Anxiety is a reality for many of us. Whether you experience situational anxiety or it takes up a more regular residency in your life, it’s a natural but disruptive force that can feel like it’s swallowing you up at times.
I think of anxiety as a build-up of negative energy. The goal is to dispel that energy and shift into a different state.
As someone who experiences anxiety often (I suffered from social anxiety for over a decade and like many people, I battle general anxiety), I’ve spent most of my life learning about the mechanics of it and how to manage it. Over time, I’ve seen an enormous improvement in my overall quality of life.
It’s taken a lot of trial and error and commitment to certain practices, and it’s something I know will continue to evolve as I’m presented new challenges, but every step I’ve taken has granted me more freedom to live life on my terms, not those dominated by my anxiety.
In this post, I’m sharing the daily practices for anxiety that I use and have personally found to be the most effective. I’ve also included a workbook with a checklist and questions you can use to reflect on each day to help you form your own practice.
Note: I’m not a therapist or counselor so this is not professional advice; these are simply methods that have helped me in my own personal experience with anxiety. If you are suffering from extreme anxiety, please consider reaching out to a licensed professional. There are online options available that don’t even require you to leave your home, such as Talkspace Online Therapy and BetterHelp Online Counseling.
Daily Practices to Calm Anxiety and Shift Your Energy
Spend time doing things you love
It’s all too easy to get caught up in our attending to our responsibilities and to-do lists that we leave little time for the things that bring us joy.
I’ve noticed that my anxiety spikes more often when I’m not incorporating the things I’m most passionate about into my life on a regular basis. I love escaping into fiction, so writing it, reading it, and watching it deeply fulfill me. Dancing (even if it’s just in my room by myself), listening to live music, doing yoga, taking walks with my dog, being in nature, learning something new – all are things that make me happy to be alive.
When my anxiety spikes, I ask myself how much time I’ve truly been devoting to these things. They all fulfill me in different ways. Checking in with what I’m craving at the moment helps me figure out where the void is and over time, I’ve gotten better at the habit of checking in throughout the day and scheduling bigger things in (like spending adequate time on my fiction writing) into my week.
Joy and passion are nourishment for the soul. Society may make you feel like certain activities or hobbies are frivolous at worst, unimportant (i.e. not priorities) at best, but this is a dangerous belief to fall into. They are the things that make it so we are truly living, not just merely surviving.
- Get clear on what you are passionate about and the little things that fill you with joy. Make time for them and incorporate them into your life on a consistent basis.
- When you feel anxiety creep in, put your energy and focus on something you love. It may not completely get rid of your anxiety, but it can help mitigate it.
Books on Getting in Touch with Your Passion + Creativity
Remember that constant worry has no real benefit
Our anxiety tricks us into thinking that the more time we spend worrying about something, the more prepared we’ll be to handle it if it comes. The thing is, most of the things we worry about never actually come to pass. That adds up to a lot of wasted time and energy.
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” – Leo F. Buscaglia
You don’t need to be in a constant state of worry to protect yourself. It doesn’t make you better prepared or soften the blow. In fact, you’ll be more vulnerable from the emotional and mental fatigue of being in a constant state of fight or flight. When under stress, your body becomes more susceptible to disease and the function of your prefrontal cortex decreases dramatically, which is the part of your brain that processes logic and reason. Therefore, you’re less efficient at being able to handle whatever comes your way.
You can be smart and take precautions that will help you handle the worst-case scenarios without obsessing over those potential outcomes. For example, set up an alarm system and lock your doors, but don’t spend all night soaking in the fear of someone breaking in. Visit those feelings, process them, but don’t LIVE there.
If you remain in a state of worry and anxiety and the bad thing happens, you’ve extended your negative experience longer than necessary. If you spend all that time worrying and it doesn’t happen, you’ve put yourself through a stressful experience regardless.
- Be mindful of your self-talk and change the narrative of negative inner dialogue.
- Create space for yourself to process negative emotions, be smart about what you can do to prepare, and then let go of the outcome.
- Remember that there is no benefit in remaining in a constant state of panic, anxiety, and worry.
- Trust that you’ll be capable of handling whatever comes.
Don’t try to completely erase your anxiety
I don’t know about you but personally, trying to “cure” myself of anxiety has only led to more anxiety. I choose to look at it as a visitor that comes and goes. Instead of putting the futile responsibility on myself to completely eradicate that visitor, instead, I focus on my reaction to it and where I’m putting my focus.
I identify it (“I’m experiencing anxiety”), breathe through it, and ask myself what the trigger is. What is the root of it? Once you witness it, you take a lot of its power away. Then, I do what I can to work through those feelings rather than try to force them out (which just creates more stress and anxiety).
“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” – Dan Millman
An important thing to remember is that your anxiety is not you, it is something you are experiencing. You are the consciousness that is feeling and observing it. By disassociating from it, you empower yourself to choose your reaction rather than following it blindly into the abyss. One of my favorite analogies is from the Headspace app: anxiety is like being caught in the middle of a busy highway with cars rushing all around you. When you disassociate from it, you step to the side of the road and observe the chaos rather than spend all of your energy dodging the oncoming traffic.
- Remember that your anxiety is not a part of you, it’s something you are experiencing. This will help you get perspective and step out of the storm, so to speak.
- Be kind and patient with yourself.
- Ask yourself, what do I need right now? What can I do that makes me feel good? How can I shift my focus to something else?
Shift your focus
I’ve mentioned a few times about shifting your focus, but I want to touch on exactly what that means and why it’s important.
Anxiety is a big fan of the snowball effect. The more you feed it, the bigger it gets. It tricks you into thinking that if you focus on it and obsess over whatever it is you’re worried about, you’ll be able to fix it. That’s a trap. Because it isn’t looking for productive effort, it’s only trying to feed noise with noise.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard on how to respond to anxiety actually came from Chris Evans in an interview he did with Motivation Madness:
This simple action stops the noise and gives you a chance to separate yourself from it. He says, “The root of suffering is listening to that brain noise and actually identifying with it as if it’s who you are. That’s just the noise your brain makes and more often than not, it probably doesn’t have much to say that’s going to help you.”
Like Headspace’s traffic analogy, step off to the side of the road. You can then witness the root of the issue and deal with it from a rational space or if it’s something out of your control, shift your focus.
Tasks or activities that capture your full attention are great for this. I recommend choosing something you enjoy doing or that you know you have no trouble getting lost in. For me, fiction is usually my go-to, such as working on one of my projects (even if it’s just brainstorming), reading a book, or watching a movie/tv show.
- When the noise in your mind gets loud and overwhelming, respond to it with “shhhh.”
- Replace negative noise with something productive that captures your attention, even if it’s only productive in the sense that it brings you joy, which in my book is always productive.
Practice true self-care
I’m a big fan of bubble baths, face masks, and decadent desserts. I believe in pampering yourself and treating yourself to things that make you feel good, but those things are only one kind of self-care. If you’re ignoring the deeper soul work, you’re only scratching the surface of what is possible. It’s like only eating dessert for every meal and ignoring the other nutrients your body needs and craves to fully thrive.
Here are some ideas for soulful self-care that will naturally nourish your body’s defenses against anxiety:
Gratitude is about more than just making a list of things you’re thankful for. It’s about truly taking time to stop and feel it, to shift your focus from what you lack to what you have and to pay attention to what your reality would be like without the things we take for granted every day.
Our brains are wired for survival, to identify problems and threats, so it takes practice to switch to a mindset of gratitude. But as you do, you’ll notice a shift not only in your daily life, but in your overall health and well-being.
Psychology Today broke down 7 scientifically-proven benefits of gratitude which include improved physical and psychological health. “Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher,” the article states, “has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.”
You’ve heard this one a million times and that’s because it works. But the biggest misconception about meditation is that it’s about silencing your thoughts when in fact, it’s about training yourself to be aware of your thoughts, take control of where your focus goes, and tap into the voice beneath all the noise of your monkey mind so that true self-reflection and inner peace can be achieved. That’s why it’s called a practice because it takes time to hone these skills. The trick is to find the type of meditation that you connect with.
- Guided meditations are a great place to start; I highly recommend the apps Headspace and Calm, both of which have free content that will introduce you to meditation and offer different areas of focus depending on what you need.
- Vishen Lakhiani of Mindvalley has a wonderful 6 Phase Guided Meditation that takes you through “six main areas of life that humans need to tend to every day.”
- Gabrielle Bernstein also has many great guided meditations, such as this Kundalini meditation that will help you balance your mood, sharpen your mind, and strengthen your memory.
- You can also try meditative yoga if you prefer movement, such as this 15-minute yoga routine for stress-relief and anxiety from one of my favorite yogis, Sarah Beth Yoga.
Exercise has been scientifically proven to have a direct effect on our mental and emotional well-being. The mind/body connection is a powerful thing, so when you are taking care of your body, you are taking care of your mind and vice versa.
If you are in a state of anxiety, movement can help you break that state. Workout, do some yoga, go for a walk, dance around – it grounds you in your body, shifts your energy, and stops the noise in its tracks.
- As I mentioned in the meditation section, Sarah Beth Yoga is one of my favorite yogis and has a plethora of free, calming yoga videos on her channel. I love that the music she uses is very zen and her voice is extremely soothing.
- If you want more variety, check out MyYogaWorks which is like a Netflix for yoga.
Yoga Equipment for Beginners
Journal (brain dump) your thoughts
As a writer, you’d think I would’ve been all over this journaling thing years ago, but I didn’t actually try journaling until last year. (I know, what kind of writer am I?) Honestly, I was skeptical that it would have any useful impact on me. I talk to myself out loud, I have a pretty steady dialogue going on in my head all the time – what good would writing it down do?
Well, apparently a hell of a lot.
I was amazed by how much clarity and relief I found after trying the morning pages activity recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way (an excellent book on getting in touch with your creativity). You dump whatever it is on your mind onto the page (handwritten or digital) and then save it or delete it. I always type mine in a Word doc and delete it; it feels more cathartic that way.
The point is to get it all out of your head. It will help you make sense of your feelings rather than letting them run rampant in the background. It helps combat overwhelm, ease anxiety, and organize your thoughts. If you haven’t tried it yet, set a timer for five minutes and just write down whatever comes to mind. See how you feel afterward.
(If you aren’t sure what to write, prompts are really helpful. I’ve included 7 in my Daily Mindset Workbook that you can download for free in my VIP library.)
Declutter, organize, and surround yourself with beauty
Our environment has been scientifically proven to have an effect on our psychology. In an article published by the University of Minnesota, research shows that “the environment can influence mood. For example, the results of several research studies reveal that rooms with bright light, both natural and artificial, can improve health outcomes such as depression, agitation, and sleep.”
Take time to declutter and organize the spaces you frequent the most, and put thought and care into how they are decorated. There is an abundance of resources online that show you how to improve the look of your space on little to no budget. Surround yourself with things you love. Make your space comfortable and beautiful, whatever that means to you.
Books on Organization + Creating Your Space
Grounding techniques and breathwork
When you feel an anxiety attack coming on or are in the throws of one, these techniques can help you center yourself and realign with reality. Here are two of my favorites:
- Box breathing technique: Inhale slowly for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold again for 4 seconds, and repeat as many times as you need.
- 5 senses grounding technique: Identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
You may have heard it called “tapping” because the technique involves tapping on different pressure points throughout your body as you repeat mantras related to the emotion you are trying to release (such as anxiety). Like journaling, I was skeptical about how effective it would actually be, but again I was pleasantly surprised by the results.
- Gabrielle Bernstein (who introduced me to EFT in her book Judgment Detox) walks you through how to use EFT to reduce stress and anxiety in this video.
- There is also an entire YouTube channel dedicated to EFT called The Tapping Solution, which has an introductory video on the technique as well as many other guided sessions.
Consume inspiring content
I’ve noticed the quality of my thoughts and my ability to manage them and maintain perspective is directly related to what I am feeding my mind. When I’m nourishing it with enlightening books, blog posts, social media, podcasts, and videos on a consistent basis, I feel more stable and positive overall. I’m reminded of the lessons I’m working on internalizing.
We have a lot of negative influences flowing toward us at any given moment thanks to the news, family/coworkers/peers, and our own negative thought patterns. The more we can feed ourselves with positive influences, the better.
To make time for this content, I like to watch videos or listen to podcasts while I’m doing other tasks such as cleaning, putting on my makeup, and driving (only listening, of course).
Curate the content you see on social media. The algorithm will give you more of what you consume, so make it a point to unfollow or mute any accounts that stir negative emotions in you and engage with the ones that make you feel good so that the platform, such as Instagram, knows what you want to see.
Mindfulness Books + Journals
Some of my favorite sources for inspiring content are:
- YouTube Channels: TED Talks, Be Inspired, daily MOTIVATION.
- Podcasts: The School of Greatness, The Tony Robbins Podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations.
- Instagrams: Daily Stoic, Source Messages, Yung Pueblo, Mel Robbins.
- Blogs: Brain Pickings, Gabby Bernstein.
Make it your own + let it flow
As you can see, there are myriad practices, rituals, and methods that can help you manage anxiety. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do them all at once. Start small; choose a few that you feel most called to and try them out.
Routines are really helpful for easing anxiety. A good way to incorporate new habits specifically for managing your anxiety into your routine is to stack them on to other habits you already practice daily. I’ve got more tips on creating habits in my post 7 Tips for Creating New Habits That Stick (and Feel Good).
Be committed but flexible in your process. Experiment, stay in tune with what your intuition is telling you that you need at any given moment, and most of all: be kind to yourself. Be the patient, supportive friend you deserve.
Before you go, be sure to download your free Daily Mindset Workbook in my VIP library that will help you incorporate these practices into your life, including 7 journal prompts for self-reflection. >>>