Katherine Heigl wishes she had learned how to better manage her anxiety earlier on in her career, because it would have allowed her to handle difficult situations with "more grace".

The Knocked Up star shot to fame in 2005 on hit medical drama Grey's Anatomy but her time on the show was marred by controversy months after her 2007 Emmy win for her role as Dr Izzie Stevens, as she withdrew her name from awards consideration, claiming her storylines did not warrant a nomination.

Her actions led to a clash with creator Shonda Rhimes, and she eventually left the show in 2010. Now Heigl has admitted part of her behaviour was down to the mental health struggles she had quietly faced at the time.

"I don't think you get through life without any regrets, but you can create some purpose from it," the actress told People magazine.

"I know there's a better way to deal with those things than I did. I could have handled it with more grace," she went on.

Confessing: "I don't actually regret leaving Grey's Anatomy - I did the right thing for me and for my family," the 42-year-old reflected: "but I do regret the heightened drama I was feeling at that time."

She shared: "If I'd known anything about meditation then, or had been talking to a therapist or someone to help me through some of the fear that I was steeped in, I think I would have been more calm in how I approached what boundaries I needed to create to thrive."

Heigl has since turned to a professional counsellor to help work through her anxiety, and she insisted she has taken note of the lessons learned over the years.

"Something else that experience taught me is that no matter how big an opportunity or how rewarding something is, there will be moments of struggle," she added of her time on Grey's Anatomy.