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    My Therapist Has Given Me Lots Of Techniques To Help My Anxiety Over The Years; Here’s What’s Worked Best

    Anxiety is incredibly different for everyone.

    Hello! My name is Stephanie, and like many, I suffer from anxiety. I have also been really open about it on my social media to reduce the stigma surrounding it.

    I'll note that while some of these techniques have worked well for me, they may not be the best technique for you.

    It's so important to find what *you* need to help manage your anxiety and live a healthy life — ideally with the help of a trained professional. Anxiety does not have a "one-size-fits-all" solution. Still, I hope that by sharing my personal experience, I can help in some small way — even if it's just by reducing stigma.

    TECHNIQUE #1: Write in a journal every day.

    A person holding a journal
    Stephanie Hope / BuzzFeed

    My therapist said it can be really helpful to write down how my day went or my moods for the day in a journal. The reason this would be helpful is that it allows me to remove any lingering thoughts from my head, making me feel clearer and less stressed.

    Did it work for me?

    Yes! I find this to be one of my favorite tips I've received to help manage my anxiety. I get a lot of intrusive thoughts, and sometimes it can really take over my entire day. Being able to write down all of my thoughts helps me empty my mind of all those negative feelings. In addition, being able to look back at my progress helps me realize how much better I'm doing. Sometimes I don't notice the little things that have improved, but this method — and being able to literally read it all back — really helps with that.

    TECHNIQUE #2: Meditate.

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    We've been told a lot about the benefits you can achieve from meditating, such as stress reduction and anxiety relief. You can try to meditate on your own or use guided meditations if you're having trouble figuring out how to start.

    Did it work for me?

    No. Meditating just does not work for me...at all. I've found that closing my eyes and sitting still for too long actually makes my anxiety way worse. My intrusive thoughts come pouring in, and it makes it really difficult not to go into a straight panic. I've tried multiple times and used different guided methods, and they just don't help me.

    TECHNIQUE #3: Limit alcohol and caffeine.

    A person holding a jar of iced coffee
    Stephanie Hope / BuzzFeed

    For some, alcohol and caffeine can increase anxiety. Per my therapist, aiming to limit my intake of these might help reduce any ongoing symptoms.

    Did it work for me?

    Yes! Currently, I do not drink any alcohol. (A lot of this is due to my medication, but personally, alcohol absolutely triggers my anxiety.) I also very, very rarely drink caffeine. I only drink decaf coffee, and every so often I'll have one of those Arizona iced teas — but other than that, I've ditched both as a baseline.

    TECHNIQUE #4: Exercise every day for at least 30 minutes.

    A person doing yoga and a cat laying on a mat
    Stephanie Hope / BuzzFeed

    My therapist said that doing some form of aerobic exercise every day can begin to stimulate antianxiety effects. It can help decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. So why not try, right?

    Did it work for me?

    Absolutely. I now make time for daily exercise, and I am confident that it contributes heavily to the occasional relief I experience from my anxiety. The trick for me is switching things up — my favorites are yoga, dancing, running, and Pilates.

    TECHNIQUE #5: Utilize the 3-3-3 rule.

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    When you're feeling anxious, this rule tells you to stop and name three things you see, three sounds you hear, and then move three parts of your body — such as your fingers, arm, leg, or ankles. This method is supposed to basically distract you from your current state by giving you something very concrete (and achievable) to focus on. (A similar prompt is the "five senses" technique.)

    Did it work for me?

    Eh, not really. When I'm anxious, it's *really* difficult to distract me from it. I start overthinking things, like, Wait, I don't hear three sounds. Oh crap, this isn't going to work. Is that a sound? Does that count as a sound? Do my thoughts count as a sound? What about my breath?? It's a battle and it just makes me way more anxious than when I started.

    TECHNIQUE #6: Try a 4-7-8 breathing routine.

    NBC

    My therapist taught me this breathing technique, in which you breathe in slowly for four seconds, hold it for seven seconds, and then let go slowly for eight seconds. It's supposed to regulate your breathing pattern and calm you down.

    Did it work for me?

    Sort of! When I'm anxious, my breathing is actually not *that* off, so I never really think I need to regulate it. However, this method does actually distract me from my thoughts because I'm so focused on making sure I count and breathe in sync with the numbers.

    TECHNIQUE #7: Take an ashwagandha supplement.

    A bottle of ashwagandha
    Stephanie Hope / BuzzFeed

    I don't know if I would call this a "technique," but my therapist recommended that I try ashwagandha for my anxiety. Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb that's said to help with anxiety and stress, and potentially even help with brain function.

    Did it work for me?

    I think so...? Honestly, I do so many different methods, it's sometimes hard to pinpoint if something is working. However, I recently did start taking this supplement, and I truly believe that it's been helping me alongside my current medications. I experience a sudden improvement in the constant "anxious" feeling I experience and feel a lot more relaxed.

    TECHNIQUE #8: Use lavender-scented products.

    A person holding two lavender sprays
    Stephanie Hope / BuzzFeed

    You've probably heard about lavender having ~calming properties~, so on my therapist's recommendation, I bought multiple products to see if it would help me in any way. I sometimes have trouble sleeping, so I started with lavender pillow spray to try it out.

    Did it work for me?

    Definitely not! Maybe it's just me, but I have never been affected by scents like this. I have like three different lavender products now, and none of them has really helped me relax in any way. Does it smell nice? Absolutely! I have just never felt that it's calmed me or even helped me sleep.

    TECHNIQUE #9: Listen to soothing music.

    Stephanie Hope / BuzzFeed

    This one seems to be pretty obvious. Listen to soothing music and then you'll feel soothed, right?

    Did it work for me?

    Nope! When I'm feeling anxious, sometimes it really feels as if music makes it worse. I am very sensitive to sounds when I'm feeling this way, and music just adds to my stress at that moment. In addition, as I mentioned, I deal with a lot of intrusive thoughts, and soothing music doesn't really distract me from them.

    TECHNIQUE #10: Spend more time with my pet.

    Stephanie Hope / BuzzFeed

    It's not a secret that our pets can really help boost our moods. Some people even register their pets as emotional support animals because of how much they can help with mental health. I have three adorable cats — more time with them can't hurt, right?

    Did it work for me?

    Yes. There really is something so calming about pets, at least for me. I swear it feels as if they can sense how you're feeling and know how to calm you down. Out of my three cats, I really think my oldest, Ophelia, knows when I'm anxious and how to soothe me. She spends 90% of her time around me, following me around the house, and even naps with me on the couch.

    TECHNIQUE #11: Use a CalmiGo to help with breathing regulation.

    A CalmiGo
    Stephanie Hope / BuzzFeed

    CalmiGo markets itself as a stress-relief device that uses personalized breathing regulation and sensory stimulation (by way of scent) to help induce a feeling of calm. My therapist said that this has helped a few of her patients and it may help me, too.

    Did it work for me or help me?

    Eh, not really. It's great in helping you regulate your breathing, but again, as I mentioned, this isn't really a big issue for me with my anxiety. I also chose one that had the lavender scent, and it was just WAY too strong to even breathe in comfortably. I did like how it learns your breathing and knows when to tell you to breathe in based on how long you've been breathing into it — but otherwise, not for me.

    TECHNIQUE #12: Drink chamomile tea.

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    Chamomile tea is known to help with sleep and relaxation, so my therapist suggested I try it out and see if it helps me at all.

    Did it work for me or help me?

    Nope! Does this really work for some? Again, I have just never been affected by "calming" drinks like this. Maybe I am not drinking enough, but I think it tastes off-putting and I get no actual effects from it at all.

    Again, just to reiterate: Anxiety does not show up the same way for everyone, and sometimes you may have other underlying issues that trigger anxiety in you. Because of this, it's so important to seek professional help and start to work on these issues so that you can finally experience some relief.

    And if you ever feel that you'd be judged for needing help, I'm here to tell you that it is OKAY not to be okay. 💛

    What are some techniques that have worked for you? Which ones didn't? If you're willing to share, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

    To learn more about anxiety and resources that can help, check out the National Institute of Mental Health.