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Self-help - Generalised anxiety disorder

There are many ways you can help ease the symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

Try a book or an online course

When you're diagnosed with GAD, your GP may recommend self-help treatments. They may do this before you have psychological therapy or medicine.

Self-help treatment usually involves working from a book or computer programme.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment. It can help you understand how your problems, thoughts, feelings and behaviour affect each other. This helps you manage anxiety by changing negative or unhelpful thoughts and behaviour.

Physical activity

Physical activity, particularly aerobic exercise, can help you combat stress and release tension. It also encourages your brain to release serotonin, which can improve your mood.

Examples of good aerobic exercises include:

  • walking fast or jogging
  • swimming
  • cycling
  • tennis
  • hiking
  • football or rugby
  • aerobics

You should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. It should raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster.

Regular physical activity

Learn to relax

As well as regular physical activity, learning how to relax is important.

You may find breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques helpful. You may prefer activities such as yoga or Pilates to help you unwind.

Breathing exercises

Avoid smoking and drinking

Smoking and alcohol make anxiety worse. Drinking alcohol in moderation or stopping smoking may help to reduce your anxiety.

To reduce the risk of harming your health:

  • do not drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over 3 days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week

Fourteen units are equal to 6 pints of beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.

Alcohol units

Stopping smoking

Contact support groups

Support groups can give you advice on how to manage your anxiety. They're also a good way to meet other people with similar experiences.

Support groups can often arrange face-to-face meetings. You can use these meetings to talk about your difficulties and problems. Many support groups also provide support and guidance over the phone or in writing.

Talk to your GP about local support groups for anxiety in your area.

Find organisations that provide mental health supports

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025