Health and wellness touch each of us differently. These are a few people’s experiences.
Let’s face it, living with anxiety can feel like a full-time job. From the constant rumination and “what if” scenarios, to the physical toll it takes on your body — getting a break from the symptoms is difficult.
That’s why finding ways to manage the daily effects of anxiety is so important.
So, we asked people living with anxiety — plus a few mental health professionals — to share their hacks to getting through the day when your anxiety kicks in.
1. Set aside worry time
The last thing you should do is give yourself permission to worry, right? Not necessarily. Many people with anxiety find a daily worry break helpful.
“Most people who struggle with anxiety are struggling with overthinking and being able to turn their mind off,” says Jenny Matthews, LMFT.
How to take a worry break
- Set aside 15 minutes per day to give yourself permission to worry.
- Try to take your worry break at the same time each day.
- If your worry shows up at any other time of the day, write it down so that you know you’ll be able to worry about it later during worry time.
Writing down your worry for later will help you learn how to feel more in control of your thoughts and not let them carry on throughout your day. You’re acknowledging them and giving yourself permission to come back to them.
Matthews says that as you practice worry time, you’ll likely find that the power of your daily worries will have decreased by the time you come back to them.
2. Stop and take a few deep breaths
If you’re prone to anxiety or panic attacks, then you know how critical it is to breathe correctly. Breathing exercises help slow down your thoughts, reduce stress, and alleviate anxiety.
Bryanna Burkhart knows her way around managing anxiety. She’s risen up from severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts to become a certified life and success consultant and certified neurolinguistics programmer.
For her, grounding exercises help take anxiety from debilitating to high-functioning.
Burkhart’s favorite grounding hack:
- Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your stomach.
- Feel your feet planted firmly on the ground.
- Take a deep breath in, hold it for 5 seconds, then breathe out every last drop of air.
- Repeat until you feel grounded in the present moment.
Dr. Bryan Bruno, medical director at MidCity TMS, agrees that breathing is an important tool to have on your list of hacks.
“One of the fastest, easiest, and most effective ways to reduce anxiety is to take deep breaths,” he says.
Deep breathing from your diaphragm, Bruno explains, will help you increase your oxygen intake, slow down your heart rate, and relax your muscles. All of this will physiologically reduce your stress response.
3. Change your perspective on anxiety
“When you see anxiety as a way your body is giving you information, it stops you from thinking ‘oh something is wrong with me, I have an anxiety disorder,’” explains Danielle Swimm, MA, LCPC.
When you’re feeling anxious, Swimm says to understand that your body is trying to tell you something.
“It serves a very functional purpose for many people. Maybe you need to focus on slowing down more, improve self-care, get into therapy to work through unresolved trauma, or get out of the toxic relationship,” she explains.
“Once you start to listen to anxiety and connect with your body more, your anxiety can improve tremendously,” Swimm adds.
4. Get it out of your head
The thoughts circling in your head need an interruption. One way to interrupt that cycle of worry is to get the thoughts out of your head.
Burkhart says when she’s cycling through worries, she likes to write a list of everything that’s making her feel anxious.
Then, she goes through the list and asks herself “Is this true?” If it is, she then asks herself “What can I do about it?”
If there’s nothing she can do about it, she focuses on what she can let go of in the situation.
5. Take your cue from other people
When it comes to travel anxiety, Beth Daigle says her biggest issue is taking off and landing on an airplane.
“I’ve employed many strategies to avoid an ill-timed panic attack while flying, but the one that has proven most successful is to pay close attention to the flight attendants,” Daigle explains.
“As uneasiness mounts with every shake of the plane or drop in altitude, I intently assess the crew’s mannerisms and facial expressions. If they are moving at a typical pace, have smiles on their faces, and are making pleasant conversation, I allow this to be my sign that everything is fine and it is okay to take a breath and unclench my fists,” Daigle says.
Not all anxiety-reducing exercises will work for you, so it might take a bit of time and practice to find your perfect hack. Next time you feel your anxiety taking over your day, try one of these five hacks.
Sara Lindberg, BS, MEd, is a freelance health and fitness writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in counseling. She’s spent her life educating people on the importance of health, wellness, mindset, and mental health. She specializes in the mind-body connection, with a focus on how our mental and emotional well-being impact our physical fitness and health.