Things You Can Do When You Are Anxious {with free printable}

Stress and anxiety floats around freely, settling on us often when we least expect it to.  You can feel perfectly happy then all those anxious thoughts hit you like a 10 ton truck.  Feeling worried, anxious or stressed is a regular emotion for many of us, but there are ways to beat those negative feelings back.  Here are 14 things you can do when you are anxious.


Whether your anxiety is around ill health, your kids, your elderly relatives, your relationship, your job, or simply the state of the world, those anxious feelings can be felt physically.  Many people feel a tightness in their stomach or a heaviness in the chest when they are anxious, or it may simply manifest as a headache, dizziness or feeling faint.

Thoughts and fears rush in, and your body and mind feel in utter turmoil.  But, however anxiety manifests for you, do not feel that there is nothing you can do about it.  There are plenty of stress and anxiety reliever out there, but I am going to share some of the ones that work for me.

We also have a free printable listing all of these things you can do when you are anxious.  Scroll down to grab that below and stick it on your fridge.  You could also pop a copy in your bag for those moments when you face anxiety away from home.


Some of these ways to combat anxiety may sound too simple, or may be things you don't believe could be effective.  But why not give them all a go and see what works for you.  You will probably be pleasantly surprised!

1. Stand Up Straight

Anxiety and stress cause physical symptoms as well as mental ones.  You will probably find yourself slumped or hunched over, so stand up straight and pull your shoulders back.

Take deep breaths and focus on your body, letting go of tension and breathing in peace.

2. Talk to a Friend

Talk to someone, either in person or on the phone about your worries.  You could make a pact with a friend to be each other's anxiety buddy, always available to talk through your feelings.

If you don't feel comfortable talking about your anxiety to your friends, you could speak to a caring professional instead. Licensed counsellors (like those at BetterHelp), can be an important part of your support network.

If you can see a friend in person all the better, as a hug will definitely help too.  If no-one is around, gran some fur therapy from your feline or canine companion.  They're amazing listeners!


3. Stretch

Stretch your body with some simple yoga or Pilates exercises.  Try progressive muscle relaxation to really release tension in your body.  Lie down somewhere quiet, then begin the exercise.

Tense and hold a group of muscles for 5-10 seconds then release and relax for 30 seconds.  Start with your feet and ankles, then your legs and work up through your whole body.

If you prefer to be guided by someone, try this audio CD or this downloadable MP3.

4. Meditate

Take your relaxation exercise a bit further with a meditation practice.  You don't need to sit on a mountain top in the Lotus position (unless you want to!), just find somewhere quiet and focus on an image or a word that relaxes you.

If you prefer to be guided, try this audio CD to ease stress and anxiety, or listen to this MP3 download to create internal calm.  If you've never tried meditation before and would like to learn how, this book is brilliant.



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5. Control Your Breath

So many of us breathe shallowly, even more so when we are anxious or stressed.  Place one hadn on your stomach and breathe deep into your diaphragm.  Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.

You can also use controlled breathing techniques to regain calm and to quiet your busy mind.  Box breathing, as used by Navy SEALS to reduce stress, is very effective.  Learn the Box breathing technique here.

6. 5-5-5

The 5-5-5 exercise is a really useful tool for reconnecting your mind and body with where you are right now.  Sit still and mentally name 5 things you can see.  Then close your eyes and name 5 things you can hear.  Then open your eyes and move 5 areas of your body, stretching and reaching to connect your muscles and your mind together.

This technique can also be used when you can't sleep.  Close your eyes and imagine yourself somewhere calm and peaceful, in a field or on a beach perhaps.  Think of 5 things you can see, hear, smell, touch and taste.  Really focus on each item: the smell of the grass; the sound of your child's laughter; the feel of a smooth pebble in your hand.

Whether you use this technique to combat anxiety or to help you sleep, it really calms, soothes and centres the mind.


7. Focus on the Now

Mindfulness is a much-used term these days, but how often are you actually in the moment and not racing ahead in your mind to things that must be done or might happen?  Or going over past hurts and problems?

Take the time to find something that keeps you in the right now and do more of it.  For me it's cooking and baking.  For you it might be painting, colouring, gardening or even folding laundry.

When anxiety strikes try to tune into that immersive feeling and focus on what is happening right now.  Even if you are rehashing yesterday's argument with your partner, focus on just that until you have a solution or have come to terms with it.  Then move on.

It may feel counter intuitive to concentrate on something negative, but focusing on it and resolving it means you can move on, rather than keep repeating and repeating the same thoughts.


8. Write

One of the best ways to combat anxiety is to start writing a journal.  No-one else ever has to read it, even you.  Sit down and write without censoring yourself.

Treat your journal as the ultimate stress buddy and get it all out, then put the book away and forget it.  Alternatively, there is much therapy to be had in writing everything down on a piece of paper then crumpling it up and throwing it in the fire or the water paper bin!


9. Lavender

The scent of lavender oil got me through three labours and is simply amazing for calming your psyche and the destructiveness of your mind.  A few drops on a cotton handkerchief is the perfect pick me up and will help to clear your mind and calm your anxiety.

If you don't like the scent of lavender, try bergamot, vetiver or sweet basil essential oil instead.

10. Visualize

If you are able to take yourself off somewhere quiet for 10-15 minutes, spend some time practicing a relaxation visuaalization.  Sit comfortably, close your eyes and imagine somewhere calming and peaceful.  You could use the 5-5-5 technique from point 6 to really embrace your visualized environment.

If you have less time or cannot be alone, just close your eyes for a minute and practice the 5-5-5 technique.



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11. Re-Label

Do you feel anxious because of something you feel obliged to do?  Reframe the phrase "I have to" into "I choose to".  Say it out loud and you will feel better.

Focus too on whether you can control what you are worrying about.  If you have no control over it there is little point being anxious about something.  Let it go.  Do what you can do something about and learn to trust God / the Universe / others for the rest.

12. Listen to Music

If music helps you, have a calming playlist on standby for those moments you need it.  An uplifting one may also be useful.  I love this music CD to calm body and mind.

If you are able to, play a musical instrument yourself.  This mindful activity has been proven to reduce stress and lower blood pressure, as well as helping your mind focus on something other than your anxiety.


13. Rehydrate

When you are dehydrated your Cortisol (stress hormone) levels rise.  So make sure you are getting 1.5 to 2 litres of water drunk throughout the day to stay properly hydrated.

Drink the water with mindful intention to get maximum effect when you are anxious.  Focus on the weight of the glass, the clarity of the water, the coldness in your mouth.  Think about the water hydrating all the cells in your body and notice how it is making you feel calmer and clearer.

You could also add a couple of drops of Rescue Remedy a formula of 5 flower essences that can help you to stay calm and in control of difficult situations.

14. Take a Walk

My absolute favourite de-stress activity which can make anxiety pop like a balloon is to take a walk in nature.  Whether it's your local park, beach, forest, or just round your garden, get outside.

Time spent in nature reduces muscle tension and blood pressure and boosts brain activity almost instantaneously.  It reduces cortisol levels and boosts happy hormones like dopamine, so get out there and start feeling better!



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Other anxiety soothers that might help:

  • Read a book
  • Watch a TV show that makes you laugh
  • Draw, sketch or paint
  • Try herbs (Kava Kava, Passiflora incarnata)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Play with your child
  • Adult colouring books
  • Homeopathy (Aconite, Arsenicum, Ignatia)
  • Exercise
  • Vitamin & mineral supplements (Magnesium, Vitamin B complex)
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Prayer

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