My dad was dying of cancer. I had a year to prepare for the inevitable, but when he passed away, it still hit me like a ton of bricks. I was an only child and very close to my father my entire life.

I began waking up in the middle of the night with my heart racing and my thoughts drifting to dark places. What the heck was going on? This had never happened to me before! 

I was losing sleep. My relationships were affected. One of my top clients fired me after I showed up completely unprepared for a meeting.

I was simply going through the motions in life just trying just to get by minute to minute. My ego got in the way of my seeking help. I began to think I was going nuts.

Weeks went by and then a few months of living like this. I finally realized I needed help when I had a panic attack while playing tennis with my buddies at the club. Tennis is a lifelong passion of mine, but that day all I wanted to do was get out of there. I didn't know where I wanted to go, but I had to leave. So, I told my buddies that I was feeling nauseous. It wasn't a complete lie.

I knew then that I needed help. My life was crumbling, and I couldn't put the pieces back together by myself. I checked my ego and sought help. Ever since my dad died eight years ago, anxiety has been something I've had to battle every day. 

The first thing to realize when you get anxiety or depression is that you're not alone. There are 40 million Americans who have some form of anxiety disorder. I didn't realize this, and I was beginning to label myself as a freak, lunatic, or worse. 

To beat anxiety, you need a plan. While I'm not an expert, I can share what's worked for me to win against stress and not let it consume me.

1) Daily exercise is a must.

Exercise is a critical step towards being a healthy person. So naturally, it works wonders towards beating anxiety. 

One of the things for me is that when a panic attack hits, my thoughts go down a negative spiral that is tough to reverse. I find that exercise forces my body to have a different thought pattern. In other words, sitting around with my thoughts makes my anxiety much worse. I need to get out and get my body moving to release the excess tension that anxiety brings on, and that would work for you, too.

When I don't exercise regularly, I find that my anxiety becomes more challenging to control.

2) Seek help from your doctor.

If you have anxiety problems, working with a trained medical professional is a must. 

They can help you develop a customized plan for overcoming anxiety. The medications I've been prescribed by my doctors have helped me tremendously. I went months without seeking help and trying to beat it on my own without medication. I thought antidepressants were only for crazy people. Don't be judgmental of yourself and others like I was. 

Check your ego and go to the doctor.  

3) See a professional counselor.

Your doctor will be able to recommend a counselor for you to see. I eventually saw a professional grief counselor after my dad passed away. It helped me to understand my feelings, and how I can better deal with them.

Counselors can help you deal with the root cause of your anxiety, and overcome what's causing you to feel the way you are.

4) Develop a support group.

To win against anxiety, you need a support group of friends and family you can talk to about it. Never keep it inside, as I did! 

Seek out people who are understanding and non-judgmental. Maybe you have a friend or relative who's been through it, too?

Consider joining a few anxiety-support groups on Facebook. They are full of people who are fighting every day to beat anxiety and will. Yes they are strangers, but you will be surprised at how helpful talking with other people who have gone through what you're dealing with can help you. 

Always remember: You're not alone! Anxiety wants us to feel that way. Don't let it!