Facing up to how anxiety makes you feel can be the first step in breaking the cycle. If you experience anxiety or panic attacks, there are many things you can do to help yourself cope.
It's common to feel unsure about seeking support for your mental health, and to feel like you ought to wait until you can't handle things on your own. But it's always ok for you to seek help – even if you're not sure if you are experiencing a specific mental health problem.
Talk to someone you trust
Talking to someone you trust about what's making you anxious can help. You may find that they have encountered a similar problem and can talk you through it. It may be that just having someone listen to you and showing they care, can help in itself.
Try a breathing exercise
Gently breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, keeping the pace slow and regular. Slowly tense then relax the muscles in your body, starting at your toes and working up to your head. Afterwards, just take some time to be still and focus on how your body feels.
See our page on relaxation techniques for more information about breathing exercises you can try.
Try shifting your focus
Distract yourself from the anxiety you are feeling. Look at a flower, a picture or something that you find interesting or comforting. Really notice the details, the colours and any smells or sounds.
Listen to music
Listening to music you find peaceful or you enjoy, can help you to feel calmer.
Try reassuring yourself
You may find it helpful to tell yourself that the symptoms you experience are actually caused by anxiety – it is not really dangerous, and it will pass. This can help you feel calmer and less fearful of future attacks.
Do physical exercise
Going for a walk or a run can help you get some time to yourself to think things over, away from everyday stresses. If you're not able to do physical activities outdoors, think about what kinds of physical activities you can do indoors. (See our pages on physical activity for more information.)
Keep a diary
Keeping a note of what happens each time you get anxious or have a panic attack can help you spot patterns and help you deal with these situations in the future. You could also try keeping a note of times when you are able to manage your anxiety successfully. This might help you feel more in control.
Eat a healthy diet
You may find it easier to relax if you cut down on stimulants such as coffee, cigarettes and alcohol. Some people also find that eating a healthy diet helps them to manage anxiety better. (See our pages on food and mood for more information.)
Try complementary therapies
This could include yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, massage, reflexology, herbal treatments, Bach flower remedies or hypnotherapy. One or more of these methods can help you manage your anxiety or panic attacks. Many chemists and health shops stock different remedies and should be able to offer advice.
For more information about complementary therapies, see
Attend a support group
Sometimes sharing your experiences with people who have been through something similar can help you feel less alone. Your force may already have some sort of peer support group set up.
Anxiety Care UK provides details of support services on its website. Big White Wall is an online community and forum overseen by trained advisers. You might be able to use it for free through the NHS, your employer or if you have previously served in the armed forces. You can also contact our Blue Light Infoline, and ask for details of any support groups in your local area.
Talk to your GP
If you feel like you need some professional support, you can speak to your doctor. They can check your overall health, and help you access treatments.
This information was published in July 2015. We will revise it in 2018.