Coping with Anxiety

I initially developed this list of techniques for a group of Stephen Ministers and I thought I would pass them on to you:

Challenge your negative thoughts
  • The flip side of fear is hope. When you are afraid something will happen, you hope the opposite will happen. Reframe your fear as a hope.
  • Instead of worrying about whether you will get what you need in the future, come back to the present. Do you have what you need or want right now? If not, what can you do now to get what you need?
  • Instead of thinking about something terrifying that happened in the past, come back to the present. Are you safe now? Can you do anything to become safer?

Pursue physical relaxation
  • Exercise
  • Take a bath
  • Practice taking deep breaths out of your abdomen. Count to at least 3 seconds as you are breathing in, pause, and breathe out again slowly. Repeat this at least three times.
  • Practice Progressive Relaxation

Engage in activities that promote mental relaxation
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Eat something you really enjoy slowly, savoring each bite
  • Spend time in nature
  • Light candles

  • Talk to others about your fear. Alternatively, do something fun with a friend or talk about something entirely unrelated to help get yourself out of your head.

Distract yourself
  • Do something enjoyable like reading, watching a movie, playing a game.
  • Start a project—scrapbooking, organizing the kitchen, cleaning out the garage.

Be your own Cheerleader
  • “I am going to be OK.”
  • “I will get what I need.”
  • “I can stand feeling this way.”
  • “This feeling will pass.”

Visualization/ Mindfulness Exercises
  • Picture your anxiety as a wave, as it goes up, so it will naturally come down again.
  • Step back and observe your anxious thoughts. Remind yourself that they are just thoughts. As your thoughts come, they will naturally go. 
  • Notice the tension in your body. Breathe into the parts of your body that are tense.
  • Picture the part of yourself that is anxious as a separate person, maybe a child. Say reassuring things to that person.
  • Take several deep breaths. When breathing in, hold your hands palms facing up and picture soaking in peace and tranquility. Pick a mantra word or phrase, such as “peace” or “come holy spirit.” As you breathe out, place your palms flat down and picture all of  your worries dissipating through your palms out of your body.

  • Write down your sources of anxiety on small pieces of paper. Light these papers on fire and picture the prayers going up to God.
  • Write down your concerns in a prayer journal. When you are tempted to ruminate over them, remind yourself they are written in the journal and that God has heard your prayers.
  • Pray the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
  • Picture your hands clenched in fists with fear. Then picture God’s love surrounding you. Release you hands gradually as you surrender yourself to that love.