How POPSUGAR Editors Cope With Anxiety — and How You Can, Too

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, and whether you have a clear diagnosis or not, anxiety can impact your daily life. While physical symptoms are all too real — increased heart rate, muscle tension, headaches, appetite changes, gastrointestinal issues, etc. — the internal effects like intrusive thoughts can send people into a spiral. I know because I've been there.

Therapist at Conason Psychological Services Fatema Jivanjee-Shakir, LMSW, tells POPSUGAR that it's "common for people to experience anxiety without meeting diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder," pointing to a 2014 systematic review that found twice as many people met the criteria for "subthreshold" generalised anxiety disorder than the full syndrome.

"When your anxiety gets in the way of you being able to be present in your life, it's a sign that it is becoming more severe and in need of professional support," Jivanjee-Shakir says, adding that you don't actually have to meet diagnosis criteria to find help. She continues on to note that people often "approach anxiety-provoking situations with avoidance, which further breeds anxiety and fear about the situation."

Instead, she explains, it's helpful to develop supportive coping skills for navigating these situations, especially pinpointing when each coping mechanism feels accessible for the type of anxiety experienced. For example, meditation might work when your anxiety is at a three out of 10, she says, but it may not be tangible if your anxiety is at a seven out of 10.

Psychologist Ashu Kapoor, PhD, agrees, telling POPSUGAR that she stresses the importance of healthy coping mechanisms over unhealthy ones. "Not all coping skills will work for all of my clients," she notes. However, "I say, if it works, use it."

Ahead, POPSUGAR editors reveal their top tips for coping with anxiety. Try some out for yourself the next time you're overwhelmed and anxious — you may be surprised at what aids you. And of course, seek professional guidance if need be.

Meditate or Do Deep Breathing
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Meditate or Do Deep Breathing

A few POPSUGAR editors say they rely on meditation. During periods of high anxiety, assistant editor of commerce Haley Lyndes uses Headspace to listen to a 10-minute meditation typically centreed around reducing said anxiety. Assistant fitness editor Maggie Ryan made it a point to meditate every day in 2021. It helped her when she couldn't rely on exercise to quell her anxiety due to an injury.

"When I'm feeling intensely anxious or stressed, I use one of the Headspace app's SOS meditations, which are designed for times of panic, fear, and anxiety," Ryan notes. "They're short, to-the-point, and help me relax and breathe when I feel like I can't."

Chanel Vargas, trending and viral features assistant editor, said that she likes to relax and clear out buzzing thoughts with a few minutes of nighttime meditation or deep breathing. It calms her down and makes her feel more well-equipped to take on the upcoming day.

Senior fashion editor Sarah Wasilak particularly likes box breathing — inhaling for four counts, holding for four counts, exhaling for four counts, and holding at the bottom of your exhale for four counts ahead of another inhale.

Unwind on Your Phone
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Unwind on Your Phone

While some people like to put away their phone to cope with anxiety, Lyndes uses hers or other forms of technology as a means to unwind. "Sometimes cuddling up on the couch with a few funny TikTok videos or a TV show is enough to help me forget about my nerves and put me in a better headspace," she says. "Feeling cosy and comfortable goes a long way."

Practice Gratitude and Affirmations
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Practice Gratitude and Affirmations

Lyndes also tries practicing gratitude in her daily life. In turn, "I've been able to trick my mind into being positive when it comes to anxiety, too," she says, adding that she relies on affirmations like "you are calm," "everything is OK," and "today is going to be a good day."

Make a List of Simple, Joyful Tasks
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Make a List of Simple, Joyful Tasks

Wasilak mentions that she oftentimes will write a list on a piece of paper or on her phone — but not just any list; a "FUN" list such as her all-time favourite restaurants or favourite holiday spots. POPSUGAR UK editor Tori Crowther similarly says that she relies on a list of "basic" things that make her feel good and calm.

On Crowther's list are activities like walking her dog, getting coffee, painting her nails, and cleaning the house; relaxing acts like settling into a hot shower and taking a whiff of nice smells such as perfume, flowers, or candles; and wellness-related tips like drinking lots of water. She also has a small list of some favourite foods and snacks that are easy to get. "Having the list on my phone gives me a physical reminder that by spending an evening or a day doing one or more of these things, I know without a doubt I'll feel better (even if it's just the slightest bit better) and more in control."

Get Some Fresh Air
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Get Some Fresh Air

"If my anxiety is more urgent, I like to take the time to remove myself from whatever situation is making me anxious, if possible, and go for walks to clear my head," Vargas says. "Replacing screen time with fresh air and quiet time to myself — even with the noise of the city all around me — typically helps to distract me from whatever was making me anxious and gives me a break to think."

Take a Treadmill Break
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Take a Treadmill Break

Vargas also says she loves to go for a quick run on the treadmill to calm her anxiety because it gets her blood pumping and is an outlet to channel her everyday stress. It's a physical and mental coping mechanism for her.

Ground Yourself in Good Smells
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Ground Yourself in Good Smells

Senior SEO manager Beau Brink says that "good smells" are his go-to coping mechanism, particularly when he has persistent anxiety. "I think it started when I was in high school," he recalls. "I liked to drive to school really, really early so that I could have some alone time and go for a walk. There was a bakery down the street from my school, so the surrounding few blocks always smelled like croissants first thing in the morning."

This continued for Brink as he aged. "When I lived in a walkable neighbourhood in my 20s and [was] really struggling, I figured out where all the good smells were: a banh mi place, an apothecary that sold soaps, a spice store, a bakery."

Sit With Your Anxiety
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Sit With Your Anxiety

Brink also noted that if he's having a full-blown panic attack, he's learned to let himself feel anxious and lean into that physical and emotional discomfort no matter how uncomfortable it is. "Discomfort isn't necessarily a bad thing, and paying attention to the panic (rather than distracting myself from it) has also made me pay attention to the fact that it always eventually goes away," he says. "Now I see panic as value-neutral; it's not bad, it's just something that happens that I have to get through."

Waslik agrees. "I tell myself to acknowledge my anxiety instead of running away from it. Sometimes that means telling the person I'm with that I'm experiencing it, or just embracing it into my body, feeling it, and telling myself it's OK to sit with it and that it doesn't always pass right away," she says.

Connect With Your Senses
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Connect With Your Senses

Some of the POPSUGAR staff members mentioned good smells already, and going off of that, Wasilak also says that connecting with her senses has proven useful for anxiety. "Name one thing you can see, one thing you can touch, one thing you can feel, one thing you can taste," she instructs. This practice, she explains, is grounding.

Listen to a Podcast
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Listen to a Podcast

"When my anxiety is at its worst, I like to close my eyes and listen to Poetry Unbound [podcast] from On Being," standards and ethics editor Chris Roney says. "Pádraig Ó Tuama does these beautiful, breathy, emphatic poetry readings in his Irish drawl, then unpacks a poem's contents before reading it again. For one, his voice instantly puts me at ease: I de-tense. But the poetry itself, with its starts and stops, forces me to be present to my own breathing." Roney notes that he can gradually divert his attention to those words to find comfort.

Stretch It Out
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Stretch It Out

If Ryan's work stress and anxiety doesn't dissipate for a few hours after she signs off in the evening, she'll do an Alo Moves yoga class. "Something about the movement synced up to my breath pulls me into the present moment and into my body in a way I can't replicate with anything else," she notes.

Recount Your Day
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Recount Your Day

"Go through your day up until the moment you felt anxious," Waslik advises. "Think about all the things you did. As an affirmation, remind yourself that if you made it through all of those things, then you're OK, and you will make it through this moment, too. Just ride the wave."

Phone a Friend
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Phone a Friend

POPSUGAR Fitness staff writer Jenny Sugar says she oftentimes calls a friend to talk through her worries. Brink, too, says his friend Hannah is great for helping him think of ways he can care for himself during periods of anxiety. "When I check in with her when I'm anxious, she always asks if I've had water or anything to eat. Now I can ask myself: 'Have you have water lately? Have you eaten? Have you specifically eaten a piece of fruit or a vegetable? Have you taken a deep breath? Are your shoulders down or by your ears? Is there something that hurts that you could stretch?' When my friends are upset, I try to pass a little Hannah on and ask them, too."