Top 10 Techniques for Taking Control of Your Anxiety in the New Year

BlogHer Original Post

As someone who has spent 33 years with anxiety, I know how terrifying and frustrating it can be. My life with anxiety was so much more complicated than it is now. I was constantly worrying, catastrophizing every event, and generally feeling tired and cranky. My anxiety ruined nearly every day and several relationships, too.

That is, until I had a major panic attack in August 2015 that landed me in the ER, and I immediately realized that I had to change. Am I completely anxiety-free today? To put it simply, no.

Anxiety is something that I will always have, but now I have the tools to manage my anxiety and knowledge how to stave off or shorten any moments of anxiety I may incur. As we enter into 2016, instead of making the same cliché resolution to get healthy physically like we always do, let's make a resolution to get healthy mentally!

use these tips to get a handle on anxiety

Image: Dawn via Flickr

There can be several reasons why we suffer from anxiety: stress, medical conditions, side effects of certain medications etc. Ironically, a certain degree of anxiety is actually a good thing. It's our body's way of alarming us of danger, a survival mechanism if you will.

We've all experienced anxiety at one point in time or another whether it was the butterflies we had right before we gave a big presentation, or the time we stressed out because we were running late for an important date. However, if you feel like your anxiety is overwhelming your life, please seek professional advice to rule out any underlying medical condition you may have or the need of medication.

If you're ready to take control of your anxiety, try the following 10 techniques proven to help reduce anxiety.


Good news! Your New Year's resolution to workout doesn't have to just be about losing weight this year. Working out has also been proven to reduce anxiety. Working out releases endorphins, which is like our body's natural happy pill. These endorphins are actually replicated in many medications because of their ability to block pain.

The more endorphins we release, the happier we feel. So lace up those sneakers and get your blood pumping. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day to burn off the negative energy.

Take Care of Yourself

This should be obvious, but often times we get so busy taking care of others that we put our own needs last. This is a surefire way to burn out and lead yourself down the anxious path.

Just like the airline stewardess reminds us every single time we fly, "Should the cabin begin to lose pressure, please put your oxygen mask on first, and then begin assisting those around you." You've got to take care of yourself first before you can take care of anyone else, period.

This means, going to bed at a decent hour, eating a well-balanced diet, exercising, and finding some free time for yourself. When you take care of yourself, you're more cool, calm, and collected and less likely to feel anxious about your to-do list or family obligations.

Face Your Fear

Often times our anxiety is rooted so deeply in our brain that it can be traced as far back as our childhood. People with anxiety are very adept at bottling up their emotions and pushing them aside. They have tried to remain strong for others for far too long and can no longer hold on to their pain so it begins to manifest as anxiety.

To face your fear, start by writing what I call an emotional autobiography. List any major life event; this could be a death, marriage, move, or anything that you feel shaped or influenced your life. As you're listing these events, write about your feelings and emotions that were connected with these events.

It may seem hard at first, but this will truly become an eye opening experience for you. As silly as this sounds, doing a little detective work here may help you find where your anxiety comes from and you may be able to stop it completely, or at least understand it better so you're more equipped to handle it.

Practice Mindfulness

By practicing mindfulness, you allow yourself the ability to stay focused on the way your body feels, your breath, your thoughts, your feelings. When you find your mind drifting to a worry spot, you can bring yourself back to the present by practicing mindfulness.

Not sure how to start? Yoga and meditation are both great ways at learning how to practice mindfulness. Grab a yoga DVD or check your local yoga studio and join a class. There are also plenty of apps on meditation to download on your iPhone, such as Breathe. You enter in how you're feeling mentally, physically, and then pick the 5 strongest emotions you're feeling and it creates the perfect guided meditation for you.

Get a Hobby

I'm not talking reading a book, or exercise, or other things people call hobbies. I'm talking about doing something that taps into your creative side. Maybe you enjoy baking or cooking. Maybe you're a great painter or artist, a singer or musician, or maybe even a master gardener.

Just find something creative to do and DO IT. You don't have to be perfect at it, but you do need to enjoy doing it. Being creative allows us to focus on the positive.

Connect to Your Higher Power

We all come from a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds, but find something or someone to believe in. Whether it's through prayer, meditation, or balancing your energies: connect to that power. When we stay connected to our higher power, we stay connected to our dreams and have the spiritual guidance to follow those dreams. We also stay grounded to the world around us.

Practice Deep Breathing

This is particularly helpful if you find yourself in the middle of anxiety or a panic attack. Take deep belly breaths. Making sure to fully inhale for 4 seconds (your stomach should push out), hold for 2 seconds, and breathe out for 4 seconds (your stomach should come back in). Deep breathing regulates your oxygen levels and can bring your anxiety level down. Plus, it's something you can do any time, anywhere!

Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

That cup of coffee and glass of wine that you love so much may actually be exacerbating your anxiety. You may feel that pick me up effect from the coffee or the unwinding effect of that first glass of wine, but they can actually change the levels of serotonin in your brain, making your anxiety worse.

So, I hate to be the buzzkill here, but it's time to give serious consideration to giving these up if you want your anxiety to ease up.

Give Yourself a Distraction

If you know you are going to be in a situation that will cause you anxiety always give yourself a distraction. Bring a long a book to read, a project to work on, go out for a walk, or have a support person to talk to. When you start feeling anxious, it's time to whip out your distraction plan and put it into action.

Stay Positive and Focus on the Good

The more we can stay focused on the positive, the more we can transform our anxiety into positive energy. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to jot down each and every thing you are grateful for.

On days you are feeling anxious, reading back through these little notes may give you that emotional boost to keep you on the right track. Happiness is internal, so learning to re-write our stories and choosing the positive over the negative will help us stay anxiety free for good!

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and anxiety free 2016!

~Kristen from


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