No doubt you’re aware that we’re living during anxious times, which tends to not only increase anxiety, but also make it harder than ever to manage anxiety.
In fact, these are particularly difficult times: times of political upheaval, wars, climate change. And that’s just the short list of the ongoing challenges we face at this point in the 21st century.
You’re not alone if you’re struggling to cope with and manage anxiety right now.
Please know your reaction is normal and there’s nothing wrong with you.
Your emotions are natural responses to uncertain and distressing events and situations. You’re actually having a typical reaction to this kind of adversity.
During these tough times you might even find yourself…
- worrying and feeling anxious about things you can’t control
- feeling overwhelmed and stuck, confused about what steps to take
While this is a normal reaction and I’m sharing ways to cope with it, it’s important to know that if the anxiety is severely impacting your daily life, anxiety therapy can help you feel better.
In this post I’ll explore creative ways to manage anxiety in anxious times and feel more grounded.
But before I go deeper into that, I want to point out that if you’re struggling to manage anxiety because of the events happening in the world, it’s very important to limit your exposure to the constant stream of information that’s coming toward you.
The amount being pushed out is unrelenting and disturbing, to say the least.
Yet, sometimes my clients feel guilty for not keeping up with it, worrying that they will miss out or perhaps be judged. You may also be very empathetic and believe you’re letting those who are on the front lines down if you don’t consume every bit of information you can.
However, there’s a limit to how much any of us can hold or know, and you certainly aren’t required to know it all. Nor do I think most reasonable people would expect that of you.
One thing you can do immediately to manage anxiety is to check in with the news just once daily.
I know that’s a big ask, and it’s okay if your first reaction is “no way!”
That said, if you can experiment and give yourself time to develop this practice, you might discover your anxiety lightening up. You can breathe a little easier. Your nervous system has calmed down because your exposure is now limited.
This action also gives you a sense of stability and predictability that can activate feelings of being in control.
Furthermore, limiting your exposure is a way to take care of yourself. You might even consider it part of your self-care routine or mental health strategy.
Not surprisingly, conversations about self-care are often part of managing anxiety.
As you may know, self-care tends to get shoved to the bottom of the list during unsettling times. But the irony is that those are the times when you probably need it most.
That’s because self-care is usually within our control, unlike the other things that are going on in the world. It also can help you feel more resilient and adaptable during stressful times.
I can speak to that adaptability from personal experience. For several years those of us living in Sonoma County had our share of particularly anxious times: unexpected wildfires and heart breaking losses.
But the interesting thing is as time went on we become more resilient too. We were able to increase our sense of security and control in these uncertain times.
One of the things that helped immensely was learning how to prepare for disaster, which included getting a Go Bag and filling it up.
Have you heard of a Go Bag? It’s a bag with just the essentials that you can grab in case of evacuations and emergencies. Having one means you are prepared. And I’ve actually come to think of it as a form of self-care.
What if each of us had an actual self-care Go Bag, stocked with tips and techniques for when we need to escape anxious times?
Of course, if you’re not escaping from a wildfire you’d certainly put different things in it. During the past few years it’s been interesting to explore this with clients: identifying what they can quickly grab to manage anxiety and move toward emotional well-being during anxious times.
Not surprisingly, limiting your time online comes up a lot as a strategy. But there’s also the question of what we’d do instead. Some of the things we’ve explored in session include:
- Watching uplifting movies
- Getting out in nature
- Making collages
- Listening to music
Experiences like these can regulate your nervous system and move you toward optimism and hope. They’re soothing and comforting, and the perfect antidote for anxious times.
Activities to Manage Anxiety During Anxious Times
I’ve gathered together links to nine resources that I believe will help you fill your emotional Go Bag, manage anxiety, and increase your resilience during these anxious times. They cover:
- Breathing and Guided Meditation
- Body Wisdom and Bilateral Stimulation
- Handwork and Making
- Water to Calm and Soothe
- Journaling for Self-Care
They’re all simple, fast and easy to do. Dip into one or two, or try them all.
I often recommend them to my clients and I regularly use them myself. In fact, if you’ve been around here awhile you may have seen some of them before.
But I want you to have them all in one place right now, at your fingertips. Because no matter what happens, the more emotionally filled up you are the better you’ll be able to manage your anxiety and regain a sense of control in the long run.
You’ll find all of the resources below…
-Breathing, Mindfulness, and Meditation to Manage Anxiety
Breathing is almost always good (unless you’re feeing panicky and hyperventilating).
A deep breath can be an automatic go-to during anxious times, and you may know about the STOP technique: Stop, Take a Breath, Observe, Proceed. Repeat as many times as needed.
Releasing the breath with a longer exhale is also particularly grounding and centering, which is why I’m partial to the 4-7-8 technique.
Finally, I’m a huge fan of the Body Scan meditation and I’m sharing a link to it that’s part of a free version of the MBSR program (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). It is such a gift for all of us, whether you simply listen to the the Body Scan recording or decide to do the entire program.
-Body Wisdom and Bilateral Stimulation to Manage Anxiety
Your body holds bone deep wisdom to calm and comfort you during anxious times, especially via experiences of bilateral stimulation. This kind of movement can increase relaxation, help unstick repeating thoughts, make problems seem less intense, and decrease worries.
That’s why I love this series of short videos from Debbie Augenthaler. The techniques are easy and simple, and as Debbie says they help a lot when you’re feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed.
-Handwork and Creative Making to Manage Anxiety
There is so much good in using your hands and making things. Your hands hold a kind of creative wisdom that sends waves of well-being to your brain during anxious times.
Handwork is not only meditative and relaxing, but it also enhances motivation and the brain’s effort-reward system. Not to mention its ability to increase self-esteem and mental health.
There so many excellent ways to use your hands: cooking, baking, knitting, gardening, sewing, repairing, drawing, painting, doodling, to name a few. I even consider writing (with pen and paper) a form of handwork.
And then there’s collage. What can I say, I adore collage, in all of its many forms. One of the best is the simplest…a “this is me” collage. I discovered it about 10 years ago in Natalie Rogers’ book: The Creative Connection.
I also found a post I wrote about it on my first blog, complete with instructions and a photo. I’m linking to it below. When you visit the blog I encourage you to check out the comments because in the early days of blogging the comments were brilliant; there’s a lot of wisdom there.
And after many years of guiding clients through making This Is Me collages in sessions, many of my clients said this afterwards: “I see now that my problems take up a much smaller part of my life than I realized.”
-Water to Calm and Soothe Anxiety
Someone once told me that when you’re feeling confused and stuck, get near water, on water or in water.
I think there’s something to that, and I’ve discovered this beach video is the perfect antidote to anxious times and late night doom scrolling. I’m sharing it because I know a lot of us experience beachy happiness and serenity, which actually has to do with our senses.
As it turns out, we derive pure pleasure from the sound of predictable wave patterns and soft volumes at regular intervals. Ocean sounds actually activate the brain’s prefrontal cortex which is associated with emotion and self-reflection.
Visually, when you’re able to look out at a flat plane or vista, you tend to feel safe and secure. You even have an emotional response to the feel of sand under your feet and between your toes.
-Journaling: Stepping Stones and the Meaning of Life
There are so many journaling techniques that have the potential to soothe and comfort during anxious times. This is a favorite because it leads us, gently and almost effortlessly, toward the places in our lives that particularly hold meaning for us.
During anxious times meaning making is more important than ever. While we can’t always stop our anxious thoughts, we can distance ourselves by honing in on meaningful moments and seeing the bigger picture of our lives. I hope you’ll give it a try; each time I do I come away having touched something deeper within me and better able to cope.
Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.
– Kahlil Gibran
Want support with your own journey towards emotional equilibrium?
If you’d like help knowing yourself better and feeling freer to understand and manage your emotions, my free course — Finding Yourself Again — is a good place to start.
My course can help you gain insight on the critical voices and beliefs within you and begin to transform them with creative and imaginative approaches. It’s based on the same practices that have helped my clients reclaim what’s missing and move toward what matters.