Understanding and coping with anxiety

Activities to help understand and learn to cope with feelings of anxiety

Most people will have experienced feeling anxious in a range of everyday situations – before an exam or interview, when visiting a doctor, or trying something new for the first time. But if you are feeling anxious a lot, and struggling to control your thoughts and worries, it can affect your daily life.

Complete these activities and exercises to understand more about how to identify anxiety, develop coping skills, and make a self-care plan.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is sometimes thought of as a feeling of unease, worry or fear. Feeling worried or nervous about new or challenging things happening in our lives is normal but feeling anxious all the time without knowing why can become distressing. It is often hard to identify the cause of anxiety because it can be a constant feeling of worry or feeling worried about many things. These feelings can be mild or severe. In some cases, it can stop you living the life you want.

Speak to your doctor or contact NHS 111 if feelings of anxiety are severely affecting you. Talking to family and friends can help too.

Recognising anxiety

We experiences anxiety or nervousness in different ways. Being able to identify and recognise that we are anxious is important to helping deal with it. You may experience anxiety in any of the following ways:

  • a pounding heart or churning stomach
  • breathlessness
  • worries whirring round in your head and racing thoughts
  • difficulty sleeping or waking up often at night
  • shaking
  • panic attacks
  • diarrhoea

For more advice about symptoms of anxiety and anxiety disorders, please visit the website for Mind.

side profile shot of a sad-looking young girl resting her hands on her chin

Self-care action plans

Self-care is key to improving your wellbeing and providing relief from feelings of anxiety. This will be different for everyone but could include listening to music, playing sport or speaking to a friend. Self-care is important because it helps us build resilience making it easier to manage feelings like anxiety, stress, and worry. Making a self-care action plan can help you make time to look after your wellbeing.


Answer the following questions so you can make your own plan:

  • what activities make you feel good?
  • what activities help you when feeling overwhelmed?
  • what are the signs you're becoming anxious?
  • who could you contact for support?

Alternatively, you can use the ‘stress patterns’ activity to help you identify how anxiety or stress may be affecting your body.

1. Pick your self-care activities

Activities you may want to include could be spending time outdoors, listening to music, limiting electrical screen time, setting time aside for a good night's sleep or trying a new hobby.

2. Plan time for self-care

Include time for self-care in your routine and add to your calendars. It could be a time each week or each day where you take a break and do something relaxing.

3. Ask yourself how you feel

The act of ‘checking in’ with yourself regularly can help us to identify our feelings and manage anxiety. You could do this by just asking yourself once a day or once a week, “how do I feel?” or you could spend some time writing down your thoughts and feelings. This could become part of your self-care plan.

Think about

How could using an action plan help you cope with anxiety or burnout, and to look after your body and mind better? Could a self-care action plan help you cope with other feelings like stress?

You can use this plan whenever you feel anxious or burnt out, and to help recognise signs of anxiety so you can be ready to act.

For more support on creating a plan and incorporating this into your schedule, see our advice on creating a healthy routine.

A screenshot of British Red Cross' Spring wellbeing calendar

Spring Wellbeing Calendar

Designed to help you develop coping skills and increase your confidence, our Spring wellbeing calendar will allow you to gain ideas, activities, and tips to boost wellbeing and connections. You can also learn how routine and structure can help you.

You can download the calendar now, or order a printed copy.


Grounding yourself to manage anxiety

When you find yourself overwhelmed by anxiety, 'grounding' yourself, by focusing on the things that are physically around you, can help you to feel less anxious by bringing you back to the present moment.

Try the steps below when feeling overwhelmed:

  1. Find somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit down at home.

  2. Try to relax your entire body.

  3. Take slow, deep breaths, until you are breathing at a steady rhythm.

  4. As you relax, try to become aware of your surroundings.

  5. What can you see? What furniture is there in the room? Is there light coming in through the windows? Are there any patterns on the carpet or wallpaper? Are there any details that you have not noticed before?

  6. What can you hear? Is there noise from outside, or elsewhere in the house?

  7. Bring your attention back to your breath. Try to simply notice your breathing, and the feeling of your body relaxing.

  8. Check in with yourself. How do you feel now?


Woman rests back on a sofa with her hands behind her head and relaxes

Connecting with others

Talking to other people can be difficult when feeling anxious, but it can be helpful to try to speak to people we trust. If you feel too anxious to speak to someone in-person, online, or on the phone, try texting or emailing.

The text service SHOUT could be useful for you if speaking out loud seems too difficult.

Get in touch

If you are experiencing anxiety or are struggling with your wellbeing, please know that you are not alone. Call our support line for confidential and free emotional support and information about potential support options.

Call 0808 196 3651.

Dealing with anxiety: Resources for young people and children

We can experience anxiety at any stage of life. These educational resources will help young people learn skills to manage feelings of worry and anxiety and can be used in the classroom and at home. 

A woman teaches maths to a class of young students who wear red jumpers and raise their hands to answer questions

Ways to cope with anxiety and worry

Everyone encounters moments of anxiety in their lives. As well as the resources on this page, you can use our coping strategy activities when feeling anxious or worried. Managing your wellbeing and mental health can help you build resilience and make it easier to deal with these harder moments.

For more help and advice, explore all our wellbeing activities and information, or try these resources.

Screenshot of the front of British Red Cross' Self-kindness toolkit with black and red themes

You can find further ideas to help with feeling anxious with our Self-kindness toolkit. It's filled with activities to help you manage stress, cope with change and skills to build your resilience.

You can download the pack to read online.