In a world full of constant stimuli, deadlines, and pressure, it’s easy to get anxious and stressed out. It’s estimated that over 40% of adults have some form of an anxiety disorder, making it the most common mental health problem in the United States. However, finding ways to coping skills for anxiety and stress can help you calm down, stay motivated, and live a healthier life.
Short-term coping skills for anxiety and stress
Sometimes life gets overwhelming, and it’s difficult to take large chunks of time out of our day to alleviate anxiety symptoms. Luckily, there are some things you can do during those moments, short-term, to help cope.
1. Take a break
We’re not meant to be constantly stimulated or working without some sort of break. It serves to recharge and reset our brains so we can take a breather and get back to what we’re focusing on.
2. Cut out caffeine
Caffeine has been proven to induce anxiety in specific dosages. So if you find yourself with the jitters, shaky, anxious, or more stressed out than usual, try cutting out coffee or energy drinks to see if it helps.
3. Take deep breaths
One of the main physical reactions to anxiety is short, shallow breaths that lead to hyperventilating. Try taking 10 deep breaths and holding them, releasing slowly, to trick your central nervous system into calming down.
4. Get some sleep
When we’re stressed, our body uses extra energy, quickly leading to fatigue. So make sure to take time to get proper rest or even take a quick nap to rejuvenate yourself.
5. Distract yourself
While this isn’t recommended for long-term coping, sometimes we get so overwhelmed that it’s hard to focus on anything but the stress and anxiety. Instead, try distracting yourself by listening to music or watching TV.
6. Get active
Studies have shown that sedentary lifestyles lead to increased anxiety and stress. Try getting outside and going on a quick walk, jog, run. Hit the gym or do some yoga!
7. Eat a healthy meal
Proper nutrition gives fuel to our body that helps it operate smoothly. Excess sugar can cause increased anxiety. Try eating a healthy meal and changing your diet if necessary. Improper nutrition can create hormone imbalances, making your mood shift.
8. Spend less time on your phone
Research shows a connection between increased screen time and stress. Blue light puts a strain on our eyes, and the constant stimuli of notifications, texts, emails, and social media can create anxiety. Try putting your phone down for a few hours each day.
9. Try aromatherapy & essential oils
Research has shown a connection between using essential oils and decreased stress.
10. Call a friend or family member
Sometimes just talking to someone we trust makes us feel safe can improve our mood and decrease stress levels.
11. Spend time with your pet
Spending quality time with our pets has been shown to reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone) in humans. So next time you feel stressed, try hanging out with your dog, cat, or other pets. You’ll not only bond better with them but also recharge a part of your social battery and boost your mood.
12. Say “No”
If the source of your anxiety and stress is taking on too much, it’s important to set proper boundaries with yourself and others by learning to say ‘no’ every once in a while.
Studies show that cuddling with a significant other cause your body to release oxytocin, a calming hormone that helps combat stress. It can also lower your blood pressure, reducing the amount of cortisol in your body, the stress hormone.
How to stop a panic attack
If you’re experiencing or think you may be having symptoms of a panic attack, you might have a rapid heart rate, short breathing/hyperventilation, muscle tension, sweating or chills, dizziness, chest pain, or nausea. Over 13% of people are estimated to have at least one panic attack in their lifetime. It can be a scary experience brought on by increased stress, anxiety, and triggers.
Try some of these methods if you believe you may be having a panic attack:
14. Find a safe space
If you feel anxious or overwhelmed, try finding a spot you can go to with fewer stimuli or away from where you were when the panic attack originated. This could be a different room, stepping outside, sitting down, or leaning up against a wall.
15. Try diaphragmic breathing techniques
Research shows that diaphragmic breathing can reduce heart rate, blood pressure, slow anxiety, and lower cortisol in the body (stress hormone).
Check out Healthline’s article for a step-by-step guide for different diaphragm breathing exercises.
16. Relax your muscles
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is commonly used for those who experience anxiety and works to relax each muscle in your body mindfully. Muscle tension, a common symptom of stress, can be exhausting but still prevent you from relaxing or falling asleep.
PMR works by forcibly tensing different muscles in your body and releasing the tension. Becoming aware of your muscles can help you better relax them in great times of anxiety and stress.
17. Tell someone about it
If you’re in a place where you know someone or are able to text/call a support person, sharing with them that you have a panic attack can help stop that feeling of your surroundings “closing in” on you. The person may also help walk you through your thoughts and calm down.
18. Get some fresh air
In addition to removing yourself from the situation/area where you are having a panic attack, stepping outside can help expose your lungs to some fresh air, which has been shown to help ease anxiety.
19. Repeat a mantra
Find a phrase or word you can repeat to yourself when you have a panic attack to help focus and ease any dissociative thoughts. This could be something like “I am okay” or “This will pass.”
20. 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Method
Think of 5 things you can see
Think of 4 things you can touch
Think of 3 things you can hear
Think of 2 things you can smell
Think of 1 thing you can taste
Long-term coping skills for anxiety and stress
Dealing with anxiety and stress as it comes and goes is essential for short-term relief and managing the sometimes inconvenient, scary symptoms. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to help take preventative measures and slow down the frequency and intensity of your anxiety.
21. Seek counseling
One of the best and most effective ways to calm anxiety is to seek therapy. Therapists can use an array of different treatment options for anxiety and panic disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most common. It works to help you identify negative patterns, distortions, self-image, and triggers to create a treatment plan that aids in rewiring how you perceive stressful situations.
22. Change your diet
Proper nutrition directly affects the hormone levels in our body that deal with stress. If you find yourself consuming a diet high in sugar, caffeine, or alcohol, changing what you eat can help you feel better over time.
23. Learn your triggers
By understanding what triggers your anxiety, you can become better equipped to deal with it when you know you’ll be in a high-stress situation. These triggers look different for everybody and can involve lifestyle, trauma, and previous stressful situations.
Try writing down the apparent cause of your stress. Is it work? A situation at work, school, or home? Get to know yourself so you can work through expected reactions.
Remember to have compassion for yourself when working through this process.
24. Improve communication skills
Speaking with others about your anxiety and stress can provide a support system to help you feel calm. Think about what you’re feeling and why that is. Try writing it down and practice talking about it with someone you trust, whether a therapist, support person, friend, or family member.
25. Make lifestyle changes
If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of poor sleep, poor diet, little to no exercise, and little time for self-care, it may be time to evaluate your day-to-day schedule and begin making necessary lifestyle changes. This process takes time, so remember to go easy on yourself. Try making these changes gradually to avoid any further stress.
Taking steps to cope with stressful triggers and anxiety is a process that takes time. There are some short-term options for relieving symptoms of anxiety, stress, and panic attacks, as well as longer-term options to help prevent the onset of stress.
In many cases, working through these feelings and emotions with a therapist can help you learn healthy coping skills and life management. Remember that everyone is different and has different needs, so what works for one may not work for another. Try out different coping strategies to figure out what helps you.
Dr. John G. Kuna and Associates is located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and is an option for those looking to deal with the stress of daily living, anxiety disorder, and panic attacks. With 14 other convenient locations across Northeastern/Eastern PA, you can find a location closest to you. Schedule an appointment today; we can help you find more coping skills for anxiety and stress so you can live a healthier life.