Go-to ways to help cope when anxiety rises

two women talkingHow to fret less and feel better

Did something keep you up last night — or make it hard to concentrate today? A car repair you didn’t expect? A rough patch in a friendship? A health concern in your family?

Even the most even-keeled of us can have times when anxiety rises — when our thoughts or worries make matters worse, not better. Here are some coping strategies to save for those particularly trying days.

  1. Take a calming time out

    Do some slow, deep breathing. With this simple practiceOpens a new window, you can activate something powerful: the body’s natural relaxation response. It calms both your body and mind.

    For the same soothing effect, try visualization. Close your eyes — and picture a peaceful spot, such as a flowery meadow or beautiful beach.

  2. Start moving

    Exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals. Even a brisk 10-minute walk can help clear your mind and brighten your mood.*

  3. Pause for perspective

    When a worry strikes, don’t cling to it — think critically. Ask yourself questions like these:

    • Is there a more positive way of looking at this?
    • Will this matter in a month or year?
    • What would I say to a friend with this worry?
  4. Accept what you can’t control

    It’s not always easy. But if something is truly out of your hands, try to let it go. Be patient with yourself. Acceptance can be a process.

  5. Take one positive step forward

    If you’re anxious about something you can influence in some way, decide on a single action to take. What can you do to improve the situation? For instance, maybe you’re worried about money. Set aside time to work on a budget. Caring for an aging parent — and feeling overwhelmed? Research local services that may help.

  6. Find a good listener

    Reach out to a supportive friend or family member. Simply confiding in someone who cares about you may help ease your mind.

  7. Hunt for humor

    There’s often a lighter side to stressful situations — if you look for it. And nothing chases anxious thoughts away like a little laughter, especially when you’re willing to laugh at yourself. 

What to do next

Set a calm tone for the day with a morning mantraOpens a new window. You might try a soothing positive message you can repeat to yourself, such as “Everything will be OK — this I believe.” 

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*Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.