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29 Unexpected Ways People Cope With Anxiety

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We wish an anxiety-reducing activity with a 100-percent success rate existed. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. And while managing anxiety usually involves a combination of strategies like therapy, possible medication, relaxation techniques, etc., sometimes asking others with high anxiety what works for them can better help you or can act as inspiration for a new way to cope.

Most of us know the “classic” ways to try to reduce anxiety — deep breathing, meditation, journaling, etc. — and if these work for you, that’s awesome. But we wanted to know a few “unexpected” anxiety-reducing techniques our mental health community use — so we asked them. Remember: anxiety manifests differently in every person, so it makes sense that we’d all manage it a bit differently too. We hope one of the suggestions below helps you, and if not, keep searching — you’re not alone in your fight.

Here’s what our community had to offer:

1. “I give myself less free time. My anxiety tends to be worse when I think too much about the future, so I do tasks to help my future like working, homework or volunteering.” — Alexis D.

2. “Going to concerts. It’s weird because you’d think being in a place full of hundreds to thousands of people would make me more anxious, but the minute my favorite band or artist comes on and I start singing along, I forget about my anxiety and just get lost in the music.” — Kira M.

3. “I clean. We’re talking scrub top to bottom until it’s sparkling clean. I’ve often had panic attacks manifest themselves as cleaning binges and it’s to the point that if I do a small cleaning/organizing task just for the heck of it, alarm bells go off in the minds of those who know me and they want to know what’s wrong.” — Sherlyn P.

4. “Elevators make my anxiety rise up very quickly. But so do the hallways for the stairs, so to get it over with quickly, I just take the elevator. But I’ve realized that putting my face in the corner of the elevator helps me calm down a little if I’m focused on my breathing too.” — Kayla B.

5. “I take extremely cold showers. After my anxiety attacks, it feels like someone is crushing my chest with a boulder, and I feel dizzy, and I lose track of my surroundings. It often feels like I’m in my own world, but in this world the voices are the ones controlling me. ‘Everything’s falling apart,’ ‘you’ll never do anything right,’ ‘you’ll screw up like you always do’ — that’s when the cold water brings me back to reality. It slows my heart rate down and opens up my lungs, and it feels like someone is embracing me saying, ‘Everything’s going to be OK.’” — Caelynn C.

6. “Creative writing. I write songs and stories (fiction and fanfiction). November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and this past year I finally committed to it all month. I ended up writing over 50,000 words/about 200 pages double spaced, for a story. The main character struggles with anxiety and depression, so I was able to channel some of my personal experience into the story.” — Jerusalen J.

7. “I learned to crochet eight months ago. It helped me with weaning off my old meds and onto the new one!” — Jes S.

8. “I make secret Pinterest boards for random things that make me feel good. I spend a few hours/days/weeks finding the right pins and organizing them in a way that’s most visually appealing to me. For example, my last board was for my house that was built in 1962. I pinned all of my favorite period-correct items I thought would look awesome in this house, as if I was building it for myself 55 years ago. This helps me create a different reality for myself in the moments I feel like the present isn’t safe. I have total control. I can delete when I’m done, and no one has to witness me working out my issues in strange ways.” — Zal G.

9. “Japanese snacks help. I think it’s because Japan has always been the dream [for me], and they remind me it’s still out there and that there’s more to life than whatever’s bothering me right now. It’s hard to get them around here, but sometimes I just have to make it work; I think we all need to be reminded of the things that make the bad moments worth it.” — Jade B.

10. “I cope with anxiety by submerging myself through ‘maladaptive daydreaming.’ Not an official disorder, but but the thing is, you get to daydream a life ‘better’ than your real one.” — Mia G.

11. “Reciting digits of pi. I started memorizing digits of pi as an assignment for a class, but now it’s a way for me to clear my head and focus on something specific. I can do 300 digits consistently, but during particularly stressful times, I’ve gotten up to as many as 350 through constant repetition.” — Grace K.

12. “Drinking coffee. Plenty of people have their anxiety made worse by caffeine of any kind. But for me, nothing calms more than a hot mug of coffee, a good book and my cat on my lap.” — S. Mcflynn

13. “Sour candy when [I am] having a panic attack. It takes my mind right off the panic.” — Tiffany H.

14. “When I feel the uneasiness, I close my eyes and start to count. I ‘draw’ each number in my head, sometimes a specific color as well, so there is more to concentrate on. If I mess up or lose track, I’ve learned it’s OK to just start over.” — Allison H.

15. “I have an audio recording on my phone of my favorite celebrity giving an interview a few years ago. His voice is extremely calming to me, so I play it whenever I have an anxiety attack, and it always relaxes me.” — Vanessa B.

16. “I daydream. Like fantasy world from mixes of different fictional books I’ve read. I’m 26 years old, and yet I dream I have extreme abilities or I’m a super natural creature. I dream of big dresses from 1700-1850s. Of living in that timeframe with a pretend love interest, and sometimes I’m a mother, a wife. Sometimes I’m in actual historic battles and wars.” — Michelle G.

17. “Playing rugby! Since joining my local ladies team, I have overcome so many anxiety moments. There’s still many to face, but I have found a team sport which has a place for everyone [and] has helped massively. It wasn’t easy at times, but my commitment to the team, the game, to training all helps keep my mind active in better things!” — Diana T.

18. “I hold ice in my mouth. It makes it feel easier to breathe. It gives a cooling effect, kind of like when you eat a mint and then drink a cold glass of water and then breathe in.” — Mariah A.

19. “This may sound weird, but I watch reality TV. I especially love the Real Housewives. I get so into their drama (it amazes me how easily they get offended), and it distracts me long enough to forget. I sometimes feel better about what I’m going through after!” — Allie H.

20. “Window shopping. It gets me out of the house and gives me pretty things to look at. I enjoy slow walks, but knowing I can look at cute stuff gives me the motivation to actually get out.” — Erica A.

21. “I watch children’s movies, especially ones that hold nostalgic value to me. Something about the lack of serious conflict and having something to keep my mind busy really helps.” — Sharon E.

22. “I write on my thumb with my forefinger, little words that describe how I’m feeling in that moment. ‘Sick, anxious, unwell.’ Somehow, the cursive slant of my fingers calms me.” — Shay K.

23. “I learn German when I’m feeling anxious. I’m mostly German and have always wanted to visit Germany and learn more about the culture and the landscape, and learning German helps soothe my anxious nerves by making me focus on something other than my nerves and racing thoughts.” — Danielle R.

24. “Pet training. I take a break from what I’m doing and try to teach my parrot a new trick/play with her. It’s really soothing to hear her chirp along to music, enjoy little head massages, and teach her to wave and spin.” — Zainab S.

25. “I watch videos on YouTube — like pimple popping, teeth cleaning, carpet cleaning, pressure washers. For whatever reason, stuff like that calms me down.” — Melanie S.

26. “I try to take photos that capture the way I’m feeling inside so it is something visible.” — Bridgette N.

27. “Picking at frozen oranges. It’s much better than picking at my nails so much my fingers bleed. Plus I get a reward at the end!” — Heather G.

28. “To be honest, I have sex with my boyfriend. It helps for some odd reason.” — Crystal K.

29. “Talking to a pillow about my feelings because pillows can’t interrupt me or give me useless advice.” — Belen R.

What “unexpected” ways do you cope with your anxiety? Let us know in the comments below.

Thinkstock photo by Hue/amanaimagesRF

29 Unexpected Ways People Cope With Anxiety

Originally published: June 6, 2017
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