With the right coping tools, you can learn to let go of your anxieties and worries in the short and long term.
There are many things in life that can bring about anxiety and a whirlwind of worry. Sometimes, it feels too easy to start worrying, but much harder to let go of it.
Anxiety and worry can come with a combo of mental and physical symptoms, like:
- racing thoughts
- tense muscles
- shallow, quick breathing (hyperventilating)
- a racing or pounding heart
- trouble concentrating or poor memory
With a toolbox of strategies at your disposal, you can learn to let go of your anxiety and worry right now and over time.
When you’re in a loop of negative, anxious thoughts, you often want to find a solution right now.
It might seem the opposite of what you should do, but to release worries immediately, you may want to lean into your feelings and the present moment.
You can do this by noticing your:
- Inner world. What are you feeling and thinking?
- Outer world. What can you observe by your senses? What do you see, feel, smell, or hear?
- Breath. Focus on when you breathe in and out, feeling how it fills and empties your lungs.
Other ways to relieve anxiety quickly include:
Calling out your symptoms and thoughts
Sometimes, naming your symptoms can help you handle them. For instance, if your heart is racing, acknowledging that this is a common physical anxiety symptom can give you some perspective — it’s anxiety, not a heart issue.
When you’re anxious or worried, your thoughts may become distorted, further increasing your symptoms. Some common negative patterns of thinking include:
- all-or-nothing thinking
- jumping to conclusions
- thinking in “shoulds”
Mantras are meaningful words or phrases often used in deeper spiritual or meditative practices.
In the moment, they might also be a good way to challenge negative self-talk and blame.
Consider creating a list of anxiety-soothing quotes, proverbs, or sayings that you can repeat when you’re feeling anxious. They may be able to ground you and grant you some perspective.
Quick somatic stress exercises
Bob Soulliere, Oxygen Advantage instructor and level 2 Wim Hof Method instructor from Alexandria, Virginia, recommends these immediate stress interventions:
- Wide-angle vision technique: Focus on things that are distant from you, but still in your field of vision (at least 200 feet away). Then, relaxing your vision, allow yourself to focus less and less for at least 20 seconds.
- Cadence breathing: Inhale for a 4-count, then exhale for a 6-count, repeating the cycle for 1 minute. You can use a stopwatch on your phone for this, or just try counting to yourself.
- The physiological sigh: Take a double-breath inhale followed by a slow exhalation. Repeat 3 times.
Both short- and long-term strategies often involve reframing your focus and perspective.
In a recent 2021 study, researchers looked at coping responses to fear and technology overload during the COVID-19 pandemic. They suggest that certain coping methods lessened anxiety in the long term more effectively than others.
In the research, of the 180 participants, those who reported accepting themselves were more likely to seek solutions for their anxiety symptoms.
Self-acceptance and self-compassion were observed to be the opposite of wishful thinking and self-criticism.
Developing a problem-solving style
This approach focuses on the issue at hand, rather than the feelings behind it.
Participants who developed a problem-solving style were open to finding:
- positive solutions
- new ways of thinking
- ways to make difficult decisions
Cultivating a social seeking approach
People who seek support can often find new ways to cope and belong.
If you’re interested in expanding your social network, you might consider seeking community through meditation, spiritual, or special interest support groups.
Finding healthy distractions
Hobbies like reading or hiking might help give your mind a healthy break from worried thoughts. You might just want to do something you enjoy, like watching a funny movie or eating a comfort food.
Deep breathing is one way you can reduce anxiety by reducing its effects on your body.
When you have anxiety, especially during an anxiety or panic attack, you may start experiencing shallow breathing. This can lead to tension, dizziness, and a rapid heart rate.
In contrast, deep breathing exercises — like those mentioned above — can restore your body’s sense of calm.
Deep breathing is when you intentionally inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, and exhale long and slow out of your nose or mouth.
These positive effects may have occurred due to:
- increased socializing
- accomplishing goals
- getting physically stronger
You may try yoga, running, or martial arts as exercises to relieve stress.
When anxiety symptoms become chronic or interfere with your ability to function, at-home coping techniques might not be enough.
A mental health professional can help you figure out what’s causing your anxiety and explore new approaches to problem-solving.
Alongside therapy, you might be looking for more support at your fingertips. You can check out these Psych Central resources: