Try these anxiety coping methods! Feel less defeated and more victorious over your anxiety attacks.
Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in my own thoughts and the more I try to swim and get to the shore, the worse it gets.
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, have little habits like the ones I will show in this article. These coping strategies will improve your daily life.
Calm your anxiety by including these mechanisms into your routine.
1. Time Management
Plan each day to keep anxiety at bay!
Make a list of things you want to do and must do the day ahead.
They say that creating a schedule for the day ahead makes you productive. But it is more than that!
Planning your day and allocating time blocks for each of your to do-s will calm down the monkey mind.
When you organize your tasks your mind will see clarity, purpose and NO chaos.
DO NOT FEEL disappointed if some tasks take longer than you thought or you may not do everything on the list. The schedule is for you to free your mind and have an overview of your goals.
Time Management Tips
Eat the frog. When you make your tasks list, think which of them are the most difficult or time-consuming. Start with the most unpleasant task and end the day with the easy ones.
Prioritize. Group tasks into 4 categories: Urgent and important, not urgent but important, urgent but not important, neither urgent nor important. Concentrate on “not urgent but important” activities. That way those activities won’t become “urgent and important”.
Once you got used to planning your day you can start plan your week! Plan the first 3-4 days of the week and see how many tasks you can plan. Unexpected to do’s may appear or your friend calls you to meet for a coffee or an appointment was cancelled.
I know anxiety doesn’t let you be flexible and the last thing you want for your schedule is to change in the last moment. It is ok. It will happen though.
Focus on the 3 most important tasks. If you find yourself not having enough time to do all the tasks, then focus on the top 3 to do-s that matter for you. Think how these will help you achieve your goals.
Take breaks. Some may say take 5 minutes after each 25 minutes of work. But I cannot interrupt my work every 25 minutes because it takes 10 minutes to redirect my focus on my task. I function well with 50-60 minutes of deep work and then 10-15 minutes of break.
Make your own recipe, see what works for you. Think about how much time you can concentrate with no breaks. How long it takes until you can shift your attention back to work after a break?
Use waiting time – identify places you are likely to have to wait and use waiting time for your benefit. Create your schedule for the next week, download a podcast or listen to something that inspires you, etc.
This study (Macan & Shahani, 1990) on university students found that those who structured their time felt more in control. They also reported psychological well-being, optimism about the future, less depression and hopelessness.
Check out Dale’s Story and how he manages his anxiety by managing his time.
Tips to plan you
This study on university students found that those who structured their time felt more in control. They also reported psychological well-being, optimism about the future, less depression and hopelessness.
3. Write Your Ideas Immediately
Your brain tries to help you!
Many times I am in the middle of doing something and I have this brilliant idea! I either want to stop what I am doing to work at my idea or I abandon the idea thinking ‘Nah, I don’t have time today’ and I forget about it.
PUT IT DOWN – have a little pad close to you or a notepad on your phone to write any idea you may have.
Why this? Because when anxiety hits I have lots of negative thoughts, ruminations, worries AND creative ideas. I guess my mind tries to cope and comes up with solutions.
The problem is that during my anxiety episodes I have a flood of thoughts. I won’t remember my ideas unless I put them down. Thoughts like ‘I will lose my job.’ or ‘I do nothing with my life’ always hook me first rather than the useful ones like ‘What if I spend 20 minutes every day before work to write the guide I told my boss I will write?’
3. Set Up Reminders
Reminders saved my life.
I forget the minor tasks like charging my Walkman before a run, paying this bill, getting the rubbish bin out, buying this item that I need, writing this email, etc.
There are dozens of apps that you can download and remind you of your little to dos
Why? The mind is creating thoughts non-stop. Feels like there is a washing machine inside my head.
This makes me forgetful and chaotic. I struggle to focus on what I am doing because I already have 2-3 thoughts that occupy my mind in the same time. That’s why without reminders I won’t be able to remember those little things that matter.
Plus, you will feel relieved that you didn’t forget to write that email or do that chore. Knowing that you did everything you wanted will give you a sense of accomplishment. And yes, the anxiety calms down.
Here is a list of useful apps to set up reminders and keep track of all the tasks you want to get done!
Move your body for happy thoughts.
We all know it, exercise is good, but for anxiety is a bliss!
I started cardio exercises and then running to lose weight, but over time I noted the difference. When I come home from my run I feel released, lighter. Exercise does wonders for your anxiety. But do it again the next day (or the next day after, or a few days after) because the magic disappears the next morning.
Check here my article on how to create an exercise routine that sticks.
It’s about drinking the right amount at the right time.
Drink a bit and you will feel happy, energized and focused.
Drink too much and you will feel fatigued, shaky and anxious.
Studies contradict themselves. Some of them link caffeine with anxiety and depression. Others suggest that coffee is good for our brain and moods (Nehlig, 2016). As per the chart below, caffeine protects you from cognitive decline.
If you suffer from General Anxiety Disorder, be careful! This study found that patients with GAD are abnormally sensitive to caffeine. (Bruce, Scott, Shine, Lader, 1992)
Check out Jamie’s story as she tried to give up coffee for one week!
As an anxiety warrior and coffee lover, Jamie tried to see how it feels not to drink coffee. She noted :
Had headaches the first four days
She didn’t need to take her medication for Gastroesophageal reflux!!!
The brain fog eased gradually
Her anxiety did not improve
Her sleep did not improve
6. Switch Off Social Media
Social media is a silent killer.
It makes you COMPARE all the time. You think how well others do or how successful they are or how many followers other have. The little success you had today is nothing in comparison with others’ achievements.
Your little step further feels so petty and unimportant.
Social media is also the friend of procrastination! How many times per day you scroll and like and share when you should work at your project or study?
After 30 minutes, you feel bad because you compared yourself with others. You feel guilty because you spent so much time online doing nothing when you should have written that article.
Then anxiety kicks in!
Social media is a double-edge sword for mental health. On one hand, it is a wonderful way of sharing our stories and connect with people who struggle. You find useful information and support when you are having a crisis.
On the other hand, research signals strong links between social media use and mental health issues (Keles, McCrae & Grealish, 2020). For example, in Canada researchers associated social media use of over two hours with psychological distress. The triggers for depression, anxiety and psychological distress are time spent on social media and activities such as repeated checking for messages.
As per the chart below, Instagram is the social media platform with the most negative effect on the psychological state of young people.
Tips for Social Media Detox
Download an app that helps you break down how much time you’re spending on your apps. Make a list with all your social media apps and next to each of them write how much time you used it.
Your device should have a built-in feature that helps you set up a time limit on each app usage. If not, here are some handy apps. For each social app set up a time limit that is half the time you used to spend.
If the first tip is too difficult, try redesigning your lock screen.
Instead of being welcomed by the cute face of your child or the funny image of your furry friend, ask yourself some questions to challenge your intention to use your phone. It’s urgent? It’s important? Are you bored? Do you avoid an unpleasant task?
Mindless scrolling is a form of avoiding something. It is my procrastination toll when I have to do a hard task. It is my solution for boredom and my hiding place when I experience anxious thoughts or painful emotions.
7. Be Kind
Tell others you are grateful to them or you admire them. Even a compliment.
I know you heard this, and after all it is common sense. Yes, we should be kind.
But when you have anxiety and you focus on someone else’s wellbeing, you interrupt the racing thoughts!!! Plus, the other person will feel good and this positive energy is viral. You will feel better!
You don’t have to do big things! Small gestures matter! Cheer someone up, send a brief message to wish success to someone who is starting a new job. Just be aware that even though you may have bad days, other are going through tough times. Lift your head up and look around! People need your attention and support. Give them your time and kindness. You will feel better.
Kindness makes you feel less socially anxious! This study (Alden and Trew, 2015) shows that students with anxiety who engaged in acts of kindness for four weeks experienced a decrease in social avoidance behaviours.
Acts of kindness increase the likelihood of positive interactions, helping to counter negative social expectations (e.g., of rejection), reduce perceptions of threat, and decrease the perceived need for avoidance.
Alden and Trew, 2015
Being kind makes you see the world in different colours and see it less frightening or judgemental.
The beauty of kindness is that it is open to anyone. We can all opt to choose kindness if we wish. It is free, easily accessible to rich and poor alike, and is universally understood. Thus, if it turns out that simple acts of everyday kindness can send ripple effects of wellbeing through society, then promoting and facilitating that has to be a constructive pursuit.
Make a promise to yourself and start observing the little things that you can be grateful about:
The sun in the sky.
An interesting conversation you had with someone.
Your morning coffee.
Your health (imagine how would be to live with pain every day; others know).
Watching your favourite movie.
The touch of warm water on your skin after a run or workout.
The smell of clean clothes after doing laundry.
A comfy bed after a long working day.
That Friday feeling when weekend is ahead.
A hot tea on a cold winter day.
Finding something you lost.
Getting at the bus station a minute before the bus coming.
Gratitude is a protective factor against psychopathology not only due to its association with improved relationships with others but also because it is connected to a less critical, less punishing, and more compassionate relationship with the self.
Research (Petrochi and Couyoumdjian, 2015) shows that gratefulness predicted significantly lower risk of generalized anxiety disorder. They also pursued gratitude and its link to self-criticism. It looks like thankfulness puts the individual into a position where self-criticism and the sense of worthlessness are reduced.
How is this happening?
Well, if you shift your attention deliberately on the good things that happened to you, you notice the positive aspects of yourself like your skills, qualities and talents. This means that you will withstand much easier the negative thoughts that tell you are not enough, you are not worthy of that you are failure.
But this will happen in time! Gratitude is a habit that you should try to seed it into your routine. This is not a magic cure against your anxiety, but more like an ally that will help you win some of your battles.
This is not a comprehensive list of coping methods for anxiety. Some you may find helpful. You may struggle with others as they may not fit your schedule or you don’t find them effective.
These coping methods are not a magic cure for anxiety. They are only ways you can befriend your anxiety and live an easier life with it.