Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Disabling Anxiety: 10 More Tips

anxiety woman, real simple.jpg

Image by Susie Cusher.

In my post, “Disabling Anxiety: What Do You Do?” I asked you for your techniques on managing anxiety. I posed this question on a discussion thread in Group Beyond Blue, too. My therapist friend, Elvira Aletta, gives us yet 10 more tips in her Psych Central blog post, “Ten More Ways to Lower Anxiety,” which is a sequel to an excellent post I featured the other day: “10 Ways to Lower Anxiety and Find Empowerment.”


Skimming through Real Simple magazine at the check out line of the supermarket, I came across Dr. Robert Leahy’s article “10 Ways to Cope with Anxiety.” Dr. Leahy is the director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy and the author of many books on the subject. His suggestions will help you calm your nerves:

1. Repeat your worry until you’re bored silly.

“…take the troublesome thought that’s nagging at you and say it over and over, silently, slowly, for 20 minutes. It’s hard to keep your mind on a worry if you repeat it that many times.”


Dr. Leahy calls this technique “the boredom cure.” Behavioral scientists call it ‘flooding’. I’m not so keen about this technique for my extremely anxious patients who are having trouble regulating their thoughts and emotions. If your anxiety is on the milder side, however, and you have the courage to do this, I recommend you think about your worries while practicing relaxation techniques to keep your body as calm as possible.

2. Make it worse.

“When you try too hard to control your anxieties, you only heighten them. Instead exaggerate them and see what happens.”

This is a good one. When I suggest it to my patients I call it the ‘Bring it on’ technique or ‘Fake it ’til you make it’. By inviting what scares you, you learn on your time that you can survive your fears instead of waiting to be bushwhacked by them.


Sports psychologists use this all the time. When I was terrified my horse would shy and dump me on the ground, my coach told me to stop trying to keep my mare from bolting. Instead she told me expect her to shy, to look forward to it. That attitude helped me relax and so did the horse.

3. Don’t fight the craziness.

“You may…have thoughts that lead you to think you’ll do something terrible…or that you’re going insane… Remember – our minds are creative…every now and then ‘crazy’ thoughts jump out. Everyone has them.”

In the weeks after my first child was born, when I was exhausted, sleep deprived and in the grips of baby blues, I had thoughts of throwing my screaming baby out the window. Those thoughts terrified me. Tearfully, I confessed my horrible thoughts to my mother who shrugged and said, “We all think something like that at some time. You didn’t act on it, did you?” She assured me I wasn’t crazy. I could relax.


My patients are sometimes surprised when I suggest they allow themselves to imagine doing something outrageous like throwing a banana cream pie at their nasty boss’s puss. Unleashing our creative minds may be just what we need to de-stress.

4. Recognize false alarms.

“Many thoughts and sensations that we interpret as cues for concern-even panic-are just background noise. Think of each of them [rapid heart beat, tensing of muscles] as a fire engine going to another place.”

5. Turn your anxiety into a movie.

“..imagine that your anxious thoughts are a show… while you sit in the audience, eating popcorn, a calm observer.”

This is a good way to exercise ‘detachment,’ stepping outside of the anxiety just enough to keep your thinking brain working. Another technique I suggest is to imagine the worry happening to a friend, not you. Then imagine talking to your friend. What would you say to them? How can you be supportive?


6. Set aside worry time.

“Try setting aside 20 minutes everyday-let’s say 4:30 PM-just for your worries. If you are fretting at 10 AM, jot down the reason and resolve to think about it later. By the time 4:30 comes around, many of your troubles won’t even matter anymore.”

7. Take your hand off the horn.

“When you desperately try to take command of things that can’t be controlled, you’re more like the swimmer who panics and slaps the water screaming… Instead, imagine that you are floating along on the water with your arms spread out…It’s a paradox, but when you surrender to the moment, you actually feel far more in control.”


8. Breathe it out.

“Focusing on breathing is a common but effective technique for calming the nerves.”

This a classic, oldy, but goody. If you do it right, deep, mindful breathing is better than Valium.

9. Make peace with time.

“Every feeling of panic comes to an end, every concern eventually wears itself out, every so-called emergency seems to evaporate.”

When we are in the midst of a panic attack we feel it will last forever or else we will die. Remembering the fact that panic attacks and anxiety in milder form is finite, usually not lasting more than ten minutes. Dr. Leahy also counsels:

“Ask yourself, ‘How will I feel about this in a week or a month?’ This one, too, really will pass.”


10. Don’t let your worries stop you from living your life.

“What can you still do even if you feel anxious? Almost anything.”

Not all anxiety is bad. Keep in mind that some highly productive people transform their anxiety into motivation to do better and achieve much, both great and small.

To read all of Dr. Leahy’s article click here or look for it in the October 2009 issue of Real Simple magazine.

This article was originally published on Explore What’s Next.


For more on anxiety read:

10 Steps to Lower Anxiety and Find Empowerment

What Is Anxiety?

Understanding the Anxious Mind

Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, wife, and mom to two teenagers seeking the balance in Amherst, New York. To learn more about Dr. Aletta and Explore What’s Next, visit her website.

  • stephen

    Thanks for the post explaining he possible remedies to disable anxiety. I also suffer from the same problem and I hope that the tips would help me calm anxiety.

  • kate

    This is a good article , thanks for sharing.
    I like the part about being able to work with rather than against anxiety.

  • Marie

    Hi, Therese –
    Another version of #1 (Repeat your worry . . . ) is to tell your story/fear to someone else — make sure to be as dramatic as possible with descriptive words and dramatic emotions . . .
    Then, when you’ve told every detail you can think to tell, start back over from the top and tell the entire story again . . . make sure to include as much drama and vivid descriptions . . . every detail . .
    Then, when you’ve told every detail you can think to tell, start back over . . .
    About the third or fourth of fifth time you tell the story, it starts to become a bit silly.
    This is even better if the story-teller doesn’t know the tactic and the listener does . . . and the listener encourages the teller to start over . . . it allows a lightbulb to come on in the head of the teller . .
    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  • Your Name

    I just found this blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I so need it.

  • Betty

    My anxiety is one that makes me feel like my nerves are full of electriciy. I can’t sleep, can’t sit still, I am up pacing. I try to relax, I use the breathing method, but it doesn’t seem to help. Right now nothing seems to help. I usually have to let it run it’s course, but that could be days, and I do mean days. Can you or anybody help me with this problem?

  • Your Name

    To Betty I went to a mental health professional and receive a prescription for medication which I only use when I cant seem to control my anxiety.A low dose helped me and also some consueling.Why dont you speak to your M.D.and let him guide you.C.D.

  • marymargaret

    Betty, you are helping yourself just by coming here…relaxing the mind is elusive yet attainable…All the best

  • http://2020-reviews.cAm/panicattack/ Anxiety Panic Attacks

    I had fun reading this refresing and thought provoking topic. Thanks.

  • saffron06

    There is another word for anxiety and that is fear. Fear to the point that you cannot control it. This is the time to ask for help. It would seem a simple matter to just remove the immediate problem; however it does not solve the root problem. Money, relationships, work related chaos and children are examples of triggers for fear but what do these mean in relation to the real you inside? Try this, every time you experience a wave of anxiety….picture yourself kneeling on the earth with your palms touching the earth too and say “Thank You Mother Earth for your healing power”. Now imagine that you are releasing this anxious energy from your hands into the earth and know that the earth will nuetrilize this excess energy. Imagine this as many times as you need in order to feel relief. Take a deep breath and now call a qualified health professional. You can do this exercise even if you have already taken medicine. Know that earth has life growing potential and can absorb energy in a responsible way. Peace to all

  • Eric Lorentzen

    I understand your “anxiety”. I pace, ruminate, grind my teeth, panic, tap my fingers and feet, rock, and some others I can’t remember. Things that help me are:
    medication taken regularly over a period of time, group therapy, meditation, and snapping a rubber band on my wrist to interrupt the behavior. Good luck.

  • Sutra

    I have been struggling with Anxiety for many years and have not really found a good technique to deal with or reduce my stress level including the ones mentoning What im trying now is what they call the “mindfullness” thinking. In short this is de-attaching from your braing (thoughts), emotion, past and the future and just focusing on the presence. I have found this together with medication to be the most effective treatment. Good luck to all you out there that has anxiety problems.

  • Nikki

    Hello all….I have suffered with anxiety for about 20 years. I came across a website that may help. I am thinking about purchasing the program which isn’t too expensive. In the meantime, the guy, Geert, who puts together the programs can periodically send you videos and emails that pertain to the program. I’ve already received useful info just from these emails. The website is
    I hope this can help some people. He really does have some good advice. Best wishes:)

  • Anxiety Remedy

    Great post. Thank you for the excellent info on anxiety. Don’t accept another day living anything but the life you deserve. Discover the most effective natural supplement for anxiety. Also, benefit from a massive scientific library on all anxiety related topics including the best natural anxiety remedy by visiting us today.

  • Jill

    Some interesting tips in this article. Some may think some of them are crazy to try but they have their merits. I could see them working if you have an open mind and actually try them. I especially like tips 9 an 10 when it come to anxiety treatment. Get out there and live.

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