11 Unexpected Ways To Cope With Anxiety After You’ve Tried All The Tricks Out There

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Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States. 40 million adults, or 18.1 percent of the U.S. population, are affected by anxiety each year. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, women are twice as likely to be affected by General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as men. Although anxiety disorder is highly treatable, only around 37 percent of those suffering receive treatment.

When I first began feeling anxious, I had no idea that it was so common. I thought I was just weird for eating my lunch in a 90 degree car to avoid having to talk to my coworkers about the most recent offensive thing Donald Trump said. After describing the extreme lengths I’d take to avoid certain situations, a friend mentioned that I might be suffering from an anxiety disorder. At first, I blew the thought off. Not liking my coworkers wasn’t a real problem, so why would I be so anxious about eating lunch with them?

There is not “right” reason to be anxious. Whether you’re concerned about your physical appearance, the state of our political system, or global warming, there are ways to cope. Consulting a mental health professional is a great way to handle anxiety, but getting an appointment with a therapist can take a few days to a few weeks So what should you do in the meantime when you’re feeling anxious? Ahead, you’ll find some unexpected ways to cope with anxiety. Most of them are free and require little to no preparation. Try them out the next time you feel your anxiety bubbling up.

Worry out loud

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Say what’s causing your anxiety out loud. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out: Repeating your worries out loud can give them less power. Imagine saying: “I need a 98 on my final to get an ‘A’ in this class” 28 times. You’ll probably get bored of repeating these words and you’ll feel a little less anxious each time you say them. In any event, what's the harm?

Watch a children’s show

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Sometimes you just have to take your mind off the thing(s) that is causing your anxiety. Children’s shows are usually lighthearted and can allow you to escape reality for half an hour. My favorite shows to watch when I’m feeling anxious are Doc McStuffins and Spongebob Squarepants. It’s literally impossible to be stressed while singing The Campfire Song.

Play with a pet

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My dog (R.I.P.) could always tell when something was bothering me. He’d put his head on my lap until I petted him, and I’d suddenly feel a little less stressed. Pets add so much to their owners’ lives. Playing with a cat or dog can increase serotonin and dopamine, which will help you feel more calm and relaxed. Playing with a pet is a win-win because chances are, your four-legged friend wants to play too.

Listen to Music

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According to Psych Central, listening to music on headphones reduces stress and anxiety in hospital patients before and after surgery. You might not be stressed about an upcoming surgery, but music can help you destress before an anxiety-inducing event. I used to think only classical, soothing music could help me feel less anxious. Wrong! Listen to whatever music you like. I listen to Bodak Yellow before every job interview. Cardi’s “bloody shoes” line has helped me answer “Why are you interested in this position?” many times.

Go on a walk

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Exercising has proven benefits for anxiety (though not everyone who experiences anxiety feels capable of taking on exercise all the time). I know what you’re thinking: “I’m not trying to have people stare at me at the gym while I trip over the StairMaster.” I hear you, but exercising can be just a simple walk around the block. Movement increases endorphins, and hormones are released from the bottom of your feet as you walk. Make exercising a part of your routine to keep anxious feelings under control.

Express gratitude

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Fixating on your worries can bog you down. Instead, try expressing gratitude. Thinking about all the things you’re grateful for can ease your anxiety. Take your gratitude a step further and send a card to someone who you are appreciative of. You’ll feel good for writing out what you’re thankful for, and they’ll love the pleasant surprise.

Eat an Omega-3-rich meal

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Try a salad with salmon for lunch to enhance your mood. Healthy meals with fish and green, leafy vegetables include omega-3 fatty acids and increases levels of serotonin. If you don't eat fish, try swapping it out for an avocado for those sweet, sweet fatty acids. Let your lunch give you a much-needed boost.

Take a nap

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I sometimes use sleep as a reset button. Exhaustion can be the reason behind your heightened anxiety, and a good nap can help you think more clearly and see what’s causing your anxiety with fresh eyes. My dreams sometimes give me insight on what is bothering me and how I can fix it.

Download an app

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Many studies have said smartphones are making us more anxious, but there’s an app for that. There are several apps designed specifically to help users manage their anxiety by practicing breathing techniques, listening to soothing sounds, and writing down your worries. We made a list of 10 great ones here.

Hang out with friends

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If you have social anxiety, the thought of hanging out with a group of people probably doesn’t sound that much fun, but laughing and chatting with a few close, trusted people can help you feel less anxious. If you’re not interested in hanging out all day, plan an activity that has a clear ending time.

Mark items off your to-do list

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If you’re anything like me, you’re juggling multiple projects and responsibilities at one time. Remembering everything can be hard. That dreaded feeling that I’m forgetting something drives my anxiety through the roof. To combat this feeling, I make to-do lists. Writing all my tasks for the day helps me visualize the next 24 hours of my life and allows me to prioritize based on urgency. Also, scratching items off a to-do list is oddly satisfying: The first item on my to-do list is always “Make a to-do list.” Remember, also, that it's totally fine if you don't get to everything, or even one thing on your to-do list — making a to-do list can also exacerbate anxiety for some people, and it's okay to not use this trick if that sounds like you.

This list isn’t comprehensive; there are many more ways to cope with anxiety. Think about the times you feel the most calm. What are you doing? Incorporate those actions into your routine to feel anxious less often.