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10 Simple Things That Help Me Cope With My Anxiety

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People react to different things in different ways. What works for one person may not work for another. If you have not tried some of these, they may help and they may not, but it does not hurt to try. This list contains behaviors I do and things I like having or doing to help keep me away from feeling overstimulated.

1. Coffee.

This may not seem helpful to someone with anxiety or may cause more anxiety, but I feel coffee is helpful. The aroma is soothing. The heat is comforting as it slides down to my belly. More importantly, I can easily hide behind the coffee mug. Not sure what to say? Sip your coffee a few times and look contemplative. It will look like you are thinking about everything that was just said.

2. Reading.

Having a good book on hand can help you avoid social interactions. Reading is a solo endeavor and if a stranger does approach you, they either want to know what you are reading or have a question like asking for the time, or where the bathroom is located. I can handle these types of questions even if I am feeling anxious. If you are not much of a reader, you are missing out on a satisfying activity. Grab a book on your favorite topic and go!

3. Writing.

Not everyone is a writer. I write it all; poetry, fiction and nonfiction. It is similar to reading — it is a solo endeavor and most people leave you alone if you are writing in a journal. Not sure what to write? Write down your thoughts and worries and fears. Sometimes, this will help you cope with whatever you might be going through. It is important to write down the happy thoughts too. If something good or exciting happened, writing it down will help you remember all the good things in your life.

4. Watching films or TV.

Netflix. Netflix is my friend and understands me. No matter how you are feeling — whether you are sad or just do not want to socialize — Netflix is there for you. Or watch DVDs, some other streaming service or actual broadcast TV. It was liberating the first time I went to a movie theater and saw a movie alone. I enjoyed the movie, had popcorn and left whenever I wanted. No one talked to me or sat next to me. It was invigorating and I felt social because I “went out.”

5. Limiting social interactions to a couple hours.

I never want to be out all night or all day. If you decide to hang with friends, limit it to short activities. Movies are usually a couple of hours. Going out to eat could become a five-hour adventure within that restaurant. Do not be afraid to cut yourself off and leave early. No one will be upset and if they are, you do not need them in your life.

6. Only meet new people when at least one good friend is present.

This often makes me feel more comfortable with the stress of meeting someone new. It is even better when your good friend is a mutual friend of the new person; this will give you more to talk about, or you can politely listen and not feel obligated to speak.

7. Avoid small talk; stick to business or interesting stuff.

If someone asks me about the weather, I give short one word responses, hoping they will take the hint that I do not care about anything they are saying. I do not like small talk. It feels too forced. If you come to me and ask about a movie I may have seen, I am more likely to engage in a real conversation because that is something I am interested in talking about.

8. Meditation.

Find a quiet place to sit or lie down. Take slow, loud, deep breaths. Listen to your breathing and nothing else. Listen to the sound you make as you breathe. If you fall asleep, that is OK — that means you are doing it right. Remove all thoughts from your mind and only listen to yourself breathing. This is kind of like turning your brain off then on again after 15 minutes. If I am feeling stressed or anxious, meditation can help give me some relief.

9. Limit social media use.

With all the social options we have and the abundance of information that comes from them, sometimes this can hurt you more than make you feel social. You do not need to comment on everything or like everything, and it is OK if you miss out on some things your friends are doing. It will give you something to talk about with them at a later time.

10. Disconnect from the world once a month.

Turn off all electronics — notifications on your phone, the TV, the laptop, everything. Keep your phone on in case of emergencies but only worry about phone calls. Do not look at text messages, Snapchat messages or anything. Just one day is all you need. Take a break from everything and just chill. Catch up on your reading or writing, take extra naps, prepare a home-cooked meal, or do some other activity that requires using your hands, like sewing or carpentry.  Do not talk to or visit anyone for that one day.  It will recharge you.

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Getty Images photo via kmatija

Originally published: April 5, 2023
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