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Counterintuitive Ways to Combat Anxiety

Through the years I’ve learned to douse the ongoing wildfire of fear with productive tools such as exercise, meditation, replacing negative, irrational thoughts with positive, rational statements, and tapping into my creativity (studies show that anxious people are often more creative — as it takes a lot of imagination to come up with those what-if scenarios — so it helps to channel that artistry into a positive outlet).

Yet there are other ways I combat my anxiety that don’t sound as constructive. And they certainly don’t sound very positive, either. In fact, some tactics could be construed as downright depressing. But they work. In fact, they work so well, that I feel it’s my duty to share them.

Below are my four favorite counterintuitive ways to combat anxiety, so take a moment to remove any rose-colored glasses you may have on and replace them with some dark-hued lenses. Here they are:

Sometimes It’s Best NOT to Process with Others

I know, I know: those irrational thoughts can be so harsh, you need someone to help remind you that they are ONLY thoughts. Yet, I’ve also found that sometimes sharing my anxieties only sharpens their grip. Why is this?

First of all, I can trigger myself even more by arguing with the poor, well-meaning listener about how this or that fear could come to pass. That is, by discussing it, the probability of that fear happening further “cements” it into my brain.

Secondly, people who don’t understand anxiety may reply in ways that make anxiety warriors feel worse about themselves. You know those trite remarks such as: “Just stop worrying,” or “You need to learn to control your thoughts,” which I guess are well-meaning, but really makes me want to scream.

From what I’ve learned, it’s best to share anxious thoughts with the most trusted and understanding of people. And if it’s going to trigger you to share your specific fears, then, at least, share how much your anxiety itself is affecting you.

Accepting That Anxiety Won’t Go Away

When I was first grasping for answers to “cure” myself of my chronic and acute anxiety, I envisioned a future in which my over-the-top worry would be forever banished. Yet, as I trudged onward, I realized that there wasn’t going to be any kind of fairytale ending. I was and always will be above average on the anxiety scale (a number of studies show that anxiety is genetic).

Anxiety is something I’m able to diminish but never banish. Acknowledging this fact helped me accept that through the better days, some worse ones are still bound to pop up due to triggers, circumstances, and even physical challenges. Once I accepted this, I was better able to utilize my bag of anxiety-reducing tricks, knowing that it would just be a matter of time when I’d be able to tame it from a roaring lion to a purring cat — that is, until the next big worry claws itself into my life.

Using Terror-Filled Distractions

When my anxiety needle moves into the red alert zone, my husband often suggests that we watch a disaster movie. No, the man isn’t being facetious; rather he’s acting with complete empathy. Ironically, watching fictionalized stories about catastrophic events helps reduce my what-if fears. Why is this? I’m not sure, but I believe that it has to do with putting my anxiety into perspective while at the same time witnessing a shared calamity, which airlifts me out of my isolated island of despair.

Disaster movies are also action-packed and visually dramatic, which gives my mind a vacation from the self-ruminating dread. And…speaking of distraction, who could take their eyes off Dwayne Johnson when he played a rescue-chopper pilot in the 2015 disaster flick “San Andreas?” I know I couldn’t!

Remembering That We All Die

When my fears dive into the deepest and darkest of waters, sometimes the only way I can breathe again is to remind myself that no matter what, we all die. Although this thought may sound morose, it calms me down because it reminds me that nothing is permanent. Nothing. And if nothing is permanent, then my fears cannot be either.

In death, too, my brain will be caput — so it won’t be around to ruminate on any further worries. In the meantime, then, I’ll keep combating my anxiety with both happily constructive and darkly counterintuitive measures, hoping that my path not only gets better, but that I can help other anxiety warriors along the way as well.

Counterintuitive Ways to Combat Anxiety

Tracy Shawn, MA

Author and speaker Tracy Shawn lives and writes on the Central Coast of California. Her debut novel, The Grace of Crows (Cherokee McGhee, 2013), won awards for Indie fiction, including the 2013 Jack Eadon Award for Best Book in Contemporary Drama and Second Place for General Fiction from Reader Views. She’s written numerous articles for print and online publications. Ms. Shawn has currently finished her second novel and is now working on her third. You can visit her website at:

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APA Reference
Shawn, T. (2019). Counterintuitive Ways to Combat Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 22 Apr 2019 (Originally: 22 Apr 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 22 Apr 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.