Living with anxiety can feel like a constant battle. You have to stay alert to catch anxiety creeping up on you. It can turn into an all-day fight to keep from being overwhelmed. Different therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help manage anxiety, but when you’re in the throes of an anxiety attack a therapist’s office might as well be a world away.
During times when it seems like anxiety is “winning,” many look for even one small saving grace to get them through the day. To see what techniques people living with anxiety use to combat their mental illness, we asked our mental health community to share their tips for getting through rough times.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “I say hello to the anxiety (in my head of course), give it the name of someone annoying and invite it along on my day because I have things I need to do. Sometimes it works, some times it doesn’t.” — Kimmie R.
2. “I avoid anxiety triggers by keeping my house clean, and on days everything is too much, I try to keep stressors down.” — Amanda C.
3. “The only thing that really helps me instantly is holding my oldest cat. We have a special bond, and if I’m not feeling well and reach out for her, she just stays in my arms and I listen to her breathing and purring” — Lisa O.
4. “I listen to music and try to focus on just the music and nothing else. Sometimes if I am able to, I lay down in complete silence or with my music and just lay there concentrating on my breathing.” — Jade C.
5. “I pray or read my favorite Bible verses. Focusing on my faith is a great tool for getting refocused on days when I feel like a nervous wreck. It’s also very encouraging and lifts my mood.” — Autumn J.
6. “I try to ground myself using a five senses technique I was taught. I take off my shoes if I can first. Then I name five things I can see, four I can feel, three I can hear, two I can smell and one I can taste. Surprisingly, it works really well by putting me in the moment.” — Kelli C.
7. “Meditate. I always thought it was one of those cheesy ideas people gave that would ‘cure anxiety,’ but it really has helped me. I generally use YouTube for guided meditations, they help force you to clear your mind and just focus on the words guiding you.” — Rachel H.
8. “Regardless of how anxiety creeps up on me and seeps into myself, I just breathe. If nothing else. I just survive and exist. Sometimes you just have to exist.” — Syed K.
9. “I never fight it — I try to determine what’s causing it. Negative self-talk? Fear of speaking my mind? Too much stress? Then I remind myself that although the physical manifestations and symptoms are very frightening, they cannot hurt me. I will not have a heart attack or stroke. Of all the things I’ve learned about my anxiety, I believe that has been the most comforting.” — Kelly L.
10. “Belly breathing! My therapist and I have been working on this a lot. Also acceptance, which I’m still working on. If I beat myself up and feel like I’m all alone with my panic and anxiety, the anxiety only gets worse. So I’m also working on saying to myself, ‘OK, this is a panic attack. I’m accepting it.’ I’m still working on a lot of things obviously but these have helped somewhat.” — Sarah B.
11. “Go for a walk in the mountains! After a while my brain stops going over and over my worries and just focuses on getting up the next peak until I’ve finished my intended route — then I focus on getting home.” — Sian H.
12. “When anxiety is winning, I need alone time. I need to be on my own to relax, breathe, journal and just be by myself. I’ll come back when my heart has stopped feeling like it’s going to burst out of my chest, my hands aren’t shaking and I can breath again.” — Chelle H.
13. “I tell myself ‘I’ve gotten through worse and I’ve come so far from where I used to be.’” — Brandon H.
14. “Sometimes, if my husband can see I’m having a difficult time, he will get me to go out somewhere special with him — even if it is just for ice cream or something.” — Wendy Z.
15. “I do whatever my mind and body wants. If it wants to sleep, I sleep. If I want that hamburger, I eat it. On the days anxiety is winning, it is easier to not argue with yourself about the small things. Tomorrow will be better and you will be better. So, you can fight with yourself tomorrow.” — Shelby D.
16. “Since the bulk of my anxiety is exacerbated by my internal monologue and self-directed hate speech, I try to focus on external things such as sending thank you notes, texts, e-mails, celebrating someone else’s successes or some other act of giving or expressing gratitude.” — Kris G.
17. “I close my eyes and try to imagine myself removing the energy creating the anxiety from my body and placing it next to me. It’s still there, staring me in the face as it sits near me, but it isn’t inside consuming me anymore.” — Jen D.
18. “I write down all of daily successes and put them on my achievement board so I can see what I’m capable of on my darker days. It’s a great form of self-praise and recognition.” — Jordan H.
19. “I give myself a set amount of time to be anxious. I set a timer for a half hour and just let it run its course. Surprisingly, once the alarm goes off, my brain can function again.” — Abby D.
20. “I look backwards. If it was worse in the past, I’m assured I’ve come a ways, and can do better. If it was better, I’m assured that I’ve done better before and can repeat that performance, so either way, the anxiety was/is wrong.” — Tommie M.
21. “I surround myself with those who love me and make me laugh. Just their presence is sometimes enough to settle my anxiety to a more ‘manageable’ level.” — Laura B.
22. “Take things in steps. Let’s say I am going to meet someone new. Step one is to smile. Since it wasn’t so hard, step two is to say hello. Each step is like a mini-win.” — Jess T.
23. “I cry, then wipe my face take a deep breath and blast some music — music gets me through anything!” — Katie S.
24. “I spend some time with my planner. It helps me get an idea of what I can control, and then helps me plan the realistic steps I can do right now or in the near-future.” — Claire M.
25. “I remind myself I am more powerful than my anxiety. I just repeat that over and over until it subsides. I am more powerful than my negative thoughts. I am more powerful than my anxiety. I am in control.” — Nichole M.
26. “I sing — usually slow songs. It calms me down, and I later realized it’s most likely because it helps me slow down my breathing.” — Sofie L.
27. “I say to myself, ‘These are just thoughts. That’s all they are. They are not real. They are not true. They are about as realistic as unicorns.’” — Jeanine H.
28. “Nothing I can do except go with it. If it gets the best of that day it gets the best of me, and that’s not the end of the world.” — Bobbie S.
29. “Working out always makes me feel better and reduces my anxiety.” — Vanessa H.
30. “I like to immerse myself in a good book, to escape into a different world, without the racing thoughts.” — Crystal H.
31. “A therapist told me you can’t be anxious and sing at the same time. It works except when the anxiety is extreme.” — Tracey F.
32. “One thing I do when my anxiety is winning is take all the pillows and blankets in my house and curl up under them to watch television. The weight is like a calming technique.” — Bri M.
33. “I write. Writing is a natural talent for me, and I feel blessed to own it. Writing allows me to self-express while tuning a skill. It is both therapeutic and productive.” — Hillery S.
34. “I think about what my preferred outcome is (for example, arriving home safely in a storm). Then I visualize that outcome happening in my mind several times. It helps to distract and focus me at the same time.” — Donna B.
35. “I have a ‘3 Fs’ plan. Feel: let myself have a good cry to let it all out. Fun: do something I love to cheer myself up. Focus: find one little thing I can accomplish to gain control.” — Nicole C.
36. “I dance. It may not be the most graceful, but releasing those anxious feelings through movement to songs truly helps. Sometimes tears are falling from my eyes as I dance because the anxiety tries dancing with me. I know I’ve won when the tears stop and I suddenly quit dancing.” — Elizabeth G.
37. “I make a ‘to do’ list and make sure it’s jam packed so I stay really busy with not a lot of down time. Then it feels good to start checking things off the list.” — Elyse G.
38. “I stand next to my sons bedroom door and I I close my eyes and listen I him giggling it helps me to remember things aren’t as bad as my anxiety tells me it is.” — Paula G.
39. “I have a selection of cards my girlfriend made so that I can be reminded of what I’m thankful for and the good things to focus on.” — Claire S.
40. “Give myself credit for fighting, and permission to rest.” — Mary B.