Fact: It’s super annoying when people who don’t get it offer unsolicited tips for magically “curing” anxiety.
Also a fact: That doesn’t mean you’re powerless. There are things you can do to help manage anxiety.
So to find out what methods and techniques help people get through anxious moments, we asked the real experts — people from our mental health community who live with anxiety every day — to share with us one “anxiety hack” they would offer someone who’s currently struggling.
We hope at least one of these tricks work for you. But if they don’t, that’s OK, too. If you need more support, you can text “HOME” to 741-741 to talk to a crisis counselor. You can also visit the American Association of Anxiety and Depression’s website to find a therapist near you.
You’ve got this. Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “The ‘five, four, three, two, one’ grounding technique. My therapist just ‘tasked’ me with this. Name five thing you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch/feel, two things you can smell, one thing you can taste. You can do any order and number.” — Rachel C.
2. “This might sound silly but I made a ‘happy place’ Instagram account. The only pictures I post are pictures that make me smile, and I only follow accounts with cute animals, inspirational quotes, pretty landscapes and other happy things (I’m pretty sure I follow every last corgi on social media). Whenever I need to, I can scroll through some adorable pictures or remind myself of good memories. I try to slow down my breath with every scroll, and put headphones in just to tune out some of the background noise. My daughter likes it too and we’ve started taking little Instagram breaks during homework/study time.” — Sarah S.
3. “The app ‘Headspace.’” — Amanda M.
4. “I use a fidget cube. It helps release some of the anxious and restless energy.” — Jessica G.
5. “Essential oils. Lavender is fantastic. Put it in a diffuser or in the bath for instant calming effects.” — Erin M.
6. “Knitting.” — Erin A.
7. “I sing to myself, ‘Every little thing is gonna be alright,’ over and over until I believe it.” — Caroline L.
8. “I recently discovered weighted blankets… Now I use one every night to sleep with. Amazing!” — Stephanie P.
9. “I always keep change in my pocket to use as a grounding technique.” — Alex R.
10. “Keep counting! Literally just keep count different things… it’s enough to distract you, but people don’t notice that you’re doing it.” — Keyleigh H.
11. “Deep breathing exercises. Removing myself from the environment that’s triggering my anxiety and calming down that way. Popping my headphones in my ears with a song that gets me thinking about a calming person or place.” — Sheri T.
12. “Meditation beads have helped me a lot. When I’m feeling anxious I count the beads at the end of my bracelet and concentrate on them and it helps pull me back to reality and out of the anxiety attack.” — Elizabeth M.
13.“Read articles on why you’re anxious and what the biological reasons are for your body and mind behaving as if you’re in danger. Calms me down a lot sometimes.” — Jessi W.
14. “I grab an ice cube and clutch it in my hands, focusing on feeling how cold it is, for as long as I can. By the time I have to dry my hand, the impending attack is usually gone.” — Tiffany N.
15. “Seriously pretend you are smoking. Those deep breath help me.” — Desuri D.
16. “‘If I can get through this 10 seconds, I can get through the next 10 seconds.’ ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ gave me the best mantra to live by with anxiety.” — Erin W.
17. “I have a notebook that I use and write a self-soothing sentence out. I then write the words backwards. Then forwards with my left hand and then backwards with my left hand. The concentration it takes to complete this can often distract me.” — Sarah W.
18. “I have an ‘anxiety toolkit list’ in my phone that’s basically a ‘facts list’ of things I know are true, so that when I get intrusive thoughts, I can counter them with solid facts I wrote in a more calm frame of mind.” — Nerris N.
19. “Tell someone how you are really feeling — we are conditioned to isolate ourselves with ‘I’m fine.’” — Ali M.
20. “Five-seven-eight breathing. In through your nose for four, hold for seven, exhale through mouth for eight. Repeat four to six times. Slows down your heart rate and counting gives you something to focus on instead of what’s making you anxious.” — Mike W.
21. “Keep an anxiety diary. When you are anxious try to focus on what seems to be causing the anxiety … maybe a forthcoming social situation or whatever, and write down the situation in one column. In next column write down the worst thing that can happen; and in the third column note the very best outcome that you can hope for. After the situation has passed revisit the entry in the diary and reflect on what actually happened. Doing this regularly helped me to calm down much more quickly, and retrain my panic response a little.” — Judith B.
22. “I have a mini-checklist: am I hydrated? Am I hungry? Did I sleep well last night? (It could be one of those things). If not, ‘OK. This is anxiety. I’m safe. I’m going to take some breaths, go for a walk,or even just say out loud ‘I’m feeling anxious’” Helps me regain control and deal with the situation I’m facing.” — Katy M.
23. “Carry something they reminds you of the people who are your support system. I wear a ring from my mom and my engagement ring from my fiancé and depending on what support I need or who I miss I end up absentmindedly playing with them and it calms me down to have a very visual reminder that these people love me and are here for me no matter what.” — Melissa O.