mental health

People Tell Us the Weirdly Helpful Things They Do for Their Anxiety

"It's a tiny achievement that reminds me I'm capable, even when my brain says I'm not."
May 20, 2020, 2:10am
Image: Unsplash

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 300 million people globally have an anxiety disorder. Thankfully, anxiety disorders are highly treatable, with most sufferers seeing steady improvement with a combination of therapy, medication, meditation, and/or exercise. But everyone has their own unique ways of coping, too—things you won't find in the textbooks. We asked people to tell us theirs.


"I have a collection of complicated knots made out of thickish string, and I sit down undo them one-by-one. It gradually calms my breathing because I totally zone out, and have something benign to focus on."
- Alice, 28 "I scour secondhand sites for vintage vases. They're affordable and cute, so it's like a small treat for myself. Plus going through the listings is kind of a boring, nothing activity that I can channel my nervous energy into."
- Kathryn, 23 "This might actually make some people's anxiety worse, so be careful, but I go somewhere with a clear view of the sky and stare at the stars while breathing really slowly. It reminds me how insignificant I am. Like, fretting about a rude conversation at work is so nothing, when you're reminded how tiny and temporary you are."
- Jack, 36


"I bake. There's something about the methodical steps involved, followed by actually having something to show for my efforts. It's a tiny achievement that reminds me I'm capable, even when my brain tells me I'm really not."
- Lynda, 29 "I go around my neighbourhood and look for small, colourful flowers. Then I arrange them in a vase. I find it pretty hard to make myself go for a walk, even though I know it helps me when I'm anxious to be outside. This sort of tricks me into doing it, by setting a task."
- Aarav, 26 "I see if my grandma wants a technology tutorial. The last one was Zoom. Helping her to connect with people makes me feel good, and it requires heaps of attention to make her understand things, which means I can't focus on what's currently spiking my anxiety."
- Liam, 22


"Gregorian chant! There's loads online, and honestly I barely even know its history—I think it has Catholic origins? But there's something so soothing about it. I first came across it on a 'calming' playlist, and now it's one of my go-tos when I'm getting bad."
-Chunhua, 31

"I lie down on the floor—in the kitchen, or wherever. Excuse the pun, but it's an incredibly simple way for me to feel grounded. I think standing up and moving around makes it hard to get control over my anxiety, because I feel like I should be getting things done, and yet I can't focus. So I go around in circles. This puts a stop to that."
- Rachel, 35