Your heart races. Your body temperature rises. Your hands may shake. Your stomach may churn.
Your thoughts start spiraling to the worst could that happen, and suddenly you feel so unequipped—like everything’s going to fall apart, and you won’t be able to handle it.
It can feel so powerless when anxiety takes over, almost like your brain and body are being hijacked, and there’s little you can do to feel safe or in control.
Except that’s not actually true. Though anxiety can have both physical and mental symptoms, and we can’t just will it away, there are things we can do to calm ourselves.
I know because, like most of us, I’ve been there many times before, and I’ve coped both poorly and well.
I’ve panicked about panicking, believed every anxious thought, judged myself as weak, and tried to numb my feelings with alcohol—these are things I’ve done more often than I care to admit.
I’ve also breathed deeply, observed my thoughts, treated myself with compassion, and chosen to embrace my feelings—more and more often as I’ve gotten older.
Since I know we have a lot more power than we think when it comes to managing anxiety, I recently asked this question on the Tiny Buddha Facebook page:
What’s one thing you try to remember when you feel anxious?
More than 1,000 people responded, which I appreciated both because their thoughts were comforting and also because this reminded me just how common anxiety is. It’s natural. It’s human. But we don’t have to let it control us.
Next time you’re feeling anxious, remember what these Tiny Buddha community members shared:
It’s a wave I must let hit me and ride until it passes. Fighting it prolongs it and turns it into a riptide. ~Lori Craven
If you just let the current carry you to where it will for a little while, the river will eventually spit you out. Just go with it and it’s going to be okay. ~Renee Breuer
I verbally acknowledge and remind my inner child that it’s okay, and “Adult Doug” will take care of it. That’s where the anxiety arises from. I know as an adult that my success rate of surviving any crises I’ve faced is 100%. My little inner “Doug” gets scared and feels anxious, afraid, and insecure, so I just tell him that I have it in control. ~Doug Marcum
I can handle whatever happens. I always have, one way or another. If things don’t work out the way I expect then that’s okay too. The anxiety will pass and I will be stronger afterward. ~Suzy Wedley
I breathe and repeat to myself: “I’m safe. I’m okay. I can take care of myself. I am powerful. I am significant.” Repeating it helps me refocus. ~Ida Zakin
The situation isn’t life or death. I’ll live to see another day despite the outcome. ~Claire Denney
My mantra: “It’s just adrenaline. It can’t hurt you. It will pass.” ~Chuck Striler
I’m not a dying zebra! I watched something that said stress is a natural part of our fight or flight response, which is helpful if you’re on the savanna running from a hungry lion. ~Jenn Miles
Anxiety is my body’s way of trying to protect me. My body has good intentions. It’s just a little misguided. I’m grateful for my body’s protection. ~Jenny Britt
I try to think about what is causing me anxiety, and it is typically a thought or thoughts about the past or future. I remind myself that I am okay in this moment, and all we ever have is this moment. It helps me. ~Angela Regan-Storvick
Since mine stems from thoughts that then spiral, I remind myself that thoughts are just that. They do not have to have meaning attached to them if I do not let them. Let them come in and out and give them no power, no meaning. Do not fuel them but let them come and go. They do not have to be reality, and most times they are not a reflection of reality or my true self, just plain old thoughts, and I do not have to react to every single one. ~April Rutledge
I remind myself that my worrying will not change the outcome—never has and never will. Then I focus on what I’m grateful for, things that are beautiful and wonderful in my life right now. And lastly I repeat this: “I let go and I trust that I am being taken care of.” ~Joie Kreze
I try to remind myself that whatever is causing my anxiety is temporary and if I’m patient, it will be resolved. ~Jess Swanson
I try very hard to remember that for most situations, they will pass whether I get all stressed out or not. ~Karen Jane Lehman
I try to remind myself that I have what I need: air, water, food, clothing, shelter. Then I remind myself to keep things in perspective and that I can choose how I am. ~Lorna Lewis
I get anxiety over little things and I have to remind myself of how much I have overcome. If I can get through two brain surgeries, four different types of radiation treatment, Thyroidectomy for Thyroid Cancer, and a left neck dissection, I can get through the little stuff. Sometimes you just have to push through the discomfort of the situation and see it will be fine. ~Sara Ruggiero
I concentrate on what positive is going on right now this minute. I am safe, I am not hungry, I have a good job, a husband that loves me, my family is safe and healthy. I keep going until I feel the tension fading. Then slowly but surely I can clear my head enough to take on what lies ahead of me. ~Birgit Gerwig
Things could be worse. I have my health. I try to count my blessings. ~Colleen Tayler
I think of all the people who love me. I picture their faces and I imagine myself surrounded by a bubble of love, and as I’m breathing deeply I’m breathing that love in and out. ~Conni Wrightsman
Four by four, how will I feel about this? Will it still seem huge and overwhelming looking back in four days, four weeks, four months, four years? It helps me to put things in perspective . ~Jacqui Learmonth
I ask myself, “Am I, or is someone I love in danger right now, in this moment?” 99.9% of the time, the answer is no, so I do some breathing and relaxation exercises to calm my mind and deal with the situation from a healthier perspective. ~Celeste Rothstein
I ask myself: What are the most important things in my life, and then focus on that. What I am stressing about usually isn’t one of the important things. ~Nicole Neubauer
Give your brain a simple task. Sit and breathe. Stare at a wall. Put yourself in time out and inhale slowly. You are not wasting your time. Thoughts will float into your mind. Let them keep floating. Re-align your spine as you sit. And breathe. Take ten minutes if you can. If you can’t, even a minute is better than nothing. ~Dabe Charon
Inhale for four counts, hold for seven counts, exhale for eight counts. ~Lisa Martinez
Breathe. If that doesn’t work I run. It forces me to regulate my breathing. This will calm my body down forcing my mind to calm down as well. ~Carolyn Stennard
Trust and anxiety are mutually exclusive so focus on trust, whatever you can trust at the moment, and anxiety moves out. ~Alexia Bogdis
“One step at a time.” I tend to become anxious because I worry and overthink things that I can’t control and may or may not happen in the future. So I started to think this in my head whenever I notice the feeling creeping up. To take action one step at a time on something that I can control and let the rest run its course. ~Adelia Benalius
Sometimes it’s not enough to take it day by day. Sometimes, it’s hour by hour, or even minute by minute. And if I breathe and stay calm, I can make better decisions to effect positive change with the situation with which I’m dealing. ~Susan Stephenitch
Write it down, get it off your chest, relax, make a plan of attack. Do something instead of worrying. Don’t let it take away today’s peace. Nothing stays the same! ~Lisa Marie Wilson
Anxiety can often come from a place of judgment of the self. Stop, breathe, and surrender to self-compassion. ~Christine Strauss
Know you’re not alone. Others are struggling with something as well. We’re all in this together! ~Melanie Rn
What helps you when you feel anxious?
**Most responses were edited for spelling and grammar, and some are part of larger comments not included in full.
Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..