21 anxiety management techniques
If you’re looking for techniques for reducing anxiety, keep reading!
But first, let’s talk about what anxiety really is.
Anxiety is a reaction to a real or imagined threat. Such feelings are normal and part of our ordinary lives.
We feel anxiety and fear by worrying, experiencing feelings of tension, having bad expectations, or something similar. However, if anxiety causes daily or frequent problems in normal life, we may suspect an anxiety disorder.
Getting rid of anxiety begins with getting to know yourself and your emotions. Knowing yourself and getting along with yourself makes it easier to understand your emerging feelings.
By understanding how we react emotionally to different events, we can make healing choices in our lives. This way, we can organize our lives and make them more emotionally harmonious.
It’s unrealistic to think that you won’t have any anxious thoughts ever again. A more realistic goal is to accept that you sometimes have anxious thoughts but have a plan to deal with them.
Signs of anxiety:
• If you have a lot of anxiety or fear and it happens often
• If you are very anxious or afraid
• When anxiety or fear almost doesn’t go away and you find it very difficult to relax
• When you start to avoid anxious situations
• When anxiety significantly disrupts your daily life
It’s important to know that anxiety disorders respond to treatment. If you have severe anxiety, you should definitely see your family doctor or a mental health professional for support in dealing with the problem. However, there are many tips you can use to consciously reduce your anxiety.
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NB: This blog post is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions about a medical condition, always turn to your physician or health care practitioner. Never ignore professional medical advice or put off seeking it because of something you read here. I’m not a medical professional. I’m just sharing my experiences and knowledge and nothing here should be taken as medical advice. Please check with your physician before following any advice you find on lauraconteuse.com.
Let’s talk about tips that I use to manage my anxiety
1. Notice the anxiety
The first step, and also one of the best ways to deal with anxiety and stress, is to notice all those negative emotions. Very often, emotions strike you unexpectedly, as if you could do nothing to prevent them. You need to practice noticing your emotions to understand how wrong this idea is.
If you suffer from anxiety, try to watch when this feeling occurs. Without having to change anything or trying to suppress or hide it, just notice it.
Does it occur every day? Is the anxiety more severe in the morning or evening? Does it increase with certain activities, in a particular place, or in the presence of some person?
During the week, write down when anxiety, panic, or fear arises.
Remember, you aren’t your anxiety. You aren’t your fears, either. You are you, and you are just feeling some emotions right now. You can even say very clearly: “I feel anxious right now.”
By saying that, you’re becoming aware of the feeling and creating a small gap between yourself and it.
Now that you’ve captured the moment when it occurs, try to find out more about it. Observe where in the body this emotion appears. Maybe in your chest? Maybe in the upper or lower abdomen? Or in the throat area?
How intense is it? If you were to rate it on a 10-point scale, is your anxiety a 2 or an 8? It doesn’t matter if this assessment is accurate or not; it just helps to get a better idea of your feelings.
We are often not taught to observe and notice our feelings. We are just “good”, “feel bad” or “feel very down.” But is this bad feeling sadness, guilt, despair, anxiety, anger, or jealousy? The better we know our emotions, the more we can control them and the less we suffer.
2. Track your thoughts
It’s important to be aware of your thoughts. As I mentioned, to do this, you must start paying attention to the thoughts you have about yourself and the world. Often, these thoughts are not quite conscious, and you only notice them briefly.
Tracking your thoughts is among the best anxiety management techniques because, if you look at your thoughts and analyze them in more detail, it turns out that quite a lot of them don’t correspond very well with reality.
These differences from reality are called thinking errors. We all have some kinds of thinking errors, but if there are too many of them, you’re more likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder or other similar mental health difficulties.
Let’s look at the most common thinking errors below.
• All-or-nothing or black-and-white thinking. Extreme thinking in a way that something is going either very well or very badly. You fail to notice intermediate options. In fact, most things in life are neither too good nor too bad.
• Catastrophizing. Imagining the worst-case scenario, even if it’s completely unlikely.
• Exaggerating. Amplifying the probability of a negative event.
• Predicting the future. You believe that you can predict the future (which you can’t).
• Generalization. Drawing conclusions about everything from just a few experiences. In such thoughts, the words “always” or “never” are usually included.
• Reading other people’s thoughts. You think you know what others are thinking (and you assume that what others think is negative) without evidence. In fact, you can’t read other people’s thoughts, so there’s no point in trying.
• Negative filter. Focusing on negative things and not noticing things that are good.
You can take notes to observe your thoughts. Pay attention to your thoughts and analyze what kind of thinking errors they belong to.
If it’s difficult for you to notice your thinking errors, pay attention to your uncomfortable and difficult feelings—what thoughts do they go along with? Often, the thoughts associated with a disturbing feeling coincide with several types of thinking errors.
When you have an anxious thought, ask yourself:
• How much do I believe this thought?
• What evidence supports the truth of it?
• Is there any evidence that my thought is incorrect?
• What are the consequences if I believe this thought?
• What would happen if this thought was true?
• Why would that be so bad?
• How would I manage if my thought was actually true?
• Can I change anything in my thinking or behavior that will allow me to cope better?
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3. Let go of anxious thoughts
Thoughts have great power. When you have thoughts that describe you as a bad or weak person who is worse than others, then those thoughts begin to cause anxiety.
Fortunately, it’s often possible to change, guide, and direct your thoughts. It’s not easy, but it’s similar to other skills: at the beginning, it’s quite difficult, but with further practice, you’ll develop the necessary skills.
How to manage anxiety naturally? You have to just let the anxious thoughts go. Notice your thoughts with curiosity and friendliness. Look at them. Just be aware of a disturbing thought.
By doing so, you are not feeding bad thoughts. It’s like standing next to yourself and observing how thoughts come and go. I’m going to explain it a little bit further.
Imagine that you suddenly have an anxious thought: “I will fail this test.”
Instead of starting an argument in your head, you can tell yourself: “Hmm, it was just a random, strange thought that popped into my head. No wonder my heart rate rises when my brain imagines such things. It’s just a thought, and I can let go of it.”
Another technique you can try is to first become aware of your thoughts and then repeat them to yourself out loud. The next step is to add the short phrase “I’m thinking that…” before this sentence. The full sentence would then be: “I’m thinking that I’ll fail this test.”
And now we add another sentence, adding: “I notice that I’m thinking…” Putting it all together, your sentence sounds like this: “I notice that I’m thinking that I’ll fail this test.”
What happens during this process? In this way, you can distance yourself from your negative thoughts, realizing that what you consider to be true is just one thought that has come to mind. It’s just a thought; it’s not reality.
Your self-conscious mind is extremely powerful because it allows you to evaluate your behavior and make informed decisions to change your strategy. For most signals from the environment, you can choose how to react to them, if at all.
4. Re-evaluate your thoughts
Anxious thoughts are not facts, but feelings and fears. Find evidence to understand the situation:
• How likely will the dreaded scenario happen?
• Could the result be quite different from the scary imaginary scenario?
• Could things go much better or even very well?
• How have similar situations ended in the past?
• What does your best friend think is the most likely way for things to happen?
• To sum it all up, how do you really think things are going?
The most important thing is that you notice what you’re telling yourself. To do this, you need to pay attention to it.
It may not be easy at all, as thoughts can be really unnoticeable and come to mind completely automatically. A lot of people find it easier to notice their thoughts by writing them down.
Thinking of helpful thoughts for different situations is among some really great techniques for reducing anxiety.
For example, if you need to discuss a topic in front of a class and are afraid that you will mess it up and others will start laughing, write down and repeat the following:
“Why does it matter what others think? I was able to do a similar thing a few months ago, and I can do it now as well. I have enough time to practice, and I can ask for help. I’m smart. I’m doing pretty well. I’ve been in awkward situations before, and that feeling doesn’t last forever. Even if I mess up, so what? I laugh at myself with others and keep going.”
5. Worrying versus taking action
People think that worrying helps them avoid the worst. Taking care of things and actively solving them, not worrying, helps avoid the worst. Worrying is completely pointless. It reduces motivation, inhibits activity, increases procrastination, and ultimately increases stress and anxiety.
If you’re really ready to take action and solve a problem instead of complaining, ask yourself the following questions:
• What’s my goal?
• What can I do to deal with this situation effectively?
• What prevents me from reaching my goal?
• What kind of help do I need?
• What is the worst that can happen?
• If that happens, what can I do to deal with it?
6. Redirect your attention
If you’re looking for ways to deal with anxiety and stress, find activities that grab your attention. For example, exercise, sports, cooking, etc. It’s good to find new activities from time to time because the novelty is also exciting.
Yes, reading social media, watching TV, and playing computer games can have a quick effect. However, these are activities that have a short-term effect and don’t actually reduce anxiety. For example, social media can actually increase anxiety in the long run.
To reduce anxiety, you need to focus on the present moment, either on purpose and consciously or through some action. You can do an exercise that involves five minds to take your attention away from anxious thoughts:
• List five things you can see.
• List four things you can hear.
• List three things you can touch.
• List two things you can smell.
• List one thing you can taste.
7. Change the environment
One way to deal with anxiety is to change your environment or activities. For example, if you’re anxious while in your home, you can go outside and find a suitable purpose for being outside (just like a sporty walk, taking pictures, going to the store, etc.).
The main idea is to change your activities and location.
8. Just stop it!
In addition to the ability to look at our thoughts and feelings from a distance, we can also say “stop” at any time. We can stop our thoughts by using one very powerful weapon: our will.
Just tell yourself: “Enough! Just stop thinking these silly thoughts. From that moment on, you will think differently.”
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9. Talk to others
If you are unable to redirect attention and relieve anxiety on your own with the anxiety management techniques I mention here, never be afraid to contact a trusted person if possible to talk about how you feel.
Such conversations change perspectives and provide new ideas about the situation, fears, and solutions. Often, supportive human contact reduces anxiety.
When you’re alone, your fears intensify and seem more and more real. When you talk to someone, the opposite happens. If you don’t have anyone to talk to when you’re anxious, you can always turn to a psychiatrist or even write a diary to keep track of your thoughts.
10. Experience scary situations in smaller steps
What I mean by that is that if you have a specific goal in mind or a specific thing you’re afraid of, you don’t have to get to it right away. Instead of that, break the scary situation into smaller steps and take one small step at a time to get used to these situations.
• Making a two-minute presentation is easier than giving a five-minute speech.
• Being fifteen meters away from a dog is easier than being right next to one.
• Seeing an image of a snake is easier than seeing a live snake.
• Going to a restaurant with a friend is easier than going there alone.
11. Take care of your health
How else to manage anxiety naturally? One of the easiest ways to do that is to take care of your overall health. This includes the golden rules that support your mental health.
Sleep 7–9 hours every night. Exercise regularly, and if possible, do it outdoors. Eat healthily. Drink enough fluids. Rest and relax. Avoid alcohol, drugs, caffeine, and foods and drinks that contain other stimulants.
Keep a diary where you can honestly write about your difficulties. Bring positive emotions into your life through hobbies and meaningful activities.
Maintain relationships with family, friends, and relatives; spend time together; and open yourself to your loved ones. Spend time on your own and pay attention to your inner world.
Allow yourself to make mistakes, behave, and talk to yourself like you were your best friend (you actually are). Get rid of the traumas of the past and bring the focus to the present. If this seems very difficult, you should seek help from a psychologist.
12. Practice kindness toward others
It doesn’t matter if it’s a friendship, a romantic relationship, or something else. When you think of your partner, friends, and others with kindness, it has several good results. You see them differently, and you can evaluate them as a whole without focusing on their shortcomings.
It increases patience and mutual understanding. It also reduces your anxiety because you no longer focus on your or their problems. It will reduce your anxiety as you learn to recognize the value of your friend or partner.
When you see that you and others are worth something despite all the shortcomings, it’s much easier to communicate with each other. I really like the idea of practicing gratitude, and that’s why it’s certainly among my favorite techniques for reducing anxiety.
13. Use affirmations
Positive affirmations like these can be used to challenge useless or inaccurate core beliefs. Affirmations are short statements that we repeat ourselves, either by writing them down or saying them out loud.
Our thoughts create neural networks in the brain. The more often the neural network is aroused, the stronger the synaptic connection becomes, and the stronger the thought pattern is fixed at the cellular level.
What emotions we feel depends on our thoughts, and those emotions, in turn, are responsible for whether we release chemicals that improve our well-being or cause stress and anxiety. That’s why practicing affirmations is among the best ways to deal with anxiety and stress.
Write positive affirmations in short forms and use the present tense. This makes them easier to remember and represents a change that is happening in the present, not in the future. It’s better to say “I am calm” than “I will remain calm”.
Be realistic. The best affirmations are about the changes we want to make in our lives and are willing to work for. Write your statements every morning in a diary or on paper, and put them in places where you can see them every day, such as on a bathroom mirror or computer screen.
14. Pleasant experiences
It’s difficult for a person to feel positive and negative emotions at the same time. Positive psychology teaches us to be joyful, loving, and grateful because it cancels out our negative emotions and eliminates the stress we experience on a physiological level.
Positive emotions also increase stress tolerance and coping skills; joy, love, and gratitude help us overcome unpleasant experiences faster.
This is why people with depression or anxiety are purposefully encouraged to experience joyful experiences and positive feelings in order to cope more easily with the difficult times of life.
What gives you energy? You can start by making a list of simple healing activities for your body and mind that you can incorporate into your daily routine right away. Of course, it’s useful to deal with your problems in therapy, but you shouldn’t forget about living life itself.
So, do you want to know how to manage anxiety naturally? Take your time and think about what your happy life is like. What do you dream about if absolutely everything is possible? Imagine how you feel when you have something you want. Write it down.
Also, write down all the good and useful things you have already experienced while moving towards better emotional well-being, such as better sleep, greater endurance when exercising, or being balanced in a stormy conflict.
Being aware of positivity gives you energy and motivation to continue to act.
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15. Build a fear ladder
Facing your fears and setting goals for yourself helps you build a fear ladder, which is among the very good anxiety management techniques I’ve heard of. It allows you to write down and rank your fears, from the least frightening event to the most frightening event.
In order to do this, you have to assess each situation using the fear scale. A fear scale will help you find out how much you are afraid of one event or situation compared to another. A situation where you have no fear at all would be worth 0 points, and 10 is the scariest situation for you.
Create a long list of places, things, or situations that scare you and evaluate them. On the fear ladder, sort your fears using the fear scale.
An example of Laura’s fear ladder: The goal is to make a new friend.
Situation/assessment of fear:
• Talking to a classmate about your weekend (8 points)
• Ask a classmate a question. For example, “Is there a test on Friday?” (6 points)
• Making a comment to a classmate. For example: “Have a nice weekend!” (5 points)
• Saying “Hello” to the classmate in the wardrobe (3 points)
Start working on your fear ladder. Move forward gradually, starting with the least intimidating situation. Spend enough time in those situations that evoke fear and anxiety so that your anxiety eventually begins to subside.
Facing your anxiety is good because, when you’re faced with it, your anxiety will decrease if you do it for a long time and consistently.
16. The diary of worries
Another one of my favorite techniques for reducing anxiety is to write down your thoughts as soon as they appear for a few weeks.
When you write down your worries, you no longer have to carry them with you. You may notice that quite a few worries are not as powerful as they were in the first few hours after being written down.
Is what you say to yourself really balanced, fair, and realistic? To understand this, ask yourself the following:
• Have I been in a similar situation before? What happened before?
• What would I say to my best friend if they were in a similar situation?
• What would my best friend tell me?
• How much will I care about this particular thing in a month? In a year? In five years?
• How much is the thing that happened my fault? What about others?
• To what extent was what happened out of my control?
• Am I blaming myself for something that is not 100% under my control?
If you worry less, you will have more energy to be spontaneous, creative, and flexible.
17. Breathing exercises
Using practical breathing exercises is among the most effective ways to deal with anxiety and stress and influence your emotions. It’s a good way to calm your breathing and heartbeat, reduce tension, and relieve anxiety.
Breathing that relieves anxiety should be slow and steady. Inhale slowly and exhale for a long time. You can also use a paper bag or inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
At this point, don’t try to do anything else: don’t try to solve an anxious situation, analyze it, or look for a feeling; just breathe and watch your breathing. Take a deep breath, and then exhale.
If you’re aware of the symptoms that precede anxiety, you can consciously choose another path: breathing. You can’t panic and breathe calmly at the same time, because calm breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system and creates a general feeling of peace.
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18. EFT tapping
EFT tapping is one of the very interesting techniques for reducing anxiety. It’s a complementary treatment for physical and emotional pain. It’s also known as “tapping” or “psychological acupressure.”
It entails tapping specific points on the body in a specific sequence, primarily on the head and face, to help balance your energy. While doing so, you’re supposed to concentrate on the problem you wish to treat.
If you’re interested in that topic, I suggest you read two really good books that give you more insight into the topic: “The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living” and “EFT Tapping: Quick and Simple Exercises to De-Stress, Re-Energize and Overcome Emotional Problems Using Emotional Freedom Technique“.
19. Set goals
Goals are important because they allow us to assess our progress and keep track of our anxiety. These goals include both short-term benefits and long-term changes and may be general in nature or highly focused on a specific problem.
Short-term goals are what we can achieve next week; medium-term goals can take several weeks; and long-term goals are what we hope to achieve in the next year or two.
The goals you set should be S.M.A.R.T. The acronym refers to goals that are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-based. If your goal is specific, it’s easier to determine what you need to do to achieve it.
RELATED: 7 areas of life to set goals in (these are really important)
20. Stop procrastination that’s caused by anxiety
Make a list and prioritize tasks. Review the list often to make sure you’re working on the most important tasks. Plan a specific time each day to complete important tasks.
Start somewhere. If you don’t know where to start, divide the tasks into smaller steps. Then take the first step of the first task. If you get stuck after a few steps because you feel insecure, still take the next logical step.
Assess the situation and your expectations. Allow yourself to get lost. Ask yourself what the best, worst, and most realistic results would be if you didn’t complete the task perfectly.
When you’ve completed a difficult task, cross it off the list and reward yourself with something you like.
Use a schedule and organizational tools. Don’t expect your mind to remember your daily responsibilities—especially if it’s already overwhelmed with anxiety.
Use tools to organize and stay on track, such as a diary, folders for incoming and outgoing messages, and applications to keep track of your schedule.
Learn to delegate. When you have done everything yourself, delegate tasks or responsibilities.
Don’t blame yourself. Although at first glance, procrastination seems to be a time-management problem, it’s often more complicated. Don’t blame yourself for disorganization or laziness, because that’s not true. You just have some bad habits because of your anxiety.
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21. Don’t forget the vitamins
Vitamins and minerals are very important for mental health. A lack of certain vitamins and minerals can make your anxiety worse.
Vitamin C reduces anxiety levels. Getting a daily amount is easy: one large orange satisfies 100% of your daily vitamin C needs.
Daily use of a B-complex multivitamin significantly reduces anxiety and stress. Cereals, dairy products, eggs, beans, seeds, nuts, and soy are good sources of B vitamins.
Iron deficiency may be associated with anxiety. Iron-rich foods include cereals, nuts, sunflower seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, and dark chocolate.
Studies have also shown links between calcium levels and anxiety. Calcium is found in porridge, yogurt, dark green leafy vegetables, cheese, broccoli, green beans, and almonds.
Chromium deficiency, like iron and calcium deficiencies, is also associated with anxiety. Cereals, green beans, broccoli, and egg yolks are high in chromium.
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21 techniques for reducing anxiety that really work
Do you have any great techniques for reducing anxiety that I didn’t mention here? How to manage anxiety naturally? Let me know in the comments below.