4 Practical ways to reduce anxiety and increase well-being

Anxiety is a normal and natural bodily response to threat. Many years ago a high level of anxiety was needed to keep the human race alive. Worrying about not being eaten by an animal, having enough food or the threat of a rival tribe was what kept us alive, as worrying helped prepare us for the threat.


Evolution has valued anxiety as it helped keep humans safe and alive, however, the level of anxiety needed long ago is no longer relevant in the modern technical world we live in today. The threats we are presented with have greatly changed over the years. From once humans being faced with the threat of a tiger to now facing the threat of paying the bills, looking after family, holding down a job and coping with the demands of modern living whilst having to juggle so many balls.  

The level of anxiety once needed to keep us alive is no longer needed. Traumatic events or experiences in our lives can also impact our brains and lead to our brain's alarm system the amygdala becoming over-sensitised to threat causing it to activate the fight, flight, freeze, fawn branch of our nervous system all too readily and releasing the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline into our body.

Anxiety can be managed and reduced in a number of ways, although it is important for our protection to still maintain a healthy level of anxiety.

This article focuses on a few practical areas you are able to control: thoughts, feelings and behaviours as well as lifestyle advice to support positive mental health. However, as we are all so individual it is important for you to find the things that are helpful and resonate with you.

1. Counselling/hypnotherapy

I am always excited to suggest counselling and hypnotherapy as the first in my list of ways to support yourself with anxiety reduction. I have experienced the profound impacts of counselling and hypnotherapy myself which were life-changing and inspired me on my own journey to becoming a counsellor.

Counselling and hypnotherapy can be an effective way to support yourself when dealing with anxiety. Counselling offers a safe and confidential space to explore your thoughts and feelings and work through past trauma. Counselling can help you build resilience, confidence and self-esteem and learn coping skills to deal with the difficulties of life.  Counsellors can work with you using a range of models and techniques to promote self-growth and support you in identifying and living in alignment with your authentic self.  

Hypnotherapy works on a deep level with the subconscious mind. Our mind runs on subconscious programs which were often established in our childhood. These patterns and programmes affect the way we think feel and behave. When these subconscious beliefs and programmes are negative they can impact greatly and hold us back.  Hypnotherapy helps with identifying and reprogramming the negative and limiting beliefs, building more positive ones, and increasing levels of self-efficacy confidence and self-esteem.

2. Exercise/yoga

When we experience high levels of anxiety and frequently trigger the fight/flight part of our nervous system our body produces stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol.  These stress hormones give us a large amount of energy which was helpful to us in times gone by when we may have been hunted by a bear, but not so much now.  

Exercise can help in allowing the body to burn off some of the stress hormones. It is important to find the right exercise for you and something you enjoy. Even just a short walk in nature can have the positive effects of moving/connecting with the body and enjoying the therapeutic effects of being in nature.

J. Samuel (2021) in her book This too will pass discusses how cardiovascular exercise is the “fast-track route to de-stress your body. Our stress levels ratchet up with the daily juggle of life, while running, walking or any sport instantly decreases our cortisol levels; having exercised our body is told not to be on alert, we are safe, and releases the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine”.  

Yoga is also an effective exercise that helps you connect with the mind and body. The gentle poses and movement can help reduce stress and tension in the body. It also incorporates an element of mindfulness helping you to focus on the pose. This focuses the mind on the present moment reducing the need to ruminate on the past or worry about the future. Noticing and connecting with your mind and body can help with emotional regulation.

 3. Lifestyle 

Many areas can impact our emotional and physical health. Sometimes we just get into bad habits and may not realise the impact it may be having on the levels of stress or anxiety we experience. It is important when making lifestyle changes to balance these out with the need for enjoyment and fulfilment in life.


Caffeine can have a great impact on our anxiety levels, it can increase feelings of stress and physical feelings of anxiety. Caffeine can also impact our sleep as it can suppress our sleep drive. Drinking a strong cup of coffee in the morning can remain in our system for hours. Some people are more sensitive than others, so it is important to recognise the impact on yourself and be mindful of how much you consume.

If you drink large amounts of caffeine it's also not advisable that you cut it out all at once as you may have withdrawal symptoms. Caffeine is also found in energy drinks and foods like chocolate.


Alcohol can also impact negatively on mood, anxiety levels and sleep. Being mindful of the impact of alcohol on yourself and your mental health can be helpful. If you feel you are drinking too much and want to cut down, seeking advice from your GP is advisable.  There are also many counsellors on Counselling Directory who you may wish to contact for advice or support.


Diet is also a very important factor in your mental health. The mind and body are connected and if you are not nourishing your body with healthy foods, you are likely to feel sluggish and lack motivation. Making an effort to replace overly processed foods with more natural options can be a good starting point. Try eating the colours of the rainbow and experimenting with healthy foods that are appealing to you.

4. Connect with yourself

The fourth tip I would suggest is to spend time connecting with yourself and your feelings and thoughts. Strong feelings and thoughts that are suppressed are likely to bubble up to the surface and will not get any quieter until they are listened to. If you can, allow yourself time to be with your feelings and notice how they feel in your body.   Eventually, all feelings, positive and negative, will pass. The more you suppress them, the louder they will become.

Spending time journalling or writing down how you feel can also help. It gives you some distance in writing down and naming your feelings and reading back can help in reflecting on your wants and needs and what is important to you. Some people also find being creative by using art, drama, and/or music to express their thoughts and feelings can be a powerful release and way of expressing themselves.  

Allowing yourself this time helps you to connect with yourself to reflect on the things that are important to you. This helps you to live more authentically and in alignment with your values.  

If your feelings are too intense to stay with, or you are feeling overwhelmed or disconnected from your feelings it may help to reach out to a family member, friend or contact a counsellor for support. Counselling can provide a safe space where you feel held enough to explore thoughts and feelings which may be very difficult and distressing for you. It is a supportive environment where you can grow and build resilience, confidence and self-esteem.


  • Samuel. J (2021) This too shall pass, Penguin Random House UK, Dublin

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Birmingham, West Midlands, B43 5SB
Written by Sunflower Empowerment, Prof.DipPsyC, DipCST, CertHypCs, BA Hons Social Work
Birmingham, West Midlands, B43 5SB

Written by Claire Ashby Accredited Counsellor, Hypnotherapist and Qualified Social Worker.    She has her own private practice in Birmingham where she works as a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist. If you would like to work with Claire you can book an appointment through her Counselling Directory profile.

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