5 Awesome Ways to Cope with Anxiety

Written by Dahyana P. Schlosser, PMHNP-BC

Tip #1: Mindfulness

This is an overarching topic that forms the foundation for many therapeutic interventions. Mindfulness, as it relates to anxiety, simply refers to the idea of being aware of yourself and how you feel.

If you suffer from anxiety, you know that sometimes it seems like it comes out of nowhere. However, if you think about what you were feeling before you noticed you were anxious, the answer is usually “I don’t know.” Usually, if you are feeling super anxious, there was likely a buildup.

Being mindful by making it a priority to check in with yourself periodically is important. Ask yourself: “how do I feel right now,” often. It will help you to figure out what you need, and when. The rest of the strategies on this list can be employed at any time during the “build-up” and even in full-blown panic mode.

 Tip #2: Deep Breathing

This often falls into the mindfulness category, but it can stand alone as an intervention. Most people think they know how to breathe deeply, but it is easier said than done when in the throes of anxiety.

3 Tips for Deep Breathing

  1. Don’t try to fight against the anxiety as you try to breathe. You will only end up becoming more anxious. Instead, make a concerted effort to focus on your breathing and eventually it will begin to help.
  2. When you inhale, fill your body up with air until you can’t possibly fill it any longer.
  3. When you exhale, push all of the air out SLOWLY. If it helps, form your lips as if you are getting ready to whistle.

Here is a list of thirteen deep breathing apps. Some of these are really cool. You can set them on your phone/tablet to periodically remind you to breathe. This is such an easy way to ensure you are checking in with yourself!

Tip #3: Grounding Exercises

These aren’t your traditional forms of exercise (though we’ll get to that in a bit). These are things that you do to help engage your senses. Engaging your senses when you’re feeling anxious is super helpful because it diverts your mind’s attention from being anxious.

The “Lizard” part of your brain is not able to command the energy that is necessary to experience all sensations, much to its dismay. So, a great way to take back control is to engage in a multi-sensory experience.

One example of a grounding exercise is holding ice in your hands or against your wrist. When you hold the ice, be aware and mindful of what it feels like in your hand. Let the adjectives flow. Also, remember to focus on your breath, too.

Another awesome grounding exercise is one that takes some prior prep and builds on the ice idea.

  • Take a bowl, fill it with beads and/or other small objects, add water, then freeze it.
  • When you feel you need some grounding, take the bowl out of the freezer.
  • Then, fish out the beads and objects.
  • You will have to be creative about how you get them out. This is why it’s so helpful as a grounding exercise. With this activity you are engaging multiple senses, as well as diverting your cognitive energy to a task. “Lizard Brain” should quiet down after you’ve ignored it for a bit.

Anything that engages your senses can be a grounding exercise. Showers, baths, weighted blankets or lap pads, swinging, walking while looking at nature, listening to music, holding a warm drink between your hands, and smelling pleasant smells are all great things to try.

Tip #4: Exercise

Exercise has many benefits to overall health, including mental health. Expending some energy outside, at yoga, or in the gym can be just what you need to keep your “Lizard” dormant.

Tip #5: Talk with Someone

Sometimes anxiety is not only the result of the misfiring of the brain. Perhaps the “Lizard” is reacting for good reason. If you are finding that coping skills alone aren’t keeping your anxiety at bay, then finding a good, solid, therapist to help you sort through things is advisable.