simple techniques to help you manage anxiety

Anxiety can often feel like it’s taking over your life, especially if the negative or critical voices in your head get really loud. There are steps you can take at home to mitigate those feelings, though. Here are just a few.

Feeling anxious sometimes is normal, but if those feelings get too strong, or last for a long time, it can become overwhelming. The following techniques have been shown to help people manage anxiety: 

mindfulness

Practising mindfulness helps you notice when you're relying on unhelpful habits to cope with anxiety. It also makes it easier to change those thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours

We offer a range of free mindfulness courses online and face-to-face.

You could also try a meditation app like Headspace or Calm, or read a book such as Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Doctor Danny Penman.

ground yourself

Grounding yourself in your body may disrupt the flow of negative and anxious thoughts.

Try this activity the next time you want to ground yourself:

grounding activity

Feel the weight of your body as you stand or sit. Push your feet into the floor. Imagine you’re being supported by the floor underneath you.

Now, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Picture the energy draining from your mind, through your body, and out through your feet. Really feel the heaviness go down your legs, through your feet, and into the ground.

This quick exercise helps you focus on your body instead of your racing thoughts. Doing this slows down your threat system, which often goes into overdrive when you have anxiety.

change your thinking habits

If you know you have a habit of ruminating on negative or upsetting things, you could start a gratitude journal.

Every night before bed, write down three things you're grateful for that day – no matter how small they might be.

Research shows this simple exercise helps rewire your brain to notice more positive things and reduces stressful thinking.

“I came to see that one of the things that was contributing to my anxiety was my son. He had recently left home to join the army. There was a lot in the news at the time about young soldiers being hurt, and I now see that I was very fearful for him. I was caught in a loop of pessimistic thinking. Doing the programme made me re-think what my son was doing and realise that I held an overly negative view. I feel very confident about what he is doing now, and I am able to enjoy his successes. Also, seeking support from caba helped me demonstrate how determined I was to improve my mental state. I think that helped my relationship with my wife and work. At that point I returned to work, and while the environment hadn’t changed, I had.”

Liam

caba client

deep diaphragmatic breathing

Breathing using your diaphragm helps you relax and calm your system. Lie on your back with your hands on your tummy:

  • inhale for a count of 7
  • exhale for a count of 11
  • aim for 10 rounds of the 7/11 breath each time you practice

The longer exhale stimulates your body’s relaxation response, which helps you feel calmer.

shift your focus

You may find it helpful to shift your focus or distract yourself from your feelings of anxiety.

Look at a flower, a picture, or something you find interesting or comforting. Study the details and consider:

  • What colours can you see?
  • Soes it smell of anything?
  • What noise does it make?
  • What textures can you feel?
  • Can you see any patterns?

Go as detailed and granular as you can.

humming

Humming stimulates your vagus nerve, which regulates your relaxation response and extends your exhale. When your exhale is longer than your inhale, your body naturally produces relaxing hormones.

“I believe chartered accountants are working much longer hours due to remote working and difficulties separating home/work life. This reduces the time available to focus on wellbeing.”

comment from course attendee

caba

move more

Physical activity causes a chemical change in your brain that positively alters your mood through the release of endorphins.

You don’t have to go to the gym to get it, either. Going out for a walk in the daylight every day can improve your health, fitness, and mental wellbeing.

For even more feel-good benefits, take a stroll through natural surroundings like your local park, or even just tree-lined streets.

Exercise also helps tire out your body, making you more able to sleep at night. If you can’t get outdoors, try our eight exercises you can do at home.

stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet

When you’re feeling stressed, it’s easy to reach for junk food, which gives us a quick mood and energy boost. This short-term boost may be appealing, but can be a nightmare for your blood sugar. It leads to an inevitable blood sugar crash, making you feel even worse.

Dehydration, caffeine, and sugar, can also exacerbate anxiety.

Instead, focus on getting plenty of fruits and vegetables into your system. Brain healthy foods like blueberries, broccoli, and spinach will always do you some good, and may help to improve your mood along with other symptoms of anxiety.

Cut back on alcohol if necessary, and give up cigarettes if you’re a smoker as this may help you feel calmer.

limit news and social media

Thanks to modern technology, it can be easy to become overloaded and overwhelmed.

Try to limit how much news you follow if you know it makes you more anxious.

You may also find it useful to limit your time on social media. You can then use that new free time to do more activities that don’t involve screens, such as mindful walking.

Avoiding light-emitting devices before bed, particularly those involving blue light, will also help your body wind down and prepare for sleep.

make time for yourself

In an increasingly digital world, everyone seems to be busy all day, every day. But making time to unwind and relax can relieve feelings of anxiety.

You could try:

  • running a bath
  • listening to your favourite music
  • reading a book
“I know for my own wellbeing that I shouldn't compare to others but this is really difficult and it is such a mindset shift to recognise that the brain is wired this way, so it will be hard and it will take practice to re-wire it to stop comparing to others"

comment from course attendee

caba

talk about it

Keeping emotions bottled up can prevent us from processing them and make them harder to bear or learn from.

Part of being able to manage our emotions is being able to share them with someone you feel safe and comfortable with.

An independent view can also offer a fresh perspective on what you’re worried about. This doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so if you’re struggling, try our guide.

And remember: it’s ok – and totally normal – to have bad days. As with all things, they’ll pass.

And, although unpleasant, they’re a sign you’re connecting deeply with the things happening outside of you, many of which you can’t control.

Letting go of things you can’t control will help you to feel calmer, and give you more energy for the aspects of your life you are in control of.

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your questions answered 

Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW)1, ACA students2, ICAEW staff members3, and the family and carers of members and students4

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
  2. ACA students (ICAEW Provisional Members) who are either an active student or have been an active student within the last three years are eligible for caba's services 
  3. Past and present staff members of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's services for life, even if you leave either organisation. Please note, for former employees, our financial support is only available to those who have had five years continuous employment with either organisation 
  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
    1. spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner 
    2. widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    3. divorced spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is or was dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

Are your services means tested?

If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means tested. 

I’m an accountant, but not a member of ICAEW, can you still help?

Unfortunately not. We only support past and present ICAEW members, their carers and their families. If we are unable to support you, where possible we will point you to help elsewhere.

caba has supported me in the past; can I receive support from caba again?

We understand that circumstances change. If we’ve helped you in the past there’s no reason why we can’t help you again. You can contact us at any time. Please call us if you need our help.

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