Anxiety is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in Australia. While we may all experience anxiety at some point in life, it is important to seek help to manage your anxiety if it is affecting your ability to function in a regular way for you.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational anticipation of future threats. Feeling anxious in certain situations can help us avoid danger, triggering our 'fight or flight' response. It is how we’ve evolved to keep ourselves safe. Sometimes though, we can become overly worried about perceived threats – bad things that may or may not happen.

When your worries are persistent, or out of proportion to the reality of the threat and get in the way of you living your life, you may have an anxiety disorder. It's important to seek help to manage severe anxiety. There are many effective treatments for anxiety; it can be managed.

Below are some of the most common signs and symptoms associated with anxiety.

  • Restlessness
  • Feeling ‘on edge’ or unable to stop worrying
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty concentrating, feeling ‘brain fog’ or confused
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Upset stomach
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Mental exhaustion

Anxiety is a manageable condition. What works is different for everyone, and it can take time to find the strategies that work best for you. But remember, if your anxiety is becoming impossible to manage, seek support from a professional such as your GP, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Below are some strategies you may find helpful if you are experiencing anxiety:

  1. Identify how you are feeling and acknowledge your emotional response in relation to the situation. Accept your experience and talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling.
  2. If this is helpful for you, focus on your breathing.  Count to five as you breathe in slowly – then count to five as you breathe out slowly.  Engaging in other types of relaxation strategies such as progressive muscle relaxation can also be useful for some people.
  3. Stay in the present moment. Anxiety can make your thoughts live in a terrible future that hasn’t happened yet. Try to bring yourself back to where you are. Practising mindfulness can help.
  4. Healthy lifestyle. Keeping active, eating well, going out into nature, spending time with family and friends, reducing stress and doing the activities you enjoy are all effective in reducing anxiety and improving your wellbeing.
  5. Other therapies such as massage, acupuncture and yoga may also be something you find helpful in coping with symptoms of anxiety.

It can be very difficult to know what to do and how to cope, but help is available. Below are some places to go for information and support. If life is in danger, please call 000.

  • My Compass online self-help program for people experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety - My Compass 
  • Mindspot – Mindspot
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
  • This Way Up — clinician assisted online CBT course for generalised anxiety, panic disorder, social phobia, specific phobias and trauma - This Way Up  
  • Contact your GP to arrange an appointment to create a mental health plan with a psychologist. Once you have a mental health care plan, you will be entitled to Medicare rebates for up to 10 individual and 10 group appointments with some allied mental health services in a year - see Services Australia 


For Crisis Support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24/7) or via text (12pm-midnight AEST) on 0477 13 11 14

Dr Kieran's Story

Psychiatrist, Kieran, began his medical training keen to combine his love of academia with his love of caring. However, as he did his rounds of the wards alongside bullying bosses, determined to make him feel foolish, anxiety and depression set in. He often ended his shifts, sitting in his car and sobbing.

Although he was in the medical profession to help others, Dr Kieran didn’t feel he could ask for help himself and eventually became so depressed, he tried to end his life.

Fortunately for everyone - especially the patients he treats today - he didn’t succeed and instead uses what he has learned on his journey to provide empathetic care and advice to others. Here, he gifts us with the strategies and techniques he uses to manage his depression.