“These 25,643,212 scenarios will literally never happen.” —My shampoo and conditioner bottles, circa every other shower.
Naturally, we are all individuals, and not all of these tips will work for everyone. However, we hope that you find something of value here that could come in handy the next time you’re feeling apprehensive, anxious, or distressed.
“Square. Breathing. As a licensed clinical mental health counselor and a person with generalized anxiety disorder, I cannot recommend it enough. It’s easy, it’s quick, and you can do it anywhere without people noticing.
I even recommend it to people who hate other breathing techniques. The whole ‘focus on your breath and clear your mind’ thing has never worked for me, either. But this technique can bring me back down from a panic attack in about two minutes. 10/10.”
“I read a tweet by someone who said that their therapist had told them to switch the spiral of negative worrisome ‘what if’ thoughts by saying, ‘but what if it all works out?'”
“I invented my own mindfulness exercise, especially since I’m prone to mini panic attacks while driving. I count red things. Also, I’m not allowed to count the same red thing twice.
So a sea of taillights ahead of me becomes a seriously intense exercise in paying attention to my environment and not getting super sucked into the drama in my head. Helps even out my breathing as well.”
“I make myself do something; make the bed, clean the kitchen, do my nails. It helps take my mind away even if for a minute only. Prayer is huge for me in the midst of panic attacks, too, and, of course, deep breathing.”
“Gum. If it’s social anxiety or stimuli-triggered anxiety, I chew gum to help trick the brain. You’re eating, so you cannot, in fact, be in danger.”
“I put ice on the back of my neck and/or hold ice in my bare hands, and then close my eyes and focus on my breathing until the ice melts. All I focus on in that moment is my breath and the ice.
I even have a photo from my wedding day of me doing it before heading down the aisle, because I was freaking out. 😂”
“If you’re wrapped up in a ball or going down a rabbit hole of negative thinking, you either need to take a nap or change the damn scenery. Walk your dog, get some air, and reflect on what you’ve accomplished. In a year like this, people have lost so much. So take inventory of the people closest to you and write them a card or do something nice for them, you never know who’s feeling the same way you are.
Don’t dwell on things you can’t change, it’s like trying to drive through a dead end. You’re in control of where you go from here, and how you respond to adversity.”
“I’ve written in a journal every day since I was 17 (which was 15 years ago). This was advice from my therapist at the time, after I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. It helps me to physically see thoughts leaving my head and going onto paper.”
“I’ll start playing the whole ‘Three Is A Magic Number’ song from Schoolhouse Rock! in my head. Also, simply counting from one to ten helps.”
“I do an exercise where I name five things I can see, four things I can feel, three things I can hear, two things I can smell, and one thing I can taste. It helps me feel more in the present and calm down.”
“I started getting such bad panic attacks in sixth grade, but my family and I had no idea what was happening at the time. When I was diagnosed with anxiety, my mom got me a little rock that says ‘love’ on it. She told me to keep it with me and rub it when I feel like I need her love.
I still have that rock because it makes me feel safe and protected. I recommend keeping something sentimental to use as a ‘secret power.’ Having a tangible object can make the feelings a little less overwhelming.”
“I build these fantasies in my head over time — generally based on a book, TV show, or something I’ve been into lately — and then when I’m feeling anxious, I add details to it.
For example, it started when I was a teenager and was into American Idol. I created an alter ego that was sort of me but better looking, with a really good voice, and with a slightly cooler back story. Over time, I would imagine different parts of the journey: where did I audition, what did I wear, what song did I sing, what did each judge say to me, etc.
When I get tired of one of these storylines that I’ve built out for myself, I just move on to a new one. Maybe next time I’ll get ‘discovered’ by a talent scout and be cast in the lead of one of my favorite movies.”
“It may seem absurd but, for me, it really helps thinking that time will help me overcome my anxiety. When I am struggling with it, I repeat to myself that time makes everything easier.
I try to distract myself with whatever I can (like watching funny videos or sometimes even sleeping) until I’m able to see the bigger picture and find a different perspective — one in which the things that make me anxious won’t bother me that much. I have OCD and a lot of intrusive thoughts, and after many years, I have found that this hack is simple but very useful!”
“If I have nothing on, I just take a nap using a weighted blanket. It means I can wake up and put things in perspective.”
“Organization. This could be physical cleaning or sorting photos and clearing files on my laptop, but doing something that I do have control over helps.”
“If I’m obsessing about a certain situation, I ask myself what’s the worst that can happen, and if it does, can I live with it? Almost always, the worst that can happen isn’t so bad, and I can, in fact, live with it.”
“Sour candy calms me down and helps shift my focus to something other than my anxiety, believe it or not. I always have a Warheads spray on hand. Can’t go anywhere without one. It has become essential for me.”
“I play the color game with myself. Basically, you name every color you can think of. If you want to, you can name every color in the room. This is also nice to play with a friend or family member, going back and forth until you run out of colors.”
“I have worked a very difficult job for the past year and felt — whether true or not — that I was consistently on the verge of being fired. Whenever I felt anxiety creeping up, I would mentally list my life priorities — the things that are going to mean the most when I’m 80 and dying.
In my case, it was my spouse, my family, my friends, my dog, and my ability to travel. When I would be extra stressed about something, I would ask myself, ‘What is the worst possible outcome from this, and is it going to impact my big priorities?’ It always puts things in perspective and helps me calm down when I remind myself that my mistakes will have very little impact on what I want my life to be.”
“EFT tapping. It’s a process of tapping different parts of your face, neck, and body while repeating a phrase such as, ‘I can survive this.’ It’s super weird when you aren’t used to it, but I’ve used it to stop panic attacks at work, and it’s been life changing.”
“I play a Sudoku game on my phone. It’s a good distraction, because for about five minutes, it requires all of my concentration but not a lot of effort.”
“I try and sensory deprive. It helps me dissociate from what I’m currently worried about. Usually, I try and go into my closet, shut the door, put noise cancelling headphones on, and lay on the floor staring up at the ceiling. It really allows me to step out of my thought cycle.”
“When I was younger and going through a bad time with my mental health, I used to listen to the same song and calm myself down. I trained my mind to relax when I heard it and let a feeling of calm wash over me. It’s been over 10 years and that song still has the same effect.”
“I have a music playlist just for my anxiety. It has songs that I associate good memories with or are in my favorite TV shows.
I also have a vanilla lavender candle that I light and a bracelet that I can put lavender essential oils on for when I’m out of the house. I either play with something in my hand like a binder clip or play with a stress toy. They all seem to tether me back to the present. I also exercise regularly which is HUGE for me and keeps my anxiety at bay.”
“Coloring. When I feel a panic attack brewing or my anxiety starts to spike, I always try to pick up a coloring book.”
“There was a quote from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt that I love and constantly use when having anxiety: ‘Do you think you can handle this for ten more seconds?’
I learned a long time ago that a person can stand just about anything for ten seconds, then you just start on a new ten seconds. All you have to do is take it ten seconds at a time.”
“Break your day into 10-minute chunks. You can’t control everything, but you can control the next 10 minutes. It helps enormously.”
“I always find a sturdy thing to lean on (wall, desk, anything) and slow my breathing. Then I sip on cold water through a straw — the steady coolness provides a secure feeling to me.”
“When I’m getting separation anxiety and my brain is everywhere, I feel sweaty and can’t focus, so I listen to music and try to focus on the lyrics instead.”
“I like to listen to classical music. Music without words helps me focus on the melody. Then, I start to daydream about what the story would be to the music. Takes my mind off of my anxiety.”
“Watching funny YouTube videos or old Vines helps me a lot! They calm me down and make me laugh at the same time. I 100% recommend.”
“This may sound weird, but I love rap. So when I have a bad anxiety attack, I start quickly rapping the lyrics to some of my favorite songs. It gets me out of breath and while trying to breathe normally, I calm down a little bit.”
“It may sound like a bad idea, but I usually think of the worst case scenario. Then, I work with it and think of everything that I would do in that scenario. After realizing that I would still be able to deal with the situation even at its worst, I feel more confident and can go back to not worrying so much.”
“When I feel anxiety coming on, I close my eyes and relax every muscle. I start from my toes and work all the way up the rest of my body until I get to my head, relieving tension and stress.”
“My first therapist would have me clasp my hands together in front of me when I felt a panic attack start. For some reason, it would help calm me and focus on my body and energy.”
“TV. It lets me feel something else for a little while — be with people I love without actually having to interact with them.”
“Whenever I’m starting to spiral, I say, ‘STOP’ out loud to myself. Then, I ask, ‘Is this helpful? If this isn’t helpful, then why am I doing it?’ Because there’s no actual answer to that last question other than ‘Because I have anxiety,’ it’s easier for the logical side of my brain to start to regain control.”
“I play this thing I call the ‘Alphabet Game.’ I choose a category (countries, bands, animals, etc.) and try to name at least one thing that starts with each letter of the alphabet. My anxiety is mainly caused by overthinking and spiraling thoughts, so this gives me a focus and a distraction.”
If you’re interested in listening to an audiobook and learning more tools for coping with symptoms of anxiety, the staff at Audible complied a list of 10 best audiobooks for anxiety that you can check out here.
“I put my phone down and stroke my cat. It helps me focus on my breathing and I concentrate better.”
“I wash my hands and do a lap around my house. Then, I sit down, take a few deep breaths, and speak to myself out loud about what’s on my mind. I know it sounds silly to talk to myself, but I feel like actually hearing what I’m thinking about out loud makes it clearer for me, helps me to problem solve my anxieties, and calm down.”
“I start naming random things around me in different languages, especially French. Trying to remember the word in another language stops me from focusing on being anxious.”
“I play Stardew Valley on my Switch or computer. it’s calming to have a routine each ‘morning’ of watering and harvesting crops, petting the animals, fishing, etc.”
News – People Are Sharing Their Effective Anti-Anxiety Tips That Help Them Calm Down