5 ways to deal with anxiety

Science-based tips + resources from my own struggles with anxiety

Let’s talk about anxiety for a minute. The debilitating fear. The constant worry. The thoughts that circle around in your head at a hundred miles a minute. The heart palpitations. The shortness of breath. The certainty that everything is going to come crashing down around you.

We’ve all suffered from anxiety at some point in our lives, but did you know that 1 in 7 Indians – or 197.3 million people – were impacted by mental disorders of varying severity in 2017, of which 44.9 million Indians suffer from anxiety disorders. And this is 2017 data, so this number is sure to have skyrocketed.

Living with anxiety in any form {and yes, there are many forms of anxiety, from chronic anxiety to anxiety attacks, high achieving anxiety and more} means that you need to cultivate numerous tools to manage your anxiety – and stress. Because let’s face it, stress also causes anxiety.


But before I share the many ways of coping with anxiety, please know that these alone may not be enough to combat anxiety. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may require medication along with therapy, and that is something that I would urge you not to ignore.

5 ways to deal with anxiety

Added to that – and in consultation with your therapist – here are 5 important things to focus on when it comes to managing stress and anxiety.

1. Get a good night’s sleep

A good night's sleep can help you manage anxiety

Falling asleep when you have a war raging in your mind is difficult – trust me, I get it. And it is also important. Some of the tips further down this list will help you manage your anxiety, which will go some way in helping you to get a good night’s sleep.

In addition, try these tips:

Log off social media and Netflix at least an hour before sleeping. Try to read something instead.

Before you turn in for the night, place your hands on your heart, close your eyes {if you’re comfortable, this isn’t necessary} and take a few long, deep breaths. Allow those breaths to slowly bring you back into your body and out of your head.


Try using a weighted blanket. A weighted blanket is typically filled with glass beads to make them heavier and add even, gentle pressure all over the body. The extra weight helps to relax your nervous system, which can break the anxiety cycle and allow you to relax enough to sleep. According to Penn Medicine, weighted blankets are not just a fad – they have been found to help with anxiety and sleep disorders, as well as with ADHD and autism. (If you’re in India, finding good weighted blankets at a reasonable price point can be difficult. This weighed blanket by House of Charu hits all the right points for a good and reasonable weighted blanket.)

2. Start a regular exercise routine

When you’re dealing with anxiety, you’re caught up in your mental chatter. It can be helpful to very deliberately get back into your body. One way to do this is by exercising.

It’s best to try something gentle, like walking or yoga.  Avoid high intensity workouts like high intensity interval training (HIIT). High intensity workouts can stimulate an acute cortisol response, which can cause further stress on your already shot nervous system. {An acute cortisol response results in depression, chronic fatigue, sleep problems and brain fog.}

Try this: 20 minute yoga for anxiety

3. Listen to music

Music has a significant impact on mood – in fact, I’m willing to bet you have a favorite song that never fails to cheer you up, get up and dance, or just sink back on a recliner and relax. That, right there, is its therapeutic power. According to Harvard Health Publishing, music can help ease anxiety and discomfort during clinical procedures. So why should it not help you when you’re dealing with anxiety?

Here are a few pieces of music that almost always soothe me.

There’s an almost hypnotic quality to this piece, which fuses classical Arab music, folk music and jazz.

This piano piece by Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi has an almost dreamlike quality to it. Another one of my favorites.

And here’s an anti-anxiety music playlist I found very recently on Spotify


4. Journaling for anxiety management

journaling for anxiety management

There’s no doubt that journaling is an excellent tool for all-round mental health. The simple act of putting pen to paper {or fingers to keyboard} and giving your thoughts a place to land helps to unburden the mind.

When it comes to dealing with anxiety, I find it helpful to write down the thoughts swirling in my head. When I see them written down in black and white, I can see just how silly they are. And though they may be embarrassing, just seeing them written down helps me to gain perspective and also see how unrealistic some of them are!

After all, it’s only when you’re fully conscious of your thoughts that you have the power to change them.

Here are some resources to help you with your journaling practice:

5 journal prompts to help you calm your mind

Journaling for self awareness: write your way to clarity

The Inner Quest workbook: specially meant to deal with the anxieties of these times we are living in

5. Mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness and meditation have been trotted out as the panacea to all problems. But a recent study by the UK-based Coventry University found that about 1 in 12 people who try meditation experience an unwanted negative effect, usually a worsening in depression or anxiety. Similar symptoms have been recorded in traditional meditation literature. For example, the Dharmatrāta, a Buddhist meditation scripture from the 5th century CE, states that if meditation is not carried out properly, the mind can become unstable, restless or confused, and the meditator can feel dull, confused and sunken.

Does this mean you should throw out your meditation cushion and delete all your meditation apps? Well, not necessarily.


First off, if you’ve been trying to meditate and have been unable to, stop beating yourself up. Second, try a different form of meditation. Most often, guided meditations work much better than trying to empty the mind and focus on the breath. Chanting a mantra can also be helpful, especially when it comes to grounding into the body and managing anxiety.

Try this guided meditation by Alana Fairchild

When it comes to mindfulness, studies have found that an over-reliance on the practice can lead to feelings of dissociation. In addition, it’s important to remember that mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist religious and philosophical thought. But when it went West, most of the leading advocates of mindfulness divorced that religious underpinning from the practice, which is where some of the problems associated with mindfulness can stem from. This is an interesting article that talks a little more about this, and about the problem of mindfulness.

While letting go of your thoughts and seeing them as inconsequential over a long period of time can be harmful, there is a lot to be said for practicing presence {especially states of flow and focus} and focusing on the now from time to time.


One way that you can do this is through mindful doodling. All you really need is a paper and pen {watercolors are a fun add-on but not needed}. Then, simply sit down and focus on drawing some lines. They don’t need to be anything or look a certain way. You don’t need to create “art”. Scribble if that feels good. Throw the paper away once you’re done if you wish.

Try your hand at this super simple mindful watercolor doodle:

Another excellent mindfulness practice that is especially helpful in the middle of an anxiety flare-up is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This is very simple and very effective to help you ground into the present moment when you’re dealing with an anxiety attack or trauma response: Stop whatever you are doing and take a look around you. Make a note of five things that you can see, four things that you can hear, three things that you can feel, two things that you can smell, and one thing that you can taste. That’s it.

Additional resources:

Insight Timer: look for guided meditations by Alexandra Elle

Ultimate guide to overcome loneliness, boredom and anxiety

I hope that you found some of these tips and resources helpful. If you have any additional tools or resources that help you to manage your anxiety, do share them in the comments!

Linking up with Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter

Posted in Essays, Soulful living.

I’m an artist and art educator, podcaster, tarot reader, and writer. I share my discoveries along the path to inspire you to live a more creative, soul-centered life. Receive my love letters for more of my musings on life and creativity. P.S. I love Instagram - join me there?


  1. What a wonderful post! I love that you started with the problems that people face and then focused on the positive offering creative and functional tool to help people manage the stress and anxiety. Every day is a new journey towards our greatest self.

  2. I have been suffering from anxiety for more than a decade, but it was just in 2018 that it got detected. Ever since, I have been making a conscious effort to deal with my anxiety in every way I can.
    As you mentioned, there’s sleep , then music which is a huge part of my exercise routine (my evening walk), and there’s my art and writing. Believe me, these things really help. All you need to do is make them a regular part of your life.
    LAst year, during the pandemic, I think in the month of May, my anxiety was at its peak. I turned to art in a big way and drew very complicated, detailed ink artworks that helped me put my anxiety aside for some time. It became a habit and today, I feel blessed that I have my art to help me survive.

    I really wish people with anxiety took steps to fight this problem that can otherwise erode all the peace of mind and happiness over time.

    • I’m so glad you actually got a diagnosis and were able to take steps to control your anxiety. That itself is part of the battle, isn’t it? And I hear you on the art. Patterning and doodling can be especially therapeutic – I can well imagine how your intricate artwork would have helped you to manage your anxiety.

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