Calming anxiety with 6 therapist recommended tips

One of the most common conditions therapists treat involves helping people calm their anxiety. Unsurprisingly, therapists themselves struggle with anxiety as well. In fact, since January 2023 approximately 28% of adults in the United States reported symptoms of anxiety disorder. When psychologists struggle with anxiety, the first approach they take which differs from many other individuals is using their anxiety as an opportunity to master self-control. Rather than devolving into fear mode where your anxiety leads you to feel out of control, therapists employ their anxiety to motivate themselves to take on healthier ways to cope that will restore calm and minimize their anxiety.

Below I have suggested several approaches that experts use to reduce anxiety. If you practice these when anxious, you may find yourself feeling calmer and in greater control.

1. Don’t allow your anxiety to be the boss. Most experts agree that if you give in to anxiety and allow it to dictate your life, you will become increasingly more limited. Therefore, build a tolerance to whatever makes you anxious by facing your fears in small doses. Engage in more activities on vacations or weekends that pull you out of your comfort zone. You will feel your heart racing and palms sweating but do it anyway. This will increase your confidence and bravery while reducing your fear. For example, if you’re terrified of being in front of people, sign up for a meet-up where you must talk in front of others, such as a Toastmasters meeting. Respond to emails or requests that you postpone due to fear. Understand that fear is a manifestation of your anxiety and will dissipate once faced.

2. Practice belly or diaphragmatic breathing with classical music. Classical music changes your brain chemistry and is often prescribed for people, pets, and small children to provoke calming and focus. When you combine classical music with breath, your body shuts off the fight or flight cortisol release that causes you to feel panicked. Rather than short, shallow breaths, use the diaphragmatic form of breathing: breathe slow on inhale, pushing your belly out; upon exhale, use your stomach muscles to squeeze all the air out. This is your most familiar type of breathing. In fact, it’s the way you took your first breath, but as we age, we learn quicker, less effective breathing styles that contribute to anxiety.

3. Name to tame anxiety. When you name what you’re feeling, you can stop the anxious process. Instead of remaining quiet in a Zoom meeting or conversation with your loved one, let them know what you are feeling. Research supports that when you name your emotions, they immediately minimize, and others become more likely to know how to respond.

4. Watch funny YouTube segments, movies, or any media that makes you feel good. During an upset, turn on a favorite YouTube segment, Instagram reel, or whatever brings a smile to your face. Sharing funny memes with your partner or children makes you feel connected and happy when you see them laugh as well.

5. Bathe yourself in aroma therapy by walking in an herb garden or forest. Aroma therapy helps calm the nervous system, and being immersed with aromatic plants or trees helps us breathe more rhythmically, calming our thoughts and minimizing anxiety.

6. Let go of what you cannot control. A key factor for a therapist that eliminates burn out is letting go of what you cannot control. Therapists can teach clients coping strategies, but the client has ultimate control over their choice to adopt those approaches. The first step towards maintaining joy and minimizing anxiety is letting go of what you want others to think, do, or become. You cannot force others to choose wisely or be happy; you can only change yourself.

April is National Stress Awareness Month; therefore, it’s an important time to practice healthier stress management techniques. When parents manage their stress well, children learn that it is an important component to a healthy lifestyle. When you are comfortable coping with your anxiety and stress, you experience greater mental and emotional well-being and feel more confident when life challenges you with the unexpected. Free yourself from worry and stay calm when life throws you a curve ball.