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7 Effective Coping Skills for Anxiety

Nearly 1 in 5 adult Americans suffers from an anxiety disorder. Yet, too often, instead of seeking treatment or effective coping strategies to reduce their anxiety symptoms, many either dismiss, ignore or don’t recognize they need help.

One way to effectively work towards managing your anxiety symptoms is by developing healthy coping skills to lead a more balanced, healthy life. Coping strategies can be used by both those diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and those who don’t have an anxiety disorder.

Unfortunately, anxiety is unavoidable. However, that doesn’t mean you should suffer from anxiety alone. In the following article, you will learn the top coping skills for anxiety that can help better manage your anxiety symptoms.

1. Focus On Your Breathing

Practicing deep breathing is a simple way to reduce feelings of anxiety. Typically, when one is under stress, their breathing patterns change to only take in shallow, small breaths, which inevitably aren’t good for the body.

Focusing on a deep breathing pattern for about 5 minutes will not only physically help you be more aware to take longer breaths, but it will also, in turn calm you down and lower your elevated heart rate if under stress.

A helpful breathing technique to reduce anxiety symptoms is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This is a specific breathing pattern where you focus on taking four deep breaths. And, during each breath after inhaling, you hold the breath for 7 seconds and then exhale for 8 seconds.


2. Recognize and Question Ruminating Thoughts

Toxic negative thought patterns can sometimes be difficult to spot, unlike a physiological symptom that signals your anxiety like sweaty palms or a racing heartbeat.

However, negative, ruminating thoughts often aren’t rooted in reality, and are one way your mind can “play tricks on you” to use your fears and stressors against you. In order to effectively cope with these ruminating thoughts, or negative self-talk is first being aware of when it occurs.

Then, you can break the loop of negative thought patterns by breaking down the thoughts themselves. Question why you feel this way. Look for credible evidence (if any) that actually supports your negative self-talk. You’ll be surprised that often these thoughts focus on our fears without actually taking into consideration the whole situation.

3. Write Your Thoughts Down

Writing your thoughts down in a journal can be another simple yet effective coping skill for anxiety. This is because a journal provides you with a safe place to write all your thoughts down without fear of judgment, all while getting your anxious thoughts down on paper rather than spiraling in your mind.

By writing down what makes you anxious and why, you are not only stopping those anxious thoughts from catastrophizing, but you can potentially learn what triggers your anxiety and a better way to cope with a similar situation in the future to not feel as anxious.

4. Be Active

Staying active and intentionally moving around, whether walking, running, or doing a workout class, can be great ways to stop your anxious thinking and be active. Exercise is good for the body and can help distract your mind and focus on something positive.

The last thing you may want to do is go for a jog around your neighborhood, especially if you are feeling consumed by anxiety. Yet, distracting your mind and doing an activity gives your mind a break from the anxiety and can help you feel more relaxed after exercising.

5. Don't Jump to the "Worst Case Scenario"

Similar to the coping skill of stopping and questioning your negative ruminating thought patterns, another essential coping skill is not jumping to the “worse case scenario” in your mind. It’s essential you rationalize your thoughts instead of allowing your mind to habitually jump to the worst situation possible in any given situation.

For instance, if your boss asks to meet with you at the end of the day, without explanation, instead of immediately jumping towards the “worst case scenario” and thinking throughout the entire day that your boss is going to fire you, instead rationalize the situation. If you are a good worker who’s made mistakes, but you’ve overall been a positive asset to your work environment, your boss is likely not going to fire you without any specific cause or reason.

Rather than shifting to the worst, shift your mindset to think of more realistic and probable reasons, such as your boss only having time to talk with you at the end of their day, or you may even receive a promotion!

6. Gradual Exposure (if applicable)

If your anxiety stems from a specific situation or activity that you can practice/ get more comfortable with, such as social anxiety or a phobia, an effective coping skill to alleviate some of your anxiety is through gradual (safe) exposure to that trigger causing you anxiety.

For instance, if you feel anxious about driving in a car because you got into a car accident in the past, consider first visualizing yourself driving. Then, consider sitting in the driver’s seat, but not starting the car. Next, once fairly comfortable, turn the car on in the passenger seat, but don’t drive the car. Finally, drive a small loop around your neighborhood and gradually work your way up to driving longer distances you feel comfortable with.

7. Schedule Time to Rest and Recover

Life is full of challenges. However, if you are constantly feeling overwhelmed and stressed without any time to recover adequately, this will only exacerbate your anxiety. Therefore, consider intentionally setting aside time to yourself to rest and recover to relieve your anxiety. Consider having a go-to self-care routine or ensuring you are going to bed at a reasonable time to get a good night’s sleep.

That's a wrap!

Anxiety is common; however, that doesn’t mean you should ignore these anxious feelings, especially if they are consistently harming your general well-being. Practicing the above coping skills for anxiety can help you manage your anxiety symptoms more effectively. If you find you still experience anxiety symptoms that impact your daily life, it’s essential you seek treatment from a mental health professional to help manage your anxiety.

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