Living with anxiety: symptoms, treatments, coping strategies, employment and supports

Anxiety disorders are an extremely common type of mental health condition, affecting 1 in every 6 Australians.

While living with anxiety presents unique challenges, with the right supports, coping strategies and treatments, you can successfully manage your condition and live your life on your own terms.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is your body’s response to situations that are perceived as threatening or stressful.

It's characterised by feelings of unease, such as worry or fear.

Feelings like this are a very typical part of everyday life and can arise around relationships, your financial situation, your health, or before an important event.

However, if these feelings become constant, overwhelming or start interfering with your day-to-day life, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder and worth reaching out for professional help.

There are multiple types of anxiety disorders, including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and disorders associated with specific phobias.

Each one is unique, with different challenges, but all can be identified by excessive, long-lasting worry and fear about everyday situations.

To learn more about the different types of anxiety disorders, head to our blog: What is anxiety? A comprehensive overview.

Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety can look and feel different for everyone, however some common symptoms to be aware of include physical symptoms associated with fear or panic, like:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Stomach aches or headaches
  • Trembling
  • Sweating

Anxiety also extends beyond just the physical. You may experience thoughts or feelings such as:

  • Feeling on-edge
  • Negative thoughts
  • Anxious feelings
  • Feeling intense fear
  • Uncontrollable and excessive worry
  • Feeling short-tempered
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling self-conscious
  • A constant feeling of dread or worry about bad things happening
  • Difficulty concentrating

While the examples above are common, it is not an exhaustive list and everyone can experience very unique symptoms.

Sometimes the symptoms can be hard to predict and can last for a brief period or continue for hours.

Sudden, intense episodes of these symptoms are commonly known as anxiety attacks or panic attacks.

To learn more about how to know if you have anxiety, head to our recent blog: Think you might be living with anxiety? How to spot the signs.

Treatment options and coping strategies for someone living with anxiety

Anxiety isn't a sign of weakness, but a common mental health condition that many people live with and successfully manage every day, with the right treatments, strategies and supports.

It’s important that if feelings of anxiety persist and interfere with your day-to-day life, you reach out to a mental health professional for advice.

There are many different ways to treat and manage anxiety disorders.

Typical treatment options can involve a combination of:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Behavioural therapies – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) help individuals understand and change thought patterns that lead to harmful behaviours or feelings of unease.
  • Lifestyle changes – such as regular physical activity, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and reducing caffeine and alcohol.
  • Self-care coping strategies – this can include things like connecting with a support group, talking to people you trust, and practising mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques.
  • Medication

It’s important to note that while medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines and antidepressants can be prescribed by a healthcare professional to help manage symptoms, they can’t cure anxiety disorders.

Speak to your general practitioner to see if medication is right for you.

You can discover more about coping strategies for anxiety in our recent article.

Finding supportive employment

Living with anxiety doesn't mean limiting your career prospects or job opportunities.

There are many job roles that can be supportive, comforting and accommodating for individuals living with anxiety disorders.

By no means is there a one-size-fits-all list of jobs for everyone, including people living with anxiety.

When searching for employment it’s important you consider what you love, your strengths, and your life experiences, as well as your weaknesses, triggers and individual needs.

If you need a little extra help finding a job that’s right for you, there is support available.

Disability Employment Services like APM are a great option, as they have knowledgeable employment consultants who are dedicated to helping people living with injury, illness, or disability find fulfilling and sustainable work.

Learn more about finding fulfilling and rewarding jobs for people with anxiety.

Tips for working with anxiety

Working while managing anxiety can present challenges, but with the right strategies and supports in place, it's entirely achievable and great for your mental health.

The key lies in careful planning and stress management.

Consider structuring your day in a way that best suits your comfort levels, maintaining a balance between work tasks and breaks.

Prioritise tasks based on their importance and deadlines, and avoid multitasking as it can amplify feelings of anxiety.

Implement techniques that reduce stress, such as deep breathing, meditation or even a short walk during a break.

Taking regular breaks is not just a tip, it's essential. Short, frequent breaks can help reset your mind and reduce feelings of overwhelm.

Consider stepping away from your workspace for a few moments, perhaps make a cup of tea, take a walk outside for some fresh air or simply get a change of scenery.

It's also important to recognise and acknowledge your feelings of anxiety, rather than suppressing them.

If your anxiety is impacting you at work, remember it's okay to seek help. Reach out to a trusted colleague, manager, mental health professional, or Disability Employment Services for support.

Not only are Disability Employment Services like APM passionate about helping you find work, they can also help you keep your job through supports like job-specific training and workplace modifications, all while keeping your goals and needs in mind.

How to support someone living with anxiety

Supporting someone living with anxiety is a balance. Patience, understanding, and encouragement form the foundation of this support.

Understand that their experiences and feelings are real, even if they may seem irrational to you.

Validate their emotions instead of downplaying or dismissing them.

Be patient, as progress may be gradual.

Someone living with anxiety may have good days and bad days. Encourage their efforts, even the small victories, as this reinforces their ability to manage their anxiety.

It's also important to encourage anyone living with anxiety to seek professional advice if their symptoms are impacting their daily life or causing significant distress.

Assure them that seeking help is a sign of strength, and you can offer to accompany them to appointments if they're comfortable with that.

Listening, really listening, can make a significant difference. Sometimes, someone living with anxiety might just need to vent without seeking advice or solutions.

Remember that while you're offering support, it's also important to maintain your own mental and emotional well-being.

Seek guidance if you're unsure how to handle certain situations or if you feel overwhelmed.

Your role is not to fix someone else’s anxiety but to provide understanding and support while they navigate their journey.

You can learn more about how to help someone with anxiety in this blog.

Living with anxiety and the right support

The experience of living with anxiety varies from person to person.

It's not just about weathering the storm, but also about learning to navigate through it with effective strategies, treatments and support.

With the right support and understanding, it's entirely possible to lead a fulfilling and productive life whilst managing anxiety.

If you need help finding or keeping work while living with anxiety, APM Disability Employment Services can help.

To learn more, head to our page about searching for a job with an injury, illness, or disability.