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Mental Wellness

Coping Mechanisms For Anxiety That Work With Stress

Written by Kathryn Sandford
Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.
Dr. Ray Kadkhodaian has a Masters and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, is a licensed therapist, the CoFounder of the Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center, and the CoFounder of Couples Synergy, LLC.

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In today’s complex and ever-changing society, it is almost impossible not to feel anxious and stressed at some point in your life. Anxiety has become a fact of life for all of us, and we all have to deal with the negative impact that it creates in our lives, especially when we’re facing stress that suddenly enters our lives. If we don’t have a coping mechanism for anxiety, things will get rougher.

The consequences of not dealing with the unpleasant aspect of stress can be fatal to your mental, physical and overall well being. It can even worsen your anxiety.

Instead of piling up the stress and anxiety, the productive way is to learn how to distract yourself from anxiety.

There are numerous distraction techniques for anxiety that you can use to minimize and control the negative impacts of stress on your life.

Once you understand your stress triggers and what anxiety coping mechanisms work best for you, you will know exactly what to do.

Coping Mechanisms for Anxiety That Work With Stress

Knowing the difference between stress and anxiety is key to reducing the impact of high-stress levels in your life.

Stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a stress reaction. Our anxiety will increase if we are constantly exposed to high-stress levels.[1]


We all have very different inbuilt coping mechanisms for anxiety and stress. What is stressful to one person may not necessarily be stressful to another.

The symptoms we experience when anxious are often referred to as the ‘fight or flight response. This comes from the idea that people primarily experience anxiety to help them fight or escape danger.

For example, if you saw a burglar, two options would immediately come to your brain: you would either want to fight them off (fight) or try to run away (flight).

The problem is that we are constantly exposed to disruption and change in today’s complex world. Because we live more stressful lives, our bodies and minds have not yet caught up to these changes. As a result, our body starts feeling anxious since we cannot fight or run away from straining situations (e.g., work or financial pressures).

There has been an overwhelming amount of research done on the topic of stress and anxiety. For example, one research discusses the anxiety demographics including which gender is more stressed, which age group suffers the most stress, which country is the most stressed, which workplaces create high levels of stress, what are the triggers of stress, what the cost of stress to the government and public health system and the list goes on [2].

Another research has identified that females are more anxious and depressed compared to males.[3] The study shows that males and females are at different emotional levels because of their varying hormones. Irrespective of this, both genders and all ages are prone to developing anxiety.


The problem, however, is that despite all this research and knowing that stress is an unpleasant fact of life, we are not very good at dealing with stress.

Because we are so bad at dealing with stress and do not know competent distraction techniques for anxiety, we now face what many consider a crisis point where stress is now one of the major causes that lead to the most lethal illnesses and long-term health problems.

High blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity, and insomnia are all medical conditions that can be related to or directly influenced by high levels of stress.[4].

5 Coping Mechanisms and Strategies to Try

In this section, we have listed 5 major strategies that will help you to develop a habit of getting easily distracted from anxiety.

These strategies will enable you to manage the stress levels in your life and avoid the detrimental impact stress and anxiety can have on your life – physically and mentally.

1. Learn How to Challenge Your Unhelpful Thoughts

The way that we think about things has an impact on our anxiety levels. Many of these thoughts are outside our control and can be negative or unhelpful.


It is, therefore, important to remember that they are just thoughts without any real basis and are not necessarily facts.

Challenge your unhelpful thoughts by asking these questions:

  • Is there any evidence that contradicts this thought?
  • What would I say to a friend who had this thought in a similar situation?
  • What are the costs and benefits of thinking in this way?
  • How will I feel about this in 6 months?
  • Is there another way of looking at this situation?

Try to apply these questions to the unhelpful thoughts that you notice. It can help to reduce your anxiety levels. You can use this technique to test that your thoughts’ are realistic and balanced.

2. Learn How to Become a Solution Seeker

It is often hard to solve a problem when you are immersed in the problem’s emotion. One way to deal with the problems you face and ease your stress levels is to follow these three steps:

  1. Identify what the problem is and write it down
  2. Come up with a list of potential solutions and write them down
  3. Please select the best solution from your list and then test it out. See how it goes and pick another solution if it does not work.

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step.” — Martin Luther King

I like this quote from Martin King. It highlights that by just taking one step, you are moving closer to finding the solution to your problem. It is about taking one step at a time –solution seekers do.


3. Limit The Time You Spend Worrying

Anxious people tend to spend much of their time worrying. Sometimes they worry to the point that they find it very hard to “switch off and relax.”

Indeed, one of the most frustrating things about feeling stressed and anxious is the seemingly uncontrollable worry that often occurs alongside it.

Therefore, if you can reduce the amount of time you spend worrying, you can reduce your anxiety levels.

You can assign yourself a “limited” time, like 10 minutes a day, to allow yourself to worry. Any worries that pop into your head during the day, write them down. Then forget them until your assigned worry time. Usually, it’s best to do this later in the day.

“Worry time” not only helps to reduce the time you spend worrying but also proves that you can have more control over whether you engage in worry or not.

You may also find this guide useful: How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques.

4. Learn How to Relax and Commit to It

It is important to make time to relax and do enjoyable activities. This can help to reduce your anxiety levels by calming the body and mind. It can also help you to sleep.

Without time to unwind, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed.

Relaxation can involve doing something that you enjoy or just being by yourself. Good examples might be reading a book or having a bath.


What you do does not matter. Try to choose something that you enjoy and look forward to doing. Exercise is particularly effective at helping you to relax and is a coping mechanism for anxiety. Research has shown that if you are constantly active, you are far more effective at managing your stress levels.[5]

Learning to control your breathing is a simple technique that can be particularly helpful if you feel dizzy or light-headed when you are worried or stressed. This sometimes happens because people’s breathing changes and gets quicker when they feel distressed. This can be an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience.

Learning controlled breathing exercises can help you to manage these feelings more effectively. It can also help to give your mind and body a chance to calm down.

“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” — Dorothy M. Neddermeyer

Tension often builds up when we feel upset or stressed. These symptoms can be painful and can cause anxiety in themselves.

Muscular relaxation exercises can help you to control such unpleasant symptoms. They can reduce physical tension and help you to relax in general. Yoga, massage, and meditation are great activities to help your body and mind relax. These apps are also handy when it comes to calming your anxiety.

5. Get to Know Yourself and Connect with Others

For me, this is the most important anxiety coping mechanism. I have put it last because if you fail to commit to the other five strategies, you can try committing to this.

It is this coping mechanism that will form a solid foundation for you to manage the stress levels in your life successfully.


Get to know you and accept who you are. Our anxiety and stress levels increase when we worry about what we are not achieving or what we are failing at.

If we permit ourselves that it is okay not to be “perfect” all the time, our anxiety and stress levels will be more manageable.

“I permit myself to suck. I find this hugely liberating.” — John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars

Sharing your fears and anxiety with people you are connected with will help you face your fears and deal with your problems. Although you might feel embarrassed or afraid to discuss your feelings with others, sharing can be a way to cope with a problem. And having someone to listen to you can help you feel supported.

When you feel supported, you are more likely to do what you want or need to do by breaking the cycle of constant avoidance. The chances are the reality of the situation won’t be as worse as you expect, making you better equipped to manage and reduce your anxiety.

Coping Mechanisms For Anxiety That Work With Stress

Coping Mechanisms For Anxiety That Work With Stress

6 Actions
Coping Mechanisms For Anxiety That Work With Stress
Challenging Your Thoughts: Being in control of your mind is the best coping mechanism to keep your body tamed and grounded. When you control your negative thoughts, you can focus more on positive things in your life.
Coping Mechanisms For Anxiety That Work With Stress
Become Solution-Oriented: Life is hard, and problems are an inevitable part of it. If you have a solution-oriented approach to life, you will have less time to stress over problems; thus, you will get less anxious.
Coping Mechanisms For Anxiety That Work With Stress
Learn to Relax: Finding the right hobbies to relax your mind after a tiring day is important. Indulging yourself in what you enjoy will help your body relax and overcome anxiety.
Coping Mechanisms For Anxiety That Work With Stress
Share With Others: Learn to rely on others for your problems. Share your worries and seek help. It will help you tame your anxiety.
Coping Mechanisms For Anxiety That Work With Stress
Limit The Time You Spend Worrying: Give yourself 10 minutes to worry each day. Jot down your worries and only think about them during this designated timeframe.
Coping Mechanisms For Anxiety That Work With Stress
Get to Know Yourself and Connect with Others: You can confide in your partner, family members, or a trustworthy friend for advice on your problems.

Final Thoughts

The above-mentioned five coping anxiety mechanisms are effective distracted techniques for anxiety. These tools can help you manage the stress levels in your life.

If you decide to try out these strategies, be prepared for it to feel uncomfortable at first, since change does not happen overnight.


Keep trying, and do not give up. Dig deep to find your faith as a solution seeker who is always looking to create a present and future where you can live life to the fullest.

“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes everything is an emergency.” — Natalie Goldberg

Featured photo credit: Dmitry Schemelev via unsplash.com


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