We all know what’s supposed to help us with anxiety: meditating, deep breathing, counting down from 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…
But just because something is supposed to make us less anxious, doesn’t mean it always does. Everybody who struggles with anxiety is different — so not everyone is going to respond to “typical” anxiety-reducing methods in the same way.
And that’s totally OK.
To find out different things that don’t help people face their anxiety, we asked our mental health community to share one thing that’s supposed to help anxiety but doesn’t work for them. But consider this your anti-anxiety reducing list… at least you’ll know that if you can relate, you’re not alone.
By the way: If any of the techniques below do help you — that’s awesome. This is a judgment-free zone!
Here’s what they told us:
1. “Coloring! The adult color books make me stressed out with all of the small pieces. I’m also afraid I will color outside the lines.” — Elise W.
2. “Talking to a friend. I feel like instead of listening to you they try to say their anxiety is worse or everyone goes through that, etc.” — Whitney P.
3. “When someone tries to ‘sooth’ me by touching me or holding me. It’s sensory overload. And then they get mad at me for freaking out over it or not letting them touch me.” — Shelby S.
4. “‘Take time for you.’ One of my main issues with anxiety is that I don’t physically have enough time even to make sure I wash my hair every week. Being forced to stop working/studying to sit and do nothing is the least relaxing thing possible.” — Lauren W.
5. “Talking it out. I start to feel more anxious that I’m being whiney or a burden. And then other things come up I wasn’t anxious about before, but now I am, and the more I talk the worse it can get. I wish friends would understand sometimes me shutting down and not talking isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually helping me.” — Jennifer D.
6. “Deep breathing. Everyone says breath in through your nose, hold your breath and then release through your mouth. All it does is makes me feel worse. And when I tell people it does not work for me, they are always like, ‘Well just try it again, maybe you are not doing it right.’ I think I know my body best and I know what works for me and what does not. And deep breathing is not one of them.” — Liz J.
7. “Going to the gym — I compare myself to others. Plus, I get worked up about how much I should be exercising, what kind of exercises I should do and I never get a routine down. I’m all over the place.” — Mary K.
8. “Not thinking about the future. If I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, I get even more stressed, to the point that my anxiety is higher than when I was thinking about the future.” — Serena C.
9. “Yoga and mindfulness! I think if that works for a person, that’s great, but for me all it does is make my anxiety worse because it’s so quiet and I’m not focused on anything that takes my mind off my anxiety. The anxious thoughts keep piling up until I’m on the verge of panic. I’m much better taking an aerobics class or doing something that takes complete and total focus off the anxious thoughts. A quiet environment and letting the anxious thoughts just ‘pass through’ my mind — it gives me anxiety just thinking about it!” — Jennifer S.
10. “Breathing exercises, counting and grounding techniques that require close attention to the body/physical sensations. They trigger flashbacks and more panic every. single. time.” — Jessa L.
11. “Listening to guided imagery/meditation tracks. The usual talk about, ‘You can release the worries of the day’ and the fact that it’s supposed to make me fall asleep but doesn’t, makes me feel inadequate and like I can’t even go to bed correctly. I resent the idea that my concrete worries are not legitimate, which is what I always feel like guided meditations are saying.” — Jennifer K.
12. “Counting. It doesn’t work because I count so fast, I get no benefit from it. If I can make myself count slowly (sometimes, I can, sometimes, I can’t), then that might help, but usually I’m counting at such a ridiculous speed that it can’t possibly help anything. Also, prayer. If I try to pray with an anxious mind, I often end up spiraling into anxious thoughts concerning what I should/shouldn’t believe, and all the what ifs of religion.” — Johnna R.
13. “Getting some alone time. I always wind up thinking about things that happened or could happen or might be happening right now.” — Park A.
14. “Art therapy. I love the idea of art. Painting, drawing, crafts. I’m such a perfectionist, I can never finish a project because I give up in frustration.” — Alea D.
15. “Taking a hot bath — I usually love a nice hot bath, but if I’m having a high anxiety day, it makes me feel even more like I can’t breathe, and I panic that I’m going to drown.” — Sarah B.
16. “Going to my therapist. I know I’m supposed to feel free to say anything and discuss my issues week to week. But I always feel like he’s going to say the same things my anxiety already tells me: my problems aren’t that bad, I’m right that no one likes me and everyone thinks I’m a burden.” — Jeffrey C.
17. “Exercise. I know there are a ton of benefits to it, but getting my heart rate up often tricks my body into thinking I’m having a panic attack so I stop. It’s a shame, since I know the long term effects would help me a lot.” — Caroline T.
18. “I recently had a full body massage thinking it would be relaxing and help calm my panic and anxiety… if anything it made it worse. The quiet and stillness gave my anxiety ammunition to throw even more unwanted thoughts at me.” — Danielle B.
19. “Yoga. The entire time I’m thinking about if I’m doing it right, comparing my stance to everyone in the room or instructor on YouTube, annoyed that I don’t bend that way, falling all over the place… ” — Amber T.
20. “Writing down my thoughts. This allows for me to re-read what I wrote and it also allows me to dwell on my thoughts which is not always a good thing as that can bring me more anxiety.” — Kaila G.
21. “Relaxing. Everyone says I need to relax more, but it stresses me out because I could be doing so many other things with my time.” — Cyndal M.
22. “DBT [dialectical behavior therapy] work including all those damn acronyms! First I gotta remember the acronyms , then what they stand for, then do what they stand for! Those things bug the crap outta me!” — Debbie S.
23. “Music. We have music playing at work and when a song comes on that I don’t like I’m instantly on edge and can’t focus on anything but the song.” — Angie H.
24. “Putting on headphones and listening to music sometimes makes it worse. I get anxious that people are talking about me when I can’t hear what they’re saying.” — Isaac F.
25. “Fucking fidget cubes.” — Cecily F.
26. “Turning your electronics to silent… then you’re wondering, what if something has happened? You won’t know until morning. Then you sit on your phone until your eyes can’t stay opened. And fall into a panic-free sleep. Wake up tired, drained… but do it all over again. The fear of not knowing.” — Chevon P.
27. “Cleaning! You always have people say they clean when anxious, but it just upsets me more because I either see an endless supply of what needs to be done or what I clean is dirtied up again in a day.” — Courtney H.
28. “Sleeping. I’m often told to just take a nap when I’m feeling anxious but it only adds to my anxiety because my work gets even more delayed.” — अभिषेक ओ.
29. “‘Focusing on the positives.’ I’m positive I’m anxious.” — Nerris N.