Coping Skills for Anxiety: Ways to Cope with Anxiety
Coping skills for anxiety are actions we can take and ways we can think in order to keep going despite anxiety. Sometimes, anxiety is really strong in a particular situation, and coping skills help us get through it. Anxiety can be a long-lasting experience, so coping skills give us ways to move forward while we are simultaneously learning ways to reduce stress and anxiety in the long run.
As you gather methods and strategies to cope with anxiety, consider these guidelines for choosing the right ones for you:
- Use coping skills that you love; they’ll be more effective than things that don’t grab you.
- Eliminate “shoulds;” don’t chose a coping skill because you think you “should” like it.
- Avoid comparisons; focus on what works for you without worrying how it measures up to what others are doing.
- Pair your coping skills with your life goals to give them greater meaning and purpose, and thus effectiveness.
- Choose anxiety coping methods that suit your personality.
Sorting coping skills into categories allows you to choose from a variety of ideas suited to your needs of the moment. The following coping methods for anxiety are a sampling of skills to get you started.
Anxiety Coping Skills that Help Thoughts and Outlook
Anxiety interferes in our thinking, making our thoughts race and causing us to overthink almost everything. This impacts our outlook, putting a negative slant on how we view ourselves, others, and life in general. Because this is unpleasant, we naturally tend to fight our thoughts, but struggling against them only feeds them and increases anxiety. Rather than struggle with yourself, your thoughts, and your anxiety, accept things as they are in the moment.
- Gently give yourself permission to be anxious.
- Replace harshly negative self-talk with acceptance of who you are as a human being.
- Be a passive observer, noticing your anxiety symptoms without fighting them; resistance increases anxiety while just observing induces calm.
- Use positive affirmations to remind yourself of your positive qualities, your accomplishments, and your life goals.
Think of anxiety like a Chinese finger trap. When you put your fingers into the trap and then try to remove them by struggling and yanking hard against it, the trap tightens and you become more stuck. However, when you relax, accept the trap’s presence, and calmly slide your fingers out, you get rid of the trap’s hold on you.
Anxiety Coping Skills that Soothe and Inspire
Anxiety causes tension and can make us feel agitated and unsettled. Some ways to cope with anxiety include soothing yourself to feel calm in the moment. Connecting to something greater than ourselves and feeling inspired also helps us cope with anxious feelings. Try these techniques:
- Get out into nature;
- Appreciate beauty/cultivate a sense of awe;
- Get lost in something you love such as reading, crafting, running, etc.;
- Keep a positivity journal to acknowledge the good in your life and enhance a sense of gratitude;
- Slow down;
- Practice mindfulness, a way of reigning in your anxious thoughts and centering yourself;
- Pause now and then during your day to acknowledge that you are “Awake. Active. Alive” (Imparato, 2016, p. 46).
Anxiety Coping Skills That Release Energy
Anxiety can agitate. Sometimes it can be hard to sit still because we are wired, feeling as though we might jump out of our own skin. When this happens, coping skills for anxiety that allow us to release this pent-up energy and tension are extremely helpful. Some such anxiety coping methods include:
- Any movement, such as a brisk walk up and down flights of stairs;
- Deep breathing exercises; while it can be hard to stop and breathe when you’re worked up, doing so calms our body’s physiological response to anxiety, thus reducing tension (Lejeune, 2007);
- Journaling to release bottled-up thoughts and emotions.
Other Anxiety Coping Skills
Additional coping skills for anxiety are:
- Music that fits your anxiety-reducing needs in the moment, calming to soothe or peppy to release pent-up energy;
- Distraction techniques to shift your thoughts away from anxiety and onto something else. Consider carrying a small object to manipulate, wearing a rubber band to snap, chewing gum, doodling, etc.;
- A running list of your strengths and accomplishments;
- Acupressure, or using your fingertips to release muscle tension and energy.
Anxiety coping skills come in many forms because people are so different. What works for one person might not work for the next; to be sure, though, everyone has the ability to find or create ways to cope with anxiety. It’s a good idea to stockpile many different coping strategies because what you need varies from day to day. With a host of tools at your disposal, you’ll be able to cope with—to keep going despite—anxiety.
Last Updated: 17 May 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD