Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


5 Ways to Deal With Anxiety That Won't Go Away

5. Question your assumptions and your beliefs.

Key points

  • Anxiety tends to have a mind of its own, intruding on our lives and staying longer than we want it to.
  • Trying to eliminate anxiety often makes it an even bigger problem.
  • Many helpful strategies are about building a different relationship with anxiety.
Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe Stock
Source: Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe Stock

Anxiety often acts like a rude visitor, showing up uninvited and staying long after you’ve asked it to leave. Whatever form it takes—grinding worry, a choking sense of panic, dread about social situations, or anything else—unrelenting anxiety can be exhausting.

Some techniques can be effective at lowering anxiety: facing your fears through exposure therapy, relaxing all the major muscles in your body one by one, practicing meditation and other forms of mindfulness, and others. But while these techniques are often helpful, they don’t help everyone; even when they work, they may be only partly successful.

What can you do when anxiety just won’t go away? These five strategies can help.

1. Drop into your body.

Anxiety often chases you into your head and disconnects you from your physical body. As a result, the anxiety takes over more and more of your focus and energy. Come back to what’s happening in your body. Take a few easy breaths as you notice any sensations—heat, cold, heaviness, tension, or buzzing energy. Let your observations be as neutral as possible, free from judgments of “good” or “bad.” Witness what it’s like to be in a body at this very moment.

2. Invite the anxiety in.

This approach sounds paradoxical, and it is. Resisting anxiety not only doesn’t make it go away, it tends to make it worse. See what it’s like to ask anxiety to stay awhile. Let it know it can hang out as long as it likes, and that you’ll be taking care of other things in the meantime. Even if it sticks around, you can drop the useless struggle to make it leave.

3. Do the next thing.

Ask yourself what needs to be done. Shift your focus from fixing how you feel to doing the one next task that needs your attention. Make this pivot as gentle as possible, without self-criticism or a harsh internal voice. Simply and kindly ask yourself, What needs to be done? As strategy #2 suggested, anxiety can tag along.

4. Breathe and listen.

Anxiety is an alarm, and alarms are meant to get your attention. Pause for a moment and tune inward. Listen for what your mind and body might be trying to tell you. You don’t need to think about it or figure it out. You’re listening more with your heart than your ears, with intuition rather than reason.

Give yourself some time and space to hear what might be under the distressing thoughts and feelings. Even if you don’t get an answer, it can be beneficial just to pause and look within.

5. Question your assumptions.

Behind each of these techniques is one guiding principle: Change your relationship with anxiety. We tend to get locked into one way of handling it, which is usually about getting rid of anxiety. Start to challenge the beliefs that drive this response. Finding peace when you’re anxious often requires making peace with anxiety. When you find yourself asking why anxiety won’t go away, remind yourself that nothing says it has to. Perhaps it’s not your job to fix anxiety. Maybe it’s okay to be anxious.

Experiment with these five approaches and see what they’re like for you. Just beware of the tendency to judge if they “work” or not by whether they make you feel less anxious. While feelings play an important role in our lives, they are not the ultimate measure of a life well lived. Focus your energy instead on doing the things that bring real value to your days.

Facebook/LinkedIn image: fizkes/Shutterstock

More from Seth J. Gillihan PhD
More from Psychology Today