My GAD first showed up when I was 10 or 11, when I suddenly became emetophobic. (Fear of vomiting... yeah, who knows.) By the time I was in high school, I started having IBS caused by my anxiety. My parents thought I was just a hypochondriac/pain in the arse, and my doctor though I might have acid reflux. During my senior year of high school it suddenly clicked that I didn't have a stomach problem, but anxiety. I went on an SSRI for the first two years of college, and it helped me immensely by interrupting the harmful cycle of negative thoughts I had. (Obsessive ones that exacerbated and created the anxiety.)
This experience really helped me figure out better ways to cope without medication. I admit that sometimes I use generic Xanax to travel or go to a 'scary' medical procedure, but for the most part I am extremely happy - sans medication. For those that prefer not to medicate, this is what I've learned helps me.
1. Laugh a LOT. Make it a point to find something that cracks you up at least once a day, whether it's a video or a comic strip. (Or a funny conversation with a friend/coworker.) I've always had a tendency to surround myself with funny people and I gravitate towards funny media - why? It makes you feel good, and it relieves stress and anxiety.
2. Be active. Live life to the fullest! Try to find hobbies that you can devote nervous energy to. Soothing things like gardening, photography, or fishing are great. I prefer doing at least one or two things that keep me physically active. Pets are great too, sometimes I just go to the pet store to look at the animals up for adoption - my cat is full grown and I don't need another one, but just looking at kittens makes my blood pressure drop noticeably.
3. Stay connected. Keep in touch with a 'support network' of loved ones, whether they're friends or family. Try to stay in touch with people that are positive and good listeners - feeling like you have someone you can count on, especially if you are single, does a lot for your emotional health and helps decrease anxiety. If you're in a relationship, getting your partner to understand your anxiety is crucial. Once that happens, he/she can help you cope and be supportive when you need it most.
4. Take care of yourself. Indulge in something relaxing every once in a while, and eat healthy. I personally like to take a trip to a higher-end salon every month or less. It's utterly frivolous, and that's what makes it feel so good. Eating healthy just makes you feel better physically, and who doesn't want that?
5. Get some sun. Protect yourself from UV rays with sunscreen of course, but do make it a point to spend a little time in the sunshine as often as you can. (Even just 15 minutes on a bright patio is helpful to me.) Try to be active during the day if your work schedule allows. If it's winter, or you live in Seattle, try light-therapy lamps.
Hope this helps somebody.