Anxiety is a term used to describe a group of mental illnesses that can be caused by many influences including stress, current life situation, or genetics. The symptoms of anxiety include rapid heart beat, a sense of dread or fear, shortness of breath, chills, trembling, and sometimes chest pain. One of the best ways to cope with anxiety is by taking charge of your thoughts before an anxiety attack occurs. This takes self-awareness, and a toolbox of coping mechanisms that will de-escalate the feelings of anxiety and panic.
Here are 8 healthy ways to cope with anxiety.
If I feel an anxiety attack coming on, I have found it very helpful to take the first step of stopping what I’m doing, closing my eyes and breathing deeply. This type of breathing slows down the heart rate, and by turning my attention to my breath, I can keep out the intrusive and negative thoughts that may have triggered an attack.
One of my favorite healthy ways to cope with anxiety is reading. I have found that books, fiction or non-fiction, are magical little portals into another world. Sometimes to leave my anxiety behind I need to step into the shoes of a character solving a mystery, or listen to an expert explaining the science behind a natural event. By distracting myself with a story, I can later come back to what was bothering me and deal with it in a much calmer manner.
Personally, anxiety sometimes feels like a ton of energy inside that’s ready to explode. I call it my “anxious energy”. When I feel the build up of this, I like to turn on a playlist, rock out, and dance that feeling out to the tunes. Sometimes I will be in the mood for ’90s rock music, other times I will listen to instrumental covers to Top 40. What helps is the consistent rhythm and beat. It’s a pattern I can follow, and bring my focus to. I send suggested playlists every week to our community, for this and much more you can sign up for free below!
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Making something for the sake of making something is completely justifiable and extremely fun. Creativity is a pathway to the state of flow, or intense concentration with the present moment. Flow is fulfilling and has long-lasting positive effects. Creativity is one of the best healthy ways to cope with anxiety because it’s a form of expression that is void of violence or harm. It can also increase self-confidence and mood.
My favorite creative activities:
- Cooking / baking
- Writing / journaling
- Drawing / coloring
- Graphic design
Related: How To Get Creative With Canva 2.0
I Take Care Of Myself
When feeling anxious, I try to do at least one thing that will go towards taking care of myself. Sometimes the anxiety stems from low self-esteem, I may feel grubby, or look in the mirror and not see myself. This is when I know it’s time to do something to make myself feel good.
Here are some activities to try:
- Take a shower
- Brush your teeth
- Use a tens machine to relax
- Clean something
Reach Out To Someone
Anxiety can bring a feeling of isolation, and complete dread. By reaching out to a friend or family member, I feel much more supported which can reduce some of the anxiety itself. Talking about these feelings is relieving and cathartic. Close friends and family are also people who can help to ground me and show me another perspective that is more realistic and less dreadful.
Similar to rocking out, exercise is another activity that gets the body moving. At least 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week is a great tool for managing chronic anxiety. This will get those endorphins pumping and boost self-esteem. The great thing about exercise is that there are dozens of different activities that can yield the same benefits.
Favorite types of exercise:
- Power yoga
- Recreational sport (soccer, basketball, volleyball, etc.)
It doesn’t matter who you are, crying is one of the most healthy ways to cope with anxiety. Crying is cathartic, and it physically releases excess stress hormones such as cortisol. The feeling of calm after a good cry is due to the body regulating it’s mood after a build up of hormones from the fight-or-flight response. Holding back the tears keeps these stress hormones circulating inside, and will continue to build as the feeling of anxiety worsens. So even though I know I have a snot-mess coming, I allow myself to cry to let my body pursue its natural form of coping.