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Anxiety & Stress Management Tools

Updated: May 2

Hi! Kate here, hoping to offer some insight on managing anxiety in light of Stress Awareness Month

In my work, it is important to me to balance managing symptoms of present anxiety, while keeping in mind the personal and deeply unique pasts of my clients. Over the past year, in working consistently with high functioning anxiety, I’ve found that I keep coming back to certain strategies and techniques that are helpful and practical for those who are interested in moving through anxiety in a healthy way. 

butterfly tapping for grounding

What do I mean by moving through anxiety? First things first, mindset about anxiety and moments of increased distress can change the way we manage it. So often, the rhetoric about stress and anxiety surrounds “getting rid of it” and “making it go away.” While this is absolutely the end goal, in the moment it’s an existing feeling that must be attuned to.

Instead of trying to force it away, the question that feels more important is “how can I move through this feeling effectively and in a healthy way.”

It’s important to remember that anxiety is a normal feeling to move in and out of, and experiencing an increase in stress does not mean that something is wrong with you. 

Let’s start with some of the most common symptoms that may indicate an increase in anxiety:

  • thoughts racing

  • sense of fear or doom

  • inability to feel settled/sit still

  • sleep disruption

  • increase or decrease in appetite

  • heart racing

  • difficulty concentrating

Symptoms of anxiety are very nuanced, and this is not a comprehensive list. Every person and body can respond differently to anxiety and it is important that you’re mindful of how anxiety manifests for YOU. 

Here are a few “in the moment” ideas that may help you move through your anxious feelings: 

Meet your body where it is. So often, anxious feelings mean an increase in physical symptoms like chest tightness, heart racing, or something that feels like energy that has nowhere to go. When there is this kind of energy pumping through the sympathetic nervous system, doing something to meet the high heart rate can offer a release. I like to suggest things like cardio (jumping jacks, pushups, jogging), or doing something loud like singing a high energy song or screaming (in an appropriate place like your car, or into a pillow!). 

Something grounding to bring you back into your body. When the anxious feeling has you trapped in a thought spiral, or when your thoughts are racing, it can be helpful to do something to come down from that cerebral space and back into your body. This can look like a grounding exercise, a change in temperature (a cold shower or ice pack on your neck), or holding ice in your palms to focus your nervous system. 

Connection with others. Something that can offer relief and prevent a shutdown is connecting with a trusted friend or partner. I know, so often when we feel anxious, the last thing we want to do is share with someone. When we are able to share our thoughts or feelings with someone who we trust, it can be co-regulating and actually help boost our problem solving capacity. Also, the feeling of being valued by another can increase resiliency. 

Writing. Get those thoughts out on paper! Seeing the racing thoughts, pros and cons, or overwhelming feelings named and materialized on paper can help you to see them with clearer eyes, and give you the ability to organize them and manage them without being overwhelmed by them. 

Breathing exercises. While this could be included in the grounding exercises section, it felt important to give breathing its own area due to how important it is. Our breathing is regulated by our nervous system, which is why it may feel hard to get a deep breath when our system is activated by anxiety or an intense feeling. One way to move through anxiety is by offering your body deep, regulating breaths or movements that open the chest cavity (like touching elbows behind your back, or opening your arms as wide as they’ll go). Click this link to find some of my favorite breathing exercises. 

woman exhaling by the river after using tools to reduce stress

Give one of these a shot next time you find yourself in an anxious moment and see if it helps you move through anxiety in an effective way. 

While this post is meant to be a practical resource, chronic anxiety is often rooted in learned thought patterns and experiences. Therapy can be a safe place to explore the ways that history informs your thought patterns and the ways anxiety manifests in your body. Our team of therapists at Steady Hope is trained in working with clients experiencing anxiety and we would love to come alongside to help you explore, process, and add tools to your toolbox to move through anxiety. If you are local to Atlanta or reside anywhere in the state of GA our team provides virtual and in-person counseling services. Reach out to our administrative coordinator, here.  

If you’re interested in some of Steady Hope’s favorite books on anxiety and stress management, here are a few we are quick to endorse! 

Take care of yourselves! 

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