banner image

9 Anxiety Coping Skills (How to Manage Anxiety)

How to manage anxiety, anxiety signs and symptoms, panic attack vs anxiety attack Stellar insight counseling services Alaska therapyImage Caption: Lego guy disassembled

How to Manage Anxiety (+ 9 Coping Skills)

Let’s talk anxiety.

Modern humans have a complicated relationship with anxiety.

Anxiety used to help keep humans alive through rational fears of snakes or bears, fueling an adrenaline rush should we need to instantly bolt away from danger.

But in the modern era as humans live among concrete and buildings, the “need” for anxiety has lessened.

Picture of street and buildings in Anchorage, Alaska. Anxiety therapist Stellar Insight CounselingImage Caption: street lined with buildings at night in Anchorage, AK 

“Normal” levels of anxiety in the modern era may still include the anxiety of bear attacks (I notice my own “bear-anoia” every spring while hiking in Alaska); or public speaking.

Black bear climbing a tree. coping skills for anxiety and how to manage anxiety; therapist in Alaska

This page provides general information and is not a diagnostic assessment or tool. This information may be used for general self-improvement purposes but is not intended to be used as medical advice.

If you are concerned about an anxiety related disorder, seek consultation with a mental health care professional or your primary care provider to discuss diagnosis and treatment.

(Anxiety is treatable, by the way!)

What is Anxiety?

While anxiety used to help our ancestors, it doesn’t tend to feel as helpful today. Anxiety can be debilitating, frustrating, exhausting, and even frightening.

Anxiety presents as a few forms and names including:

  • Social Anxiety

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Panic attacks / Panic Disorder

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Perinatal and/or Postpartum Anxiety

  • Agoraphobia

egg with an anxious face drawn on it. how to manage anxiety; what does anxiety feel like

Common signs and symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Racing heartbeat (also known as heart palpitations)

  • Dizziness, feeling faint

  • Sweaty (many people report sweaty palms)

  • Upset stomach, nausea

  • Uncontrollable worry

  • Change in sleep patterns or quality of sleep

  • Intrusive thoughts

  • Shortness of breath

  • Tightness in chest

What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

Considering those symptoms above, we can begin to understand that anxiety feels intense.

Anxiety is not "just inside your head," as the dismissive myth goes. 

Anxiety is often somatic; meaning it affects the body.

Symptoms of anxiety typically show up as uncomfortable or distressing body sensations.

Certain situations tend to make people anxious such as worrying before a big test, an upcoming work deadline, or a job interview.

Those types of worries alone do not indicate someone has an anxiety as a "disorder" that would be diagnosed by a mental health professional.

signs and symptoms of anxiety; what does anxiety feel like; therapy for anxiety Alaska online telehealth

Anxiety disorders can be so physically overwhelming that the symptoms can be mistaken for a heart attack (which is frightening and can serve as more fuel for anxiety).

Anxiety can also look like a near-constant feeling of undue worry or guilt; anxiety can range from mild to severe.

Anxiety symptoms can last for a few minutes or a few hours.

Being able to know for certain if you are feeling anxious for a passing situation or if you are experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be difficult; so it’s best to consult with your healthcare providers.

gentle ocean wave and light orange sunset. how to manage anxiety; anxiety therapist alaska online in-person therapy

Panic Attacks vs. Anxiety Attacks

A lot of people ask me this question: what is the difference between panic attacks and anxiety attacks?

Panic attacks are a symptom of Panic Disorder, which is a diagnosis in the DSM-5. If you wish to learn more about Panic Disorder specifically, I’d recommend starting with this link: Signs and Symptoms of Panic Disorder

“Anxiety attack” is a common phrase used among Americans which typically refers to an episode of anxiety symptoms.

“Anxiety attacks” are not a diagnosis, but a term to describe an elevated state or experience of anxiety, or anxiety symptoms.

How Does Therapy Help with Anxiety?

Therapy works to decrease anxiety by teaching people how to identify triggers for anxiety, increase awareness of the body-mind connection, using coping skills, and “grounding” work.

(Not sure how to find a therapist or how to start therapy? Read here: 5 Steps to Find a Therapist)

There are a number of evidence-based treatments that can decrease anxiety symptoms including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

CBT is the gold standard for treating anxiety; learn more about how CBT treats Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Social Anxiety, and phobias here.

[bonus: CBT can work well for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), too]

White man standing next to boxes labeled, "work," "break up," "deadline," "anxiety," "problems," "stress". anxiety therapy alaska online

One thing I notice in my work with clients is that anxiety rarely exists by itself.

Anxiety often co-occurs with other issues such as depression, ADHD, Autism, substance misuse, chronic pain, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, hoarding disorder, sleep disorders, and more.

Always seek advice and support from your primary care provider or a mental health professional if you suspect you have anxiety.

If you notice you need new ways to help soothe an anxious brain and body, here are 9 coping skills:

1. Play with a Pet

gray kitten held in someones hand. coping skills for anxiety

Do you have a cat? Dog? Lizard? Goat? Peacock? Cow? Horse? Pony? Chicken? A pet rock? 

Whatever your choice in the pet department, pets can be a great source of stress reduction and an opportunity to practice mindfulness.

Plus… pets are adorable. And they probably want your attention anyways!

2. Dance

Dancing is a fantastic regulation activity. 

Move your body and release that anxiety energy! Blast whatever song gets you moving. Here are a few examples for dance inspiration:

neon green light spelling out DANCE in a at the end of a wooden hall. Dance for anxiety; coping skills for anxiety

3. Whistling

This is a fun way to focus on your breath. Whistle out your best tune or that new song you heard recently.

(if you don’t whistle at night, try another coping skill when it’s dark)

dog wearing a whistle around its neck. coping skills for anxiety; how to manage anxiety; anxiety therapist Anchorage, AK

4. Reach for Your Favorite Rock

If you don’t already have a favorite rock, you can always find a cool new rock.

amethyst geodes. coping skills for anxiety

Focus on the weight, texture, temperature, and colors of the rock.

5. Listen to Music

Dancing may not be an option at any given time for everyone, but listening to music is one of the most common coping skills my clients use.

Music for anxiety. picture of headphones. coping skills for anxiety; online therapist anxiety Alaska Stellar Insight Counseling

Listen to your favorite song or a song that reminds you of peace. Or a song that rocks so hard you can’t ignore it.

If you play an instrument, try having a jam sesh.

(Have you tried an anxiety-induced Paganini practice session?)

white head phones on sheet music. music for anxiety. anxiety coping skills

Music is an effective way to help reduce symptoms of anxiety

6. Go For a Walk or Hike

Moving your body is a great way to reduce anxiety (and stress). 

Walk around your house, block, neighborhood, or go for a hike: whichever is the most realistic option.

Try to focus on how each step feels.

woman overlooking the view from the side of a mountain. Hike or walk for anxiety. Anxiety coping skills. Outdoor therapy for anxiety

7. Make a Craft: Crochet, Draw, Use Clay, or Paint

Have you ever tried drawing your anxiety on paper? Or painting out your feelings? It can be quite cathartic!

Whether you use clay to fidget and craft with or pencils to sketch, do what you find relaxing.

stainless steel containers filled with pencils, brushes, scissors, rulers, and other crafting supplies. coping skills for anxiety Alaska

8. Deep Breathing

If you’ve been to therapy before you’ve likely heard your therapist speak about deep breathing exercises. 

And for good reason, breath-work gets results!

Here is a video that explains how deep breathing calms your nervous system

Senior white man and woman sitting cross legged outside focusing on their breath. coping skills for anxiety how to manage anxiety

9. Run Your Wrists Under Cold Water

Or, if you live in a northern climate, dunk your face into the snow. The goal is to focus on a sensation instead of anxious thoughts.

Black cat covered in light snowflakes. coping skills for anxiety

Those are 9 Tips to Manage Anxiety.

Feel free to experiment with each idea too; get creative! 

Maybe you don’t have snow, but you have access to ice in your freezer. Perhaps you don’t have paint and a canvas, but you have that old coloring book in your bookshelf waiting for your zest.

Work with what you have!

If you live in Alaska and are looking for a therapist, give me a call about scheduling a free initial consultation.

Some levels of anxiety are normal but if you suspect anxiety may be negatively interfering with your day-to-day activities, therapy can help. 

You don’t have to always feel “on-edge” or fatigued from an overactive nervous system.

Anxiety can be distressing and limit people from living their fullest lives. The good news is that anxiety is treatable: psychotherapy can decrease symptoms of anxiety.

Resources for people with anxiety:

light orange sky reflecting off gentle water. coping skills for anxiety; how to manage anxiety

About the Author: 

Nicole is a pre-licensed psychotherapist under supervision of psychologist and board-approved supervisor Dr. Hannah Ekstrom (#196093, #125200).White woman wearing a brown and blue cardigan; Stellar Insight CounselingImage Caption: Image of Nicole, a white woman, smiling and wearing a brown and blue cardigan while standing in front of a book shelf and plants. 

Nicole holds a master's degree in clinical psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

Nicole offers individual and group therapy to Alaskans via telehealth and outdoor walking therapy in Anchorage, AK. 

Read more about Nicole and the services she provides here.


Foldes-Busque, G., Denis, I., Poitras, J., Fleet, R. P., Archambault, P., & Dionne, C. E. (2019). A closer look at the relationships between panic attacks, emergency department visits and non-cardiac chest pain. Journal of health psychology, 24(6), 717–725.

Harney, C., Johnson, J., Bailes, F., & Havelka, J. (2023). Is music listening an effective intervention for reducing anxiety? A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled studies. Musicae Scientiae, 27(2), 278-298.

Kaczkurkin, A. N., & Foa, E. B. (2015). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: an update on the empirical evidence. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 17(3), 337–346.

How does deep breathing impact the brain? Learn from a neuroscientist