8 Small, Realistic Ways to Manage Anxiety (From People Who Actually Have It)

Updated 05/04/19
@brooketestoni

At the end of the day, anxiety is about control. Many develop it in reaction to a lack of control in their lives, whereas others find themselves seeking measures to control the anxiety itself. While this list of tips addresses the latter, we want to preface it by saying that no amount of CBD oil or yoga will “cure” your anxiety. Instead, it's about finding the right tools and lifestyle shifts to help you manage symptoms when they do arise, leading to a happier and healthier life in the long run.

With that premise in mind, The Mighty tapped its mental health community for realistic, effective ways to manage anxiety, from people who have actually experienced it firsthand. Whether you’re seeking a more comprehensive management approach outside of therapy and/or prescription medication, or you simply want to get a handle on negative thoughts, consider the below lifestyle shifts and routines as provided by actual anxiety sufferers.

Cut down on caffeine

“Cut out caffeine and drink more water. I was told by a therapist that it would help and it does. I noticed without the caffeine I don’t feel as anxious. Not only does it help with my anxiety, but I know I’m hydrated.” — Amanda W.

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Challenge negative thoughts

“I basically do a Jedi mind trick on myself. Here’s how it works: I try to objectively reflect on and assess my day. For example, I’ll think about what happened that day and rate how good the day was. However, I have to be able to provide ‘evidence’ from the day to back up my rating. Since anxiety convinces me I had a crappy day, when I make my day concrete by reflecting on the specific goals I did meet and the specific things I did accomplish and the specific little surprises that were positive, I see it was actually a good day.

My attitude towards the day improves. It’s cut down on how often I claim I had a crappy day. I can tell if it was just the anxiety or actually a crappy day. If it was just the anxiety, reflecting has helped me see anxiety was lying and my memory of the day becomes positive. I guess it’s a type of daily gratitude practice. I even have an app that I can use to track how I rated my days so I can see patterns and I can visually see that I actually have more good days than bad ones.” — Jessica R.

Try meditation and mindfulness

“Gratitude and mindfulness have worked really well and after being repeatedly told in therapy this works, I hesitantly tried it out. And it does work. Anxiety is often so future-focused about what may or may not happen. Mindfulness and gratitude keep you in the moment and help you appreciate what you already have. For example, every morning on my way to work, I have a gratitude mindfulness exercise. I notice the sunrise and appreciate it [sic] beauty, different colors, textures, etc. In that moment, I am not worried about work that day or remembering something that didn’t go well the day before.

It is just me and the sunrise.” — Alyssa P.

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Practice acceptance

“Accepting this as part of who I am. It allows me to step back when needed, totally guilt-free. Also letting go of how it makes others feel, guilt-free. It doesn’t change the level of anxiety, it only takes away the guilt of having it.” — Kathi F.

Establish a bedtime routine

“I’ve established a bedtime routine. May sound silly, but after brushing teeth, etc., I wash my hands with a lavender soap. And use a good smell on my hands. Then climb into bed and take a few deep breaths. While repeating my mantra, ‘You are physically, mentally, emotionally safe. The world is not out to get you. Nothing is as bad as it seems.’ It really helps me.” — Niki T.

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Practice graditude

“When I think something negative, I have to stop and think of something I am grateful for. Example—I got a flat tire and I would’ve normally been upset, but I remembered I had the foresight to get AAA two years ago because I was scared about something happening. I said thank you to my anxiety because now I was covered. Sounds weird but it works.” — Karri H.

Keep a journal

“I keep a journal now to track what was happening when I began to feel myself getting overwhelmed. Inside the cover is a list of grounding techniques. This helps me track my triggers and find ways to cope/avoid those situations.” — Megan K.

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Limit time spent on social media

“I limit my social media. It seemed my anxiety would rise every time I went on because I was comparing my life to everyone’s highlight reel and it was doing a number on my self-esteem.” — Jen S.

ZEN OUT

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