Five Ways To Cope With Anxiety

October 31, 2023

I’ve been an anxiety therapist for the better part of my career. The language of anxiety always seemed to just make sense to me. But the past few years have introduced new challenges for young people and just human beings in general when it comes to the world of anxiety. I often would find myself sitting across from somebody who was describing some sort of unsettling or uncertain situation in their everyday life, almost always influenced or exacerbated by the pandemic or the political climate in the United States. Telling people to get some more regular exercise, engage in some deep breathing, or try some cold water immersion seemed like I was putting band aids on broken bones.

Plus, I was often reflecting upon the same sorts of situations that were taking place in my life and how my healthy coping strategies were only putting a dent in my own anxiety. I realized that people needed a massive overhaul for how to relate to their anxiety. The level of uncertainty existing in the world was not about to decrease and so a shift in thinking would be what was required.  

Traditionally, I’ve seen mental health professionals offer up advice in regards to anxious feelings through positive self talk as ways to defeat negative feelings and/or negative thoughts. But I take issue with this because it presumes that we have negative and positive thoughts in the first place, which puts us in a position of working to control our thoughts.

Below are some of the different techniques that I’ve seen people implement in order to gain a healthier relationship to their anxiety.

Learn To Befriend Your Anxiety

When we label certain sensations as negative emotions or negative thoughts, it actually makes our mind latch on to them more! There is no such thing as a negative emotion! Anybody who is trying to tell you to get rid of negative emotions simply doesn’t know what they are talking about. It can be difficult to see our anxiety as bringing us a gift, but long term this will be help us engage in healthy ways of relating to our anxiety. The gift your anxiety is almost always trying to bring you is a way to avoid danger. Stepping back to see this for what it is can help with not being so pulled in. Seeing our thoughts as unhelpful thoughts is different. In this method, we don’t label them as good or bad, simply that they are not of use at this time.

Expose Yourself To Anxious Situation

Often used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder or social anxiety disorder, exposure therapy has been shown to be useful for people even with generalized anxiety disorder. The idea is that by exposing yourself to stressful events, your brain becomes more accustomed to the situation at hand and learns to regard it with a lower level of severity. A lion tamer doesn’t step into the ring with a lion without some fear their first several times, but through repetition they gain a higher amount of resiliency to the fear of the lion.

Recommunicate With The Body

Though anxiety usually starts with a specific thought, it quickly moves into our body. Cortisol levels rise, blood pressure increases, heart rate elevates, and our body’s sympathetic nervous system clicks on as we move into fight or flight. This often cues another level of anxiety and can even lead to panic attacks as we begin to fight the signals that our body is trying to give us. Rather than fight these difficult situations, work on accepting them and recommunicating with the body that these are simply anxiety symptoms and your body is allowed to be making these noises.

Understand Your Triggers And Values

This is where it starts to get a bit tougher. If we identify our triggers and then label them as things to avoid, our world starts to get smaller. Perhaps social situations, public speaking, different people, or memories of a traumatic event can raise anxiety levels. It may seem like the best option is to simply avoid these situations. However, consistent avoidance gives more power to our anxiety and often keeps us from living a valued life. Anxiety will always prioritize safety and certainty over any other value. Public speaking might not be a value of yours. But what if it’s your sister’s wedding and it’s your turn to give a toast. It might be within your values to share your voice and engage in values of family and celebration. It doesn’t mean that you need to sign up to give a keynote speech at the next company boardroom meeting, but showing yourself that you can live into your values while holding some trepidation is an effective way to gain more resiliency in the long run.

Live A Life Where Anxiety Doesn’t Thrive

Have you ever found an old Tupperware in your fridge with mold growing in it? Sorry for the visual. But what type of environment does mold need in order to thrive? It needs darkness, some humidity/wetness, and a contained space with little air. If you want mold to thrive, this is the type of environment you should create. Similarly, anxiety has environments where it thrives. Chronic anxiety thrives in environments where we engage in unhealthy coping skills such as overindulging in social media, substance abuse, low physical activity, and constant reassurance/avoidance. Making a few lifestyle changes and adding some healthy habits can go a long way. At the very least we should be getting enough slee and keeping good normal routines,


If you are looking for a list of short term techniques that might help in moments of heightened anxiety, I’ve included some below. Keep in mind, that most of these are designed to engage our parasympathetic nervous system and offer some short term relief when it comes to anxiety we are experiencing in the present moment.

Deep breaths – I like 4x4 breathing or diaphragmatic breathing.

Mindfulness Meditation – There’s some good meditation apps out there like calm and headspace. We also have some free meditations that you can access here.

Support Groups – Research has shown that group therapy can be even more effective than individual therapy! To check out a list of our groups click here.

Grounding Exercises – Reconnect to the present moment through progressive muscle relaxation or engaging the five sense. Try some mindful eating! These can be helpful for the physical symptoms of anxiety.

As far as resources go, Thrive offers a number of ways to change your relationship with Anxiety. Both DBT group and Trauma 101 are excellent ways to gather more tools. Additionally, I would recommend checking out our course on Anxiety or on The Window of Tolerance.

Take the next step

Contact Us

Contact Us

Please fill out the contact for and one of our team members will get in touch with you in the next 48 hours.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.