8 ways to manage anxiety with physical symptoms


Written by tapGP Clinical Team

16 February 2024

Anxiety is a common experience that affects many people, and it’s not just about feeling nervous or stressed. It can also cause physical sensations that can be difficult to ignore. From a racing heart to tense muscles, these bodily responses can cause feelings of unease and make coping with anxiety even more challenging. Fortunately, there are simple strategies you can try to address both the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety. Let’s look at the eight easy ways to deal with anxiety with physical symptoms.

1. Take deep breaths

When anxiety strikes, it often disrupts our breathing patterns, causing them to become shallow and rapid. This can contribute to feelings of panic and make physical symptoms such as chest tightness or dizziness worse. Deep breathing exercises can help counteract these effects by activating the body’s relaxation response. One effective technique is the 4-7-8 breathing method, which involves breathing in deeply through your nose for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds, and then breathing out slowly through your mouth for eight seconds. This method not only increases oxygen flow to the brain but also create a sense of calmness and control. By using deep breathing exercises in your daily routine, you can build resilience against anxiety and its physical manifestations.

2. Move your body

Regular physical activity is not only essential for overall health but can also be an effective way to manage anxiety. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters, and reduces levels of stress hormones in the body. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, whether it’s walking, jogging, yoga, or dancing. Find activities that you enjoy and that help you release tension from both your mind and body. Additionally, exercise provides a distraction from anxious thoughts and allows you to focus on the present moment, further helping in anxiety management.

3. Relax your muscles

Progressive muscle relaxation is a simple yet powerful technique that can help reduce physical symptoms of anxiety. This method involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in the body to trigger relaxation. Start by tensing the muscles in your toes for a few seconds, then slowly release the tension as you breath out. Work your way up through the rest of your body, focusing on one muscle group at a time. This method can help reduce muscle tension, which is a common physical symptom of anxiety. By regularly practicing progressive muscle relaxation, you can train your body to recognise and release tension, leading to greater overall relaxation and reduced anxiety.

4. Watch your caffeine and alcohol intake

Both caffeine and alcohol can worsen anxiety symptoms, including physical symptoms like jitteriness and increased heart rate. Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, and some fizzy drinks, stimulates the nervous system and can trigger or worsen feelings of anxiety. Similarly, alcohol is a depressant that can disrupt sleep patterns and increase feelings of anxiety, especially in large quantities. To manage anxiety with physical symptoms, consider limiting your intake of caffeinated drinks and alcohol, particularly in situations where you’re already feeling anxious. Instead, try non-caffeinated herbal teas or water to stay hydrated and promote relaxation.

5. Try mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a practice that involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment, which can help calm both the mind and body. Find a quiet space where you can sit comfortably and focus on your breath, sensations in your body, or sounds around you. When your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to the present moment. Regular practice can help reduce overall levels of anxiety and improve your ability to cope with physical symptoms when they arise. Additionally, mindfulness meditation teaches you to observe your thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them, allowing you to respond to anxiety in a more mindful and intentional way.

6. Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and make it more difficult to cope with physical symptoms. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night by having a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and optimising your sleep environment. Avoid screens and stimulating activities before bed and consider using relaxation techniques like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to help you unwind. By prioritising sleep and practicing good sleep hygiene, you can improve your overall well-being and ability to cope with anxiety.

7. Connect with supportive people

Talking to friends, family members or a therapist about your anxiety can provide valuable support and perspective. Sharing your experiences with others who understand can help reduce feelings of isolation and validate your emotions. Additionally, spending time with loved ones who make you feel safe and supported can help distract you from anxious thoughts and promote relaxation. If meeting face-to-face is not possible, try reaching out to supportive communities online or joining a support group focused on anxiety management. Remember that you’re not alone in your struggles, and getting support is a sign of strength, not weakness.

8. Get professional help when needed

If your anxiety is significantly impacting your daily life or you’re struggling to cope with physical symptoms despite trying various self-help strategies, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A GP can work with you to develop a personalised treatment plan that may include therapy, medication, or other interventions tailored to your needs. Therapy can provide you with coping skills and strategies to manage anxiety more effectively, while medication may be recommended in cases of severe or persistent anxiety. Remember that there’s no shame in asking for help, and reaching out for professional support is an important step towards healing and recovery.


Managing anxiety when it comes with physical symptoms can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. By including these practical strategies into your daily routine and seeking support when needed, you can learn to cope more effectively with both the mental and physical aspects of anxiety. Remember to be patient with yourself and give yourself credit for your efforts, even on difficult days. With time and practice, you can build greater resilience and find relief from anxiety’s grip on your mind and body.

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