Anxiety: predicting the worst

Anxiety is a normal physiological response to perceived threats. Our bodies activate for fight or flight by releasing neurotransmitters and hormones that increase alertness and energy, pumping blood to our muscles, and priming our lungs for the effort.

That’s great when you’re attacked by pirates...but it tends to be unhelpful when your body responds this way to concerns about the past or future, which are things you can’t control.

The antidote

Sometimes, our symptoms get so severe or so frequent that the only relief will come with professional intervention. There are things some of us can do to manage our symptoms. In short, the antidote lies in focusing on the present and taking charge of your body. Check out the following techniques:

Ground yourself

Sit comfortably and upright with your feet on the floor. Press your feet gently to the floor and notice how it holds you; see the muscles in your legs flex and then relax. Relax your shoulders and notice how your seat and the floor support you.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Think of 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch (touch them!), 2 things you can smell or like the smell of, and take 1 long, slow, deep breath.

Make a plan

Depending on what’s going on in your life, sometimes coming up with the next step can bring relief. Try brainstorming a few actions you can take to address your specific problem. Decide what you can do and commit to a “by when” time. Then do them.

Distract yourself

Sometimes the thing causing our anxiety can’t be addressed by action steps. In these cases, it’s OK to distract yourself with an activity that takes your mind off the issue. This is not an excuse to get stoned or drunk. Using substances to self-medicate anxiety will cause far worse problems.

Some things you could try include: going for a run or walk, getting some kind of exercise, watching an engaging movie, or cleaning your house or room.

Reach out, don’t freak out

Chat with a friend, family member, counselor, or any supportive person you trust. This will bring you into contact with someone you feel safe with and the present moment, which will get you out of your head.

Anxiety apps

Mindshift mental health

Try this free anxiety app designed for young adults.


Remember to breathe with this free app that reminds you to pause.

My Possible Self

Remember to breathe with this free app that reminds you to pause.