Written by Ellen Lees
Ellen Lees
Life Coach Directory Content Team

Last updated 31st July 2023 | Next update due 30th July 2026

Anxiety will impact all of us throughout our lives. While, for many, it’s a fleeting feeling that comes in moments of high pressure or stress, for others, anxiety can impact daily life. By working with a coach, you can understand the causes of your anxiety and what skills you need to regain control and work towards a happy, healthy life - whatever that means for you.

Almost all of us will know how it feels to be anxious. It’s that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, the fizzy feeling in your hands or the heaviness in your chest. It’s fear, nerves and panic all wrapped up and delivered like an unwanted gift.

For some, it’s a fleeting feeling that comes and goes. But, for others, it lingers and impacts daily life. There are lots of different approaches to help with anxiety, and what works for one person may not work for you. Here, we're focusing on coaching for anxiety; how working with a coach can help you to understand your anxiety and learn the skills you need to cope with these feelings, as well as how to improve self-esteem and overcome limiting beliefs.

What is anxiety?

Whenever we feel fearful of something, feel tense or worried, this is anxiety. Usually, we feel anxious about something that’s about to happen or something that we think could happen in the future. Sometimes we feel anxious about past events, for example, ruminating on conversations or events and worrying that we did/said the wrong thing.

While unpleasant, anxiety is actually a very normal human response to threats, and its aim is to keep us safe. When we evolved, our brains developed a mechanism to release certain hormones (like cortisol and adrenaline) when it feels under threat. These hormones help us be more alert and make our blood rush to where it's needed the most.

This reaction is what’s known as the fight, flight or freeze response - the hormones help prepare us to fight, run away or stay very still. Originally, this response was incredibly helpful and kept us safe from predators. Of course, we’re less likely to come face-to-face with a predator these days, so other ‘perceived threats’ like seeing your inbox filling up or knowing you have to do a speech in public can trigger the same response.

We often can’t run away from these threats either, so the hormones continue to course through our bodies. Sometimes we don’t even need a trigger to feel this way. For some, anxiety builds up to such a point that they feel a constant hum of anxiety.

This is when anxiety can become a concern - when it’s impacting a person's mental well-being and daily life, and it's stopping them from doing the things they want. The severity of symptoms can help determine if it's something more serious, such as an anxiety disorder. If you’re worried about this, be sure to visit your doctor to learn more.

Can coaching help with anxiety?

In this video, coach and psychologist Rosslyn Whellams explains more about stress and anxiety, and how working with a coach can help us manage it in day-to-day life.

A belief that underpins coaching is that we each already have the resources we need to overcome the problem we’re facing. The role of a coach is not to tell you what to do but instead, work with you to identify your own solutions and guide you towards your goals.

When you first start coaching, it’s important to tell your coach about any diagnoses you have and if you are undertaking any other treatment for your anxiety (for example, counselling or medication). This will help inform your coach’s approach when working with you and can ensure you’re getting the best support.

Coaching can take place face-to-face, online, via telephone or even in a group setting. For those with anxiety, this choice can be really helpful. If meeting in person or travelling makes you anxious for example, you may prefer to receive your coaching online.

In your first session, you may set some goals together. These could be around managing your anxiety or the things you want to do, but anxiety is currently stopping you from doing them. You may simply have a goal to better manage your anxiety - whatever it is, having a clear destination in mind really helps the coaching process.

Anxiety coaching sessions will often involve the coach asking you questions to help you understand your anxiety better, and identify more helpful responses for when your fight, flight or freeze response is triggered. You may also identify any limiting beliefs that are affecting your self-esteem and together, discover ways to change the narrative.

The number of sessions you have will depend on what you hope to achieve and your coach’s way of working. The aim is to finish your work together feeling more empowered, in control and confident.

Browse our anxiety coaches

Do I need coaching or counselling?

Both counsellors and coaches can help with anxiety. The key is understanding how the two professions work and which approach may be best for you.

Counselling for anxiety

Visiting your doctor is often a helpful first step as they can help identify the severity of your anxiety and recommend treatment options. If you’re diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or have anxiety alongside other mental health conditions, for example, you might be recommended to work with a mental health professional such as a counsellor or psychotherapist. There are lots of types of counselling available for anxiety, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and approaches that look to your past.

Counselling typically aims to help you identify the underlying causes of your anxiety and manage it so you can function day to day.

Coaching for anxiety

Anxiety coaching looks to increase your understanding of anxiety so you can develop techniques to regain control, boost self-esteem and work towards goals. Different coaches will have different methods, but typically there’ll be a solution-orientated approach where you look to overcome limiting beliefs and thrive, not just survive.

If you’re unsure who to get support from, don’t hesitate to talk to an anxiety coach or counsellor and learn more. You may find you resonate with someone regardless of their title and this will be the best fit for you. Some people may also find a combination of approaches works well for them. 

To learn more about counselling for anxiety or to find a counsellor near you, visit our sister site, Counselling Directory.

How does anxiety impact self-esteem?

Low self-esteem and anxiety can very often be linked. If you have a low sense of self-esteem, this may put you at a greater risk of developing anxiety, but anxiety itself can also make you feel bad about yourself. The two can feed off each other in this negative cycle.

You may find yourself believing certain things about yourself, such as ‘I can’t cope with stressful situations’ or ‘I cannot control my anxiety around other people’. These limiting beliefs can hold you back from fulfilling your true potential.   

“Anxiety and depression can hugely affect low self-esteem and self-belief. We all have times when our inner voice and opinions become unkind, lacking confidence in our self-worth and abilities," says coach Joe Roe in her article 3 ways to build self-belief and improve mental health.

“Self-esteem and self-belief can then feed into our mental health, sometimes causing a vicious circle and long-term stuck patterns in thoughts and behaviours. The good news is that these thoughts and behaviours can become unstuck and you can be kind to your mind.”

However anxiety shows up for you, it’s important to think about support options. You may feel able to use self-help tools to manage anxiety but, if you’re at a sticking point, it may be worth working with a professional. 

4 ways to change your relationship with anxiety

Resilience coach, Alex Pett, is dedicated to helping clients build resilience, confidence and self-worth so that they can experience life to the full. In her article, 4 tips to change how anxiety affects you, she explains how our relationship with anxiety can worsen the situation:

"Anxiety is often a habit. Which also makes it a choice," writes Alex. "I’ve had generalised anxiety most of my life so I realise how wildly inaccurate that might sound. Especially when you’re in the grip of a panic attack or spiralling thoughts - there is nothing about that which feels like you can change it simply by wanting to.

"It’s a complex area... but I think many of us can benefit from reviewing our relationship with anxiety. In particular, stepping away from the idea that it is this force that takes us over - and which we can do nothing about. And, instead, seeing it as a habit with lots of things about it we can change."

In the article, Alex also shares four tips to change (and thus, improve) our relationship with anxiety and the power it holds over our lives.

1. Are you just dehydrated?

"The feelings we identify as anxiety can be triggered by something environmental. If you start to feel anxiety rising up, ask yourself “How do I feel right now and what do I need?”."

2. Are you fuelling it by running from it?

"Feeling anxious is uncomfortable and vulnerable and we just don’t want it in our lives. But while the instinctive response might be to try and block it out or run away from it, this can actually make it worse," writes Alex. "Face your anxiety. That might mean writing it down, sitting in silence and asking yourself “What’s coming up for me right now” or talking to someone you trust."

3. How are you making it worse?

"How do your actions make your anxiety worse?" says Alex. "Once you’ve identified these then you can start to change them... Maybe you need to be more punctual, stop scrolling on Instagram because it triggers feelings of comparison, or avoid overfilling your schedule so that you always feel overwhelmed."

4. Learn where anxiety is an automatic response and start to change it

"The process of gathering data on what you do - and why you do it - is invaluable. This is something I do with all my clients and it can be life-changing.

"The first step to any kind of change is to notice that you’re having an automatic response. It sounds simple but that’s a hugely important moment because it means you’re stepping back and observing your response, rather than being overwhelmed by it."

Self-help resources

Try our box breathing technique to reduce anxiety. Are you anxious? Try this short, two-minute breathing technique to soothe anxiety and leave you feeling calm.

Listen to this guided self-hypnosis for anxiety. Press play, close your eyes and let hypnotherapist Malminder Gill guide you.

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