The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that approximately 18.1% of the American population aged 18 and older are currently affected by some form of anxiety disorder. While these disorders are often treated successfully, only 36.9% of those who are currently suffering will receive treatment, while the remainder does their best to manage their symptoms on a daily basis while keeping up with the stresses of daily life.
Living with anxiety can be incredibly overwhelming, and often we find ourselves wrapped up in who big and frightening the disorder can be, as well as the seemingly impossible task of recovery. If you allow yourself to become too overwhelmed with the thought of recovery, this can prevent you from taking the necessary steps to seek help and learn to manage your condition. Instead, try to focus your attention on the little changes you can make each day to limit the impact your anxiety has on your day to day life.
These little steps or tasks were the focus of a recent discussion on the Facebook page for well known mental health website The Mighty. They asked their community: “What’s one considerably ‘small’ change you’ve made in your daily life that helps you cope with anxiety?” This simple question received over 150 comments including some great advice for those that may find themselves struggling. Interested in discovering what little changes you can make in your life starting today?
Here are 19 small changes you can make to cope with your anxiety according to the mental health community:
#1 – Practice Mindfulness
“I’ve taken up meditation. I decided to download a few guided meditation sessions and I now meditate twice a day. My first is a general session in the morning, and at night it’s a session about whatever bothered me throughout the day. It helps a lot.” – Brianna N.
“Gratitude and mindfulness have worked really well and after being repeatedly told in therapy this works, I hesitantly tried it out. And it does work. Anxiety is often so future-focused about what may or may not happen. Mindfulness and gratitude keep you in the moment and help you appreciate what you already have. For example, every morning on my way to work, I have a gratitude mindfulness exercise. I notice the sunrise and appreciate its beauty, different colors, textures, etc. In that moment, I am not worried about work that day or remembering something that didn’t go well the day before. It is just me and the sunrise.” – Alyssa P.
“Yoga and meditation! Mindfulness is really helpful, it helps you stay in the present moment. also focusing on my breathing, deep breaths. They help me stay grounded.” – Eirenne E.
#2 – Find Something to Keep Your Hands Busy
“I take my crochet with me everywhere I go now. It helps me while I sit and talk to people. Even if I’m to talking to someone, it can help bring a great conversation starter and helps ease my tension, as I keep my hands busy.” – Tatauq M.
“My therapist was an art teacher and has a master’s degree in art. Over the past couple months she’s been teaching me to draw. So lately I haven’t had to rely on just on particular coping skill. I’ve been opened up to something I never saw myself doing. That simple change has made me feel like I’m accomplishing something.” – Ashley B.
#3 – Allow Yourself to Open Up to Others
“Being really open and honest with everyone that I have severe anxiety. When it’s really bad, I’m more open about it rather than hiding. I also draw a little smiley face on my wrist every day and make myself think a happy thought each time I see it!” – Cherokee M.
“Nightly check ins with my boyfriend. It helps to discuss the day and talk about what’s bothering me and the positive and negative things that happened. Helps set me up for sleep. Thank goodness he’s understanding and so patient with me when my anxiety becomes overwhelming for me.” – Monica T.
“I’ve informed people of my anxiety and have told them I need to leave the area for a reason and to please don’t take it personally, and please give me space.” – Bailey S.
#4 – Practice Acceptance
“Accepting this as part of who I am. It allows me to step back when needed, totally guilt-free. Also letting go of how it makes others feel, guilt-free. It doesn’t change the level of anxiety, it only takes away the guilt of having it.” – Kathi F.
#5 – Eliminate Caffeine
“I’ve cut the majority of caffeine from my life. I stick to herbal tea, and occasionally will have a green tea or decaf coffee. Since this change, I’ve had significantly fewer panic attacks.” – Ashley S.
“I quit caffeine! Not having that extra jolt when I get anxious has really helped my panic levels lower. Yes, it was hard – but worth it!” – Polly B.
“Cut out caffeine and drink more water. I was told by a therapist that it would help and it does. I noticed without the caffeine I don’t feel as anxious. Not only does it help with my anxiety, but I know I’m hydrated.” – Amanda W.
#6 – Saying ‘No’
“Being honest and telling people no. Saying ‘maybe’ doesn’t help… I’m telling you no for a reason, respect that and don’t come back at me for it. I’m trying my best, but I have my limits on what I can do. If I can do it, I will do it.” – Saige D.
#7 – Journaling
“I keep a journal now to track what was happening when I began to feel myself getting overwhelmed. Inside the cover is a list of grounding techniques. This helps me track my triggers and find ways to cope/avoid those situations.” – Megan K.
#8 – Pets Have Great Power to Calm
“I make sure to take at least 10 minutes to go see my rats when I’m having an especially hard time with either anxiety or depression. They are always so excited to see me. Sometimes one of them is sleeping when I go sit by the cage but as soon as she hears me open the door, her little nose pokes out of the house and it wiggles as she sniffs and they remind me that things aren’t always so bad.” – Alysha P.
“I got to my happy place. I think about cats all the time. I love them, and they’re a huge stress reliever for me because they just want love and I love their extremely fluffy fur. So I just imagine having one in my lap and basically everything else melts away. It seems tacky, but with cats it works because I’m obsessed.” – Janelle P.
#9 – Take the Time to Make Your Bed Each Morning
“I make my bed in the morning. That way I start my day feeling like I’ve already accomplished something. Also, no matter how bad the day is, I have something nice to come home to.” – Clarissa L.
#10 – Create a To-Do List
“I have a daily planner, but I also use a chalkboard wall, sticky notes and an app on my phone to make reminders and notes of encouragement more visible. It’s one of the best things I’ve done to cope with both anxiety and ADHD.” – Kami L.
#11 – Take Time Each Morning to Prepare for Your Day
“I wake up an hour earlier to get some alone and free time in my home before everyone else wakes up.” – Alicia H.
“Giving myself enough time in the morning to prepare for the day. It has made a huge difference in being able to have the right mindset before leaving the house.” – Stephanie Q.
#12 – Limiting Your Screen Time
“I limit my social media. It seemed my anxiety would rise every time I went on, because I was comparing my life to everyone’s highlight reel and it was doing a number on my self-esteem.” – Jen. S
“Temporary Facebook breaks by uninstalling the app. I can still browse through the mobile site, but it’s more inconvenient and makes me less likely to spend hours on there.” – Randi D.
“I try my best not to reach for my phone first thing in the morning. It’s not easy when it’s the alarm going off, but I turn it off and then I reach for my dogs. I try to spend a few minutes cuddling with them before I do anything else, like check my emails or Facebook. Before reality gets a chance to get in, I give my girls a chance to get their love in. They are far more important and loving them sets a better tone for my day.” – Nicole R.
“Having complete days where I switch off. No phone, internet or leaving the house. Ultimate recharge, in my place of security and serenity, without distractions.” – Capri B.
#13 – Music is a Powerful Tool
“When my husband leaves for work at 3 am I turn on weightless by macaroni union it helps me not hear as many sounds in my apartment that would otherwise drive me crazy so I sleep better.” – Rilla W.
“I have a sleepy time playlist that doesn’t have words, it’s super relaxing for me!” – Janelle P.
“Breaks for music and relaxation. It’s meditative to be driving and listening to a playlist that puts my mind at ease or validates my feelings!” – Courtney L.
‘Listening to music on my phone or iPod, putting my headphones in and shutting the world out!” – Becky E.
#14 – Leave Your Phone on Silent
“I keep my phone on silent. I never realized how much anxiety came from sudden phone calls or texts I wasn’t expecting. It doesn’t help that 9/10 times it’s a text that causes me more anxiety/drama/stress.” – Kathryn W.
#15 – Create and Maintain a Bedtime Routine
“I write down all the things I need to do the next day before I go to bed. It helps me fall asleep because I’m less worried about forgetting a responsibility.” – Maisie B.
“I get everything I need for the day ready the night before so I don’t have to think too early in the morning. I also make my bed before I leave in the morning which is great because coming home after a long day to a made bed is fantastic. My room stays neat and clean which helps keep my mind at ease.” – Alexis H.
“I’ve established a bedtime routine. May sound silly, but after brushing teeth, etc., I wash my hands with a lavender soap. And use a good smell on my hands. Then climb into bed and take a few deep breaths. While repeating my mantra, ‘You are physically, mentally, emotionally safe. The world is not out to get you. Nothing is as bad as it seems.’ It really helps me.” – Niki T.
#16 – Practice Gratitude
“When I think something negative, I have to stop and think of something I am grateful for. Example – I got a flat tire and I would’ve normally been upset, but I remembered I had the foresight to get AAA two years ago because I was scared about something happening. I said thank you to my anxiety because now I was covered. Sounds weird but it works.” – Karri H.
“Listing three things I’m thankful for every day (no repeats, if I’m thankful for the sun one day then I can’t say that ever again) and going on a walk.” – Crystal G.
#17 – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
“I basically do a Jedi mind trick on myself. (Being a nerd helps with my anxiety too lol.) Here’s how it works: I try to objectively reflect on and assess my day. For example, I’ll think about what happened that day and rate how good the day was. However, I have to be able to provide ‘evidence’ form the day to back up my rating. Since anxiety convinces me I had a crappy day, when I make my day concrete by reflecting on the specific goals I did meet and the specific things I did accomplish and the specific little surprises that were positive, I see it was actually a good day. My attitude towards the day improves. It’s cut down on how often I claim I had a crappy day. I can tell if it was just the anxiety or actually a crappy day. If it was just the anxiety, reflecting has helped me see anxiety was lying and my memory of the day becomes positive. I guess it’s a type of daily gratitude practice. I even have an app that I can use to track how I rated my days so I can see patterns and visually see that I actually have more good days than bad ones.” – Jessica R.
#18 – Remove Toxic People from Your Life
“Cutting out people who are negative and bring me down not just on social media but I’ve had to tell former friends I’m done. It was hard when there was so much there, but the constant disappointment was not worth it.” – Allison M.
“I remove all toxic people from my life. And I try to avoid encounters with people like that as often as I can. The biggest change I’ve made is breaking up with the most toxic ex-boyfriend I’ve ever had and getting out of the most toxic relationship I have ever been in. Reminding myself to breathe every day is extremely important. Relax. And to remember that things take time.” – Jessa P.
“I dropped all the toxic people in my life. Block. Delete. So simple. I unfollowed all the news and political pages on Twitter and Facebook. Life is so much better being a little selfish and putting my needs first. You can’t pour from an empty cup. As bitchy and heartless as I may sound, I’m actually able to love and care for those who actually care about me better after getting rid of the draining relationships.” – Naoko P.
#19 – Hit the Gym
“The gym. Mostly on the treadmill or the bikes. Simple, but slow workouts. I do it early in the a.m. If I start having an episode, walking or running place helps.” – Jordan S.