t pain on a boat

Anxiety is frantic. Chaotic. Loud. Frazzled. Jumbled. Fast. Messy. (Often kept under wraps, of course, masked by a person who may seem like he or she is calm, cool and collected.)

It makes sense to combat its internal noisiness with soft, soothing, music — tunes to slow your heartbeat down, put your thoughts in order, ground you a bit.

For many, that works (and that’s great!). Others find anxiety-reducing effects in bellowing drums, screeching guitars and voices, uncomfortable, angry or even silly lyrics. If you love music and are frustrated it hasn’t been able to help your anxiety, maybe you need to switch up your playlist.

We asked our mental health community to share an “unusual” song that helps relieve their anxiety. Maybe some of these will resonate with you, maybe you’d rather stick to the more obvious options. Or maybe you just need to turn the sound down completely and find comfort in some silence. Whatever you choose is the right answer.

That being said, here are some unexpectedly anxiety-reducing songs from our community:

1. “Monster” by Skillet

The secret side of me / I never let you see / I keep it caged / But I can’t control it

2. “I’m on a Boat” by The Lonely Island (Feat. T-Pain)

Hey ma, if you could see me now / Arms spread wide on the starboard bow / Gonna fly this boat to the moon somehow / Like Kevin Garnett, anything is possible

3. “Under Pressure” by Queen (Feat. David Bowie)

It’s the terror of knowing what the world is about / Watching some good friends screaming, “Let me out!”

4. “Papercut” by Linkin Park

Why does it feel like night today? / Something in here’s not right today / Why am I so uptight today? / Paranoia’s all I got left

5. “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

Baby I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake / Shake it off!

6. “Bye, Bye, Bye” by *NSYNC

I loved you endlessly / When you weren’t there for me. / So now it’s time to leave / And make it alone

7. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen

Is this the real life? / Is this just fantasy? / Caught in a landslide / no escape from reality

8. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones

You can’t always get what you want / But if you try sometimes / You just might just find / you get what you need

9. “Wake Me Up” by Avicii

Feeling my way through the darkness / Guided by a beating heart / I can’t tell where the journey will end / But I know where to start

10. “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars

Don’t fight the feeling / Invite the feeling

11. “Fuel” by Metallica 

Fuel is pumping engines / Burning hard, loose and clean / And on I burn

12. “Ninth Wave” by Trifonic

13. “What a Catch, Donnie” by Fall Out Boy

I got troubled thoughts / And the self-esteem to match / What a catch, what a catch

14. “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson

Hey you, what do you see? / Something beautiful, something free?

What “unusual” song helps ease your anxiety? Let us know in the comments below.


We’re familiar and mostly accepting of some nervous habits brought on by anxiety, not giving more than a second glance to nail biting, minimal hair twirling and even foot tapping. But what about some of the — for lack of a better word — “stranger” things anxiety makes us do? Things we might be embarrassed about, even though to us they’re perfectly natural responses to what’s going on in our heads.

To show there’s nothing “strange” about some of the less-acceptable things you might do when you’re anxious, we asked people in our mental health community to share one “embarrassing” thing they do when they’re anxious. If you do any of these, you’re not alone.

Here’s what they told us:

1. “I often end up talking to myself, trying to anticipate others’ responses as if we were actually having to conversation. It’s nice because I can talk through an issue without having to talk to anyone, but it stinks because I’ve gotten in the habit of just talking to myself all the time. Like, any time I’m alone, I’m talking to myself. Obviously I need that verbal release to process what’s going on in my life, but it scares me sometimes.”

2. “I repeat questions or things I’ve already said. It’s embarrassing because then the person I’m talking to says, ‘You’ve just asked/said that.'”

3. “I make up new words mid-sentence or combine two existing words and act as though I didn’t just say that.”

4. “Crack my fingers each joint… If I’m really anxious I’ll pinch or scratch myself. I also become very fidgety.”

5. “I roll small pieces of paper that I pick off from anything — napkins, notebook paper, anything — between my pointer finger and thumb. I even do that if I don’t have anything there. Another thing I do is somewhat the same kinda thing — roll my fingers on the small corners by the touch pad on my MacBook. It has called small calluses and a sore/cut that gets better, then hurts again.”

6. “Trace words as the person is saying them so I know that I fully understand what they’re saying.”

7. “I hold my breath when I walk past people because I’m afraid they’ll hear me breathing.”

8. “As soon as I get high levels of anxiety, I start smiling or laughing. It happens in the most tense situations so everyone feels like I’m not taking things seriously and they just get creeped out.”

9. “I start signing my thoughts in a form of ASL, but super fast so people think I’m having a ‘fit.'”

10. “I rub my feet together, I don’t even realize I’m doing it!”

11. “I repetitively stroke the top of my hair right where it parts on my head. It’s become a nervous twitch, releasing any nervous energy. Once I start I can’t stop thinking about touching it, but everybody thinks I’m just petting my head.”

12. “When I’m feeling anxiety, I’ll blurt out words like ‘murder’ or ‘die’ or ‘cut.’ Luckily, this always happens when I’m alone.”

13. “I pee. A lot. Doesn’t even matter if I went to the bathroom five minutes before. If something stresses me out or makes me feel anxious, I get this overwhelming urge to go to the bathroom, even for just a trickle.”

14. “I give myself ‘pep talks’ inside my head when my anxiety gets bad. Sometimes this can be accompanied with eye movements, etc., so sometimes people may think I’m strange as it clearly looks like something is going on.”

15. “I lie. I get so nervous and anxious that I’m not smart enough, adventurous enough, pretty enough, exciting enough that I constantly lie about my life.”

16. “I get hiccups when I speak. They are loud, and when I think I have them under control and try to speak again, I hiccup some more.”

17. “I have this awful nervous laugh when I get really anxious; it’s like a joker style laugh and it freaks people out and it only happens when I’m having an anxiety attack.”

18. “I rock back and forth. I won’t even notice I’m doing it until someone points it out. Sitting or standing, I’ll find myself rocking… it’s oddly calming.”

19. “I will come home from a long day at work or become overwhelmed at a party and ask my husband to squeeze me! Sometimes just my arms/hands, but hugs work the best!”

20. “I repeatedly tug down at my tops. Doesn’t matter how short or long. I pull and pull at the hem until it resembles a dress, trying to hide myself.”

21. “Repeat myself over and over. My anxiety thinks that I’m not being clear so I have to try and say it as many ways as possible to get my point across.”

22. “A friend caught me breathing really heavily when they walked in the room and asked if I was ‘OK,’ and I was surprised by the question because I hadn’t even realized I was anxious at that moment.”

23. “I hum or say things randomly out loud to distract myself from my overthinking. I also pick at the sides of my fingers until they bleed.”

24. “Spam people with messages. Whenever I’m talking to someone, and I send a risky text, I end up spamming the person with about 20 to 30 messages, which makes my anxiety even worse.”

25. “I get ‘obsessed’ with a particular food. It’s all I’ll want, every meal of every day. Until one day, I become sick of the sight of it and move onto something else.”

26. “When it’s too quiet in the room I stop breathing. I’m petrified people will hear me breathe so I hold my breath and breathe as slowly as possible, and it always sounds like I’m out of breath and panting because I’m always out of breath and end up trying to quietly gasp for air.”

27. “I have a really bad eye twitch. One eye will blink a lot so it looks like I’m winking or I constantly look up with that eye. It gets really distracting when I’m in class or if I’m trying to drive. When people point it out or make fun of it, it gets a lot worse.”

28. “One of the many embarrassing things I do when my anxiety strikes is sing, and oh man, do I sing. Usually Wham! or whatever 80’s song is stuck in my head. Then I get anxiety because I’m like, “Oh man they are staring at me.” Life with anxiety…”

29. “When I get anxious, I physically cannot look another person in the eye. If I try, I end up looking away after less than a second because I feel so afraid and embarrassed. I do this on a regular basis with people I’ve never met, but when I’m really bad, I’ve done it to my boyfriend. I feel terrible about it, which makes me more embarrassed, which makes me look away and dissociate even more.”

30. “Oh. I also scold myself out loud. Like ‘stupid idiot!’ And then I get ‘What!?’ Oh it’s just me being silly as usual. Thinking of things that ‘might’ go wrong…”

31. “When I’m having anxiety, to call myself down, I have sit in random places, listen to music and just observe. The other day, I sat on the ground, outside by a car loop at my college and just watched everything that was going on. It was calming and refreshing to get a new perspective.”

32. “I carry around little figures of a character I like, such as different little Doctor Who dolls, that make me feel better and safe. Or wear a locket with the an actor’s picture in it for support.”

33. “When I get anxious, I break out in hives. Sometimes I don’t even notice it, but then someone will point it out and I’m left to make up some excuse as to why I have hives. It usually draws a lot of attention, which just makes the anxiety worse.”

34. “Because of my anxiety I carry small stuffed animals with me everywhere I go. They ground me when I dissociate due to my anxiety, and can act as a distraction in many ways so they’re able to calm me down and keep me calm in anxious situations. But it’s strange for other to see a 21-year-old in university ‘playing’ with stuffed animals.”

Mental health illnesses have a tendency of making people feel unwanted, unloved and a whole range of negative feelings and emotions. Personally, I can become buried in self-hatred and pity, feeling as though I am a huge burden on those around me who love me unconditionally. I become a shadow of my former self. Some days are better than others. I may struggle to get out of bed on some days and I may be able to brave the day on your better days. Either way, I am not weak because of my struggles and I am not defined by my illnesses. I must try my hardest to grow through what I go through.

Many hear the word “depression” and associate it with crying and all things dark. Well, I do anyway. I associate depression with sadness and vulnerability. Loneliness and numbness. A dark hole that seems endless. It’s like walking through a dark forest wandering aimlessly for a way out, but with no luck. Screaming for help in an isolated room with nobody around to hear my desperation.

Everybody has their own coping strategies and methods of getting through difficult times. For me, there is no better therapy than being surrounded with something I have an admiration and passion for. Something that puts joy in my heart and a sparkle in my eyes that enables me to feel something other than pain and distress. During my worst times, it’s important to surround myself with love and things that mean something to me. For example, some people get their source of happiness from art, others from sport or from baking.

There is something about animals that enables me, personally, to feel calm and at ease. When in the company of animals, I instantly feel relaxed and comforted which works wonders for my mood and my low self-esteem. In my opinion, it’s reassuring being amongst beings who don’t judge me for being me. Although I may have clouded views of myself, animals help me see myself and the world around me in a different light and from a brighter perspective.

With people, there is always my fear of being judged. Because lots of people fail to understand the difficulties people with mental illness are faced with due to our illnesses, animals detect the smallest of things and it is in their best interest to provide a sense of comfort and therapy. For instance, at home, there have been multiple times I have been very low in terms of my depression, and my cat (Tigga) has immediately picked up on it and has come to sit with me, letting me know I am not alone. Animals educate me on the importance of caring for myself and showing myself the same amount of love and compassion I show to them.

Similarly, I have been in college and have turned to two gorgeous pygmy goats (Poppy and Penny) for assistance and for an ear to listen. I believe goats have cheeky, unique and loving personalities and I can happily confirm a conversation with them, and an unlimited supply of hugs, works wonders for reducing the symptoms of my depression. I find expressing my thoughts, feelings and emotions to be near-impossible at times, but I have no problem whatsoever when it comes to interacting with animals.

There has been times I’ve struggled to get out of the house, not because I’m “lazy” like people could possibly assume, but because of the high levels of anxiety that debilitate me every single day. In addition to this, I have managed to take the bus on my own and have travelled distances to be with animals during my voluntary work. In my experience, anxiety is wanting to do things but being unable to do so because of the endless thoughts swimming around in my head, the doubt and the tight knot in my tummy. But knowing I have a reason to go out of the house and knowing there are animals awaiting me on the other side, provides me with a sense of worth, need and importance.

Animals have worked as therapy for me, and still continue to do so. I believe this will always be the case as I work hard to achieve a career within the animal care industry where I aim to save and rescue animals. I also wish to have a positive impact on their lives like they have for me.

Talking isn’t always the way around things — though it does help massively. I feel simply surrounding myself with animals helps me immensely. Talking can get to be too much sometimes for me. It can be very draining and tough letting people in, but when I am doing something I enjoy, I can work at it for hours on end, which helps to boost my mood and reduces the thoughts I’m experiencing.

I always feel motivated and enthusiastic when thinking of animals and being with them. I owe my life to them for assisting me in looking at the future and all I have to fight for. My motto is “save yourself, save the animals.”

Because when animals are involved, I am never alone. 

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Thinkstock photo via YuriyGreen.

I can’t know for sure how anxiety manifests in other people – and to be honest, it’s only in recent months I acknowledged I have my own manifestations of anxiety. As I’m currently feeling extremely anxious, I thought now would be a good time to put my thoughts and observations “down on paper” — so to speak.

The biggest and most obvious way anxiety appears in my everyday life is in my need to be liked. I cannot bear the thought I might do or say something to cause someone to think ill of me. I’m left with a pounding heart, shaking hands, I’m unable to speak and on the verge of tears.

Socially, this is difficult. I’m happy and comfortable around friends I have known for decades. I can say and share anything and we have a level of trust, support, friendship and love that balances any fear I may have. I am still nervous about saying the wrong thing, but I trust the consequences won’t be devastating – we listen, we learn, we forgive, we move on.

Outside that support network, it’s trickier. In work situations, it’s much trickier. In casual social outings or being introduced to strangers it’s hideously tricky. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I haven’t read their vibe and personality correctly? What if they judge me before they know me?

I don’t know where my fear of being disliked came from. Perhaps it was my mother always worrying, “What would the neighbors think?” Perhaps it was learning as a youngster that other people’s feelings are more important than my own. Perhaps it is my nature, not my nurture that makes me afraid of this. Who knows? It doesn’t really matter in the end – I am nice to everyone and I hope they might be nice to me.

My anxiety also brings a major fear of conflict.

I don’t fight. Ever. I will stand up for my beliefs. I can have a discussion with an alternate point of view. But I won’t fight with you. I can’t do it. You can yell and scream at me until you’re blue in the face, and I will stand frozen to the spot chanting, This too shall pass, silently in my head.

If major conflict arises in the workplace, I will probably resign. I’ve done it before. I would do it again. It shames me to say that. I feel like I have no emotional fortitude, but I can’t do conflict.

Unfortunately, there are also times when my pathological fear of conflict wars with my pathological need to be responsible – to care for others and defend those who can’t defend themselves. In a group setting, I steer clear of conflict – at any cost. But in a group setting, I also need to ensure everyone feels heard and understood and represented. Sometimes I will speak up – usually at a high personal cost. I will choose personal humiliation and grief over abandoning my moral compass which can sometimes leave me in a lose-lose situation. I become extremely anxious and distressed regardless of which path I choose.

Everyday life normally trots on by OK for me. I don’t have major panic attacks. When things are going well, I manage fears the same way I manage all my other emotions – I ignore them. Every single day is scattered with a thousand little moments of fear I try to ignore. There’s no relaxation or down time until I’m curled up in my pajamas. And to calm the chaos in my head, I’ve become extremely adept at organizing the chaos around me.


When everyday life throws curve balls, that’s when my anxiety quickly skyrockets. And when the rockets are skyward bound, that’s when thoughts of self-harm and disordered eating behaviors flare out of control. The unknown is a bad place for me to be and it is easy to yearn for old coping behaviors that numb difficult emotions and still those runaway thoughts.

I read somewhere that 2017 is the year of the Rooster, and that after the pesky Monkey messed around with everything last year, the Rooster will bring good luck and prosperity. I am depending on that little Rooster to calm my nerves and create a positive mindset so my anxious thoughts can settle and not escalate.

This too shall pass…

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Thinkstock photo via Sylverarts.

The thought process of anxiety is relatively well-known in today’s world. You don’t have to search for long before you find a list of all the varying states of mind that can be attributed to anxiety. Thoughts of, “I can’t do this,” “They think I’m faking” or even “I need to leave” are all relatively “standard.” However, the physical symptoms of anxiety are often overlooked.

I have struggled with anxiety for a long time now, and whilst I have had the “normal” thought processes of someone with anxiety, it is the physical side I really hate. Personally, I try to hide my symptoms, as do many others with anxiety, but when your mental state starts to affect your body it becomes a lot harder to disguise.

Chest pains — not just a tightening but true stabbing pains to the heart. At one time I was in so much pain I had to consult my doctor because I was terrified my heart was failing. I was fine, but the pain was very real. I’ve also had severe stomach cramps where I’ve had to leave a room to dry heave. All I could think was, “Have I eaten something wrong?” I hadn’t, and I was simply uncomfortable with the conversation I was having. I’ve had my legs go weak and almost buckle beneath me. I’ve had to brace myself between two walls because I thought I was going to collapse.

My experience of anxiety has mostly been with the physical symptoms. It took a long time for me to realize what was causing them. I expect there are others out there too who struggle with such things. The issue is, when you go to a doctor about chest pains, they look at your heart. If your stomach is hurting, they may look at your diet or give you something to settle it. In my experience, it’s quite rare for someone to make the link to the brain.

For me, I rarely experience the anxious thoughts anymore. I only have pain. I have my legs cramp along with my neck. I clutching my chest, trying to slow my breathing. There is very little I can do to stop these symptoms, as normally I can’t quite determine what is causing them.

Mental illness is not just a condition of the mind; it can affect the entire body in ways you wouldn’t immediately think. Learning to understand and recognize these physical symptoms is essential. It is essential because it does not matter how many irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) tablets you take — that pain will not subside until you relax, which is easier said than done for most people who live with anxiety.

So the next time your chest flares or your legs wobble, make a note of the situation you are in. Trying leaving the room or area. Learning the difference between actual physical illness and that caused by mental conditions will save you a lot of time and worry.

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Thinkstock photo via champja

I have always been the prepared one — maybe even too prepared:

The girl who double checked her school supply list before the first day to make sure she had everything just right.

The girl who analyzed project and assignment rubrics extensively to make sure the submitted work was perfection.

The girl who spent at least double the time the average student did preparing for a test, making sure not a single fact was overlooked.

The girl who never settled.

The girl who was never satisfied.

The girl who never felt “good” was “good enough.”

The girl who didn’t realize this push for perfection was more than just being a “good student, an overachiever.”

The girl who had normalized excessive anxiety and stress for far too long.

The girl who did not realize the damage excessive perfectionism and unrealistic self-set expectations can cause until it was far too late.

The anxiety became overwhelming. Unbearable. All-consuming.

The idea of not being “enough” popped into my head.

The average person may get that idea in their head from time to time, then let it go … but I could not.

The little idea turned into a fear.

Am I not good enough? Am I not trying hard enough? Is my best effort not going to get me anywhere? Am I going to be a complete failure?

The little thought escalated into an obsession. Soon, all I could see was the possibility of failure. It was everywhere. It haunted me constantly. It deprived me of my sleep. It broke me down until others could barely recognize me.

It took away my ability to see any future for myself.

It sent me into a major depression, stripped me of my personality and my happiness. It made me ill.

Nothing had prepared me for an illness which made me feel worthless.

Nothing had prepared me for an illness which made me feel like such a burden.

Nothing had prepared me for an illness which made me convinced suicide was the answer.

Nothing had prepared me for dealing with depression.

Four years ago, I thought I would be graduating this May, prepared for the adult world after four years of an amazing college experience. I never imagined I would take a semester off for depression. I never imagined I would take yet another semester off for full-blown mania. I never imagined I would be mentally ill.

College is meant to be an opportunity for growth, self-discovery and new experiences. I have grown, but I still have a lot of recovering to do to become my personal best.

I have discovered myself, but only after tearing myself down through anxiety and depression.

I have had new experiences which have shaped my values and future goals, but they are not the type of experiences I would wish upon anyone.

College has shaped me, but not in a way I could ever have prepared myself for.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via photodeti

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