when I am tired, so getting plenty of rest at night is vital. I use music to calm me in preparation for sleep. It helps me relax and breathe more deeply, then sleep more soundly. In the mornings, I want to get moving when I get up. Peppy music helps pick up my mood and give me the incentive to exercise and clean house before getting started on my daily activities.


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