9 Counterintuitive Ways To Stop Anxiety In Its Tracks, According To Psychologists

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

If you've ever been anxious, you've likely also heard someone tell you to "just think about something else" or even to "calm down." Obviously that kind of advice doesn't work. But sometimes, that sort of thinking ends up invading how you see your own anxiety, when really, the best anxiety relief often comes from ideas much more counterintuitive than simply "letting it go."

"[Many people don't] understand that you can't just change your thoughts to calm anxiety," licensed professional counselor and certified life coach Nancy Jane Smith tells Bustle. "Anxiety isn't solved by comments like 'just stop worrying,' 'think positive,' or 'be grateful.' Anxiety is irrational and hard to calm." So, if you've been trying to reason with your anxiety, the good and bad news is that likely won't work.

First, you need to understand that anxiety is a very common biological response. "We’ve gotten somewhat confused about anxiety and have gotten the idea that it is something to be quelled and calmed," licensed clinical psychologist and author of Hack Your Anxiety, Dr. Alicia Clark, tells Bustle. "In hearing how unhealthy anxiety can be, we have come to fear anxiety, and have complicated our relationship with this all-too-normal human emotion." Reworking your response to anxiety can, in turn, change your relationship to these emotions in general.

A key to making this shift is facing anxiety head on, as scary as that seems. "Like diving into an oncoming wave, embracing anxiety to hear its message and use its energy is counterintuitive," Dr. Clark says. "Our instinct is to avoid, but this only makes it worse. The more we fear anxiety, the more it escalates." Getting to know your anxiety is actually really healthy.

Here are nine counterintuitive ways to stop anxiety in its tracks, according to psychologists.