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Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace. Live in this moment non-judgmentally. You got this.

We all know what it’s like to feel anxious.

The butterflies in our tummy before our speech, the tension before our exam, or the way our heart pounds before we take the field for the grand final. This anxiety is really normal and in fact is necessary to help us avoid danger, study harder, finish a project, or gear up to perform at our best.

But for some people, the feelings of anxiety can be much more intense and overwhelming. This anxiety is more than feeling stressed – it's a serious condition that makes day-to-day life difficult. It can be helpful to know that there are different types of anxiety disorders such as generalised anxiety, social phobia, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress.

The good news is that there are effective treatments for each type of anxiety disorder.

Anxiety can affect our whole being, typically in four areas – physically, how we feel, our thoughts and how we behave most of the time.

  • Physical: you might experience butterflies in the stomach, muscle tension, sweating, tummy ache, shaky hands or perhaps feeling nauseous. Sometimes it can feel like your heart is racing so much you think it feels like a heart attack.
  • Feelings: you might feel worried, on edge, overwhelmed, frightened, fearful or even panicked.
  • Thoughts: You may notice you’re ‘over-thinking’ things – but you just can’t stop these intense and sometimes overwhelming thoughts. This thinking is often repetitive, irrational and negative, causing your feelings of anxiety or fear to get worse.
  • Behaviour: Feeling anxiety can make you avoid friends, school, situations or whatever stresses you out. More and more things can stress you out after a while, making you avoid even more. You might also continually check things to make sure you did it right.

Aunty Dee’s tips for anxiety

1. Talk to someone

Anxiety is a part of life but it should not get in the way of your everyday relationships and activities. If it is, it’s time to get help. It can be really hard to ask for help, but everyone deserves to live a life free from anxiety. Tell family, friends or workmates what’s going on for you, especially if you experience panic attacks. You will feel more comfortable if they know you might have to stop to ‘wait out’ a panic attack. There are also many health professionals and services available. Read my tips on talking too.

2. Help yourself

Self-help strategies can work well for people with anxiety or to prevent anxiety problems.

  • Sleep well: sleep hygiene – getting a good night’s sleep helps manage anxiety. Read Aunty Dee's tips for good sleep hygiene.
  • Stop the substances: go easy on the caffeine and alcohol, and avoid cannabis.
  • Learn to relax regularly: Relaxation is more than unwinding or a bath at the end of the day. For anxiety, evidence shows we can manage it really well through regular daily practice of deep relaxation for 20-30 minutes. There many free apps you can download to help you practice deep relaxation. Read Aunty Dee's tips for relaxation.
  • Breathe: part of relaxation is learning to breathe slowly and deeply when you feel anxious. You need to practice this, so try out free apps that teach you how to breathe well for anxiety.
  • Schedule in a worry break: Ruminating, re-playing negative situations, or just worrying about tomorrow are all unhelpful thoughts and feelings. Schedule in 20 minutes a day to write down all the things that worry you. Put them in a special place (create a worry jar!), and check in with Aunty Dee tomorrow by entering them in to your problem solving profile.
  • Monitor your mood: with this free mood diary app from the Anxiety New Zealand Trust.
  • Checkout SPARX, a computerised self-help game designed for young people with mild to moderate depression. It has been designed by expert game developers and mental health experts. Le Va and the Aunty Dee team have contributed to it. To learn more, visit Youtube or visit and register to use the program.
  • Checkout other self-help books or websites like:, or

3. Ask the pros

If you want to talk to someone confidentially or ask questions, try these free numbers. Even if a phone call is not enough to help, it can be a good first step.

  • Anxiety helpline: 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY) –  Anxiety New Zealand Trust’s free helpline.
  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 – New Zealand's free telephone counselling service.
  • Healthline: 0800 611 116 – if you're feeling unwell, sick or need advice.
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 – free text 234 or email: