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Anxiety can be a normal part of life, getting nervous or jittery when preparing for an important event, taking a test or meeting new people. However, significant anxiety- diagnosed as anxiety and panic disorder- can cause distress and interfere with your daily life.  It’s important to remember that anxiety is a serious issue, and that people who are impacted by anxiety can’t just ‘get over it’ or ‘calm down.’

Types of Anxiety

Panic disorder is a general feeling of terror that seems to come from out of nowhere
Social phobia is overwhelming worry about being in social situations
Generalized anxiety disorder is excessive or unrealistic worry for no reason
Specific phobias are intense fears of a specific object or situation.

Signs and Symptoms

Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
Problems sleeping
Cold or sweaty hands or feet
Shortness of breath
Heart palpitations
Not being able to be still and calm

Dry mouth
Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
Muscle tension
Anxiety can be treated using relaxation exercises, therapy and medication.


To start, it can be helpful to know the things that tend to make you anxious.  These can be considered your “triggers.” Knowing your triggers can help you plan for them before you become anxious.

Examples of triggers: entering a small space, being in a social situation, being in tense situations like taking a test or giving a speech, encountering a specific object (like snakes or getting a shot).

Warning Indicators

It also helps to know your warning indicators for anxiety. These are the signs and symptoms your mind and body give you to let you know that your anxiety level is increasing.  Knowing your warning indicators allow you to manage your anxiety before it becomes worse.

Examples of warning indicators: feeling overwhelmed, feeling like you can’t concentrate, racing heart, sweating, dizziness

It’s important to remember that everyone’s triggers and warning indicators are different. Try to think about your own.

Coping Skills

Once you have identified your triggers and warning indicators, you can give some thought to things that you can do or use to help you decrease your anxiety level. These are sometimes called coping skills or distractions.

Here are some examples of things that might help if you’re feeling anxious:
Move or try some exercise– running, walking, swimming or lifting weights can help you expend energy
Be creative– writing poetry, journaling, photography, painting, coloring, and crafts can be distracting and help channel your feelings into something positive
Comfort yourself– find something healthy that makes you feel safe such as a cup of tea, wrapping yourself in a blanket, taking a shower, playing with your pet
Distract yourself– get some support from a loved one or friend, watch a movie, read a book or listen to some music

Remember that like triggers and warning indicators, everyone has different coping skills and distractions that work for them- you may have to try some out until you find something that works!

Download MPE toolkit

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