How To Control Anxiety – 10 Tools for Managing Stress

Author:  Stephanie Camins – MA, LPC  

verified by Psychology Today

How many times have you heard the phrases chill out, find your happy place, let it go, it could be worse,

how to control anxietyor seen workshops for stress management or anger management. We are flooded with information on how we should manage our feelings of stress, anxiety, panic, fear, depression and anger. All of these messages can be overwhelming and confusing. This tool box for managing stress gives you 10 straight forward steps to resolve these difficult feelings, overcome anxiety and increase satisfaction in your life.

Use Your Mind to change your negative thinking

1.  Stop focusing on negatives and start focusing on positives.

2.  Thought Stopping – To disrupt the chain of negative thoughts in your mind use a distraction, say out loud “stop” or say “stop” and snap a rubber band on your wrist.

3.  Use positive self- statements to replace the negatives:

-“I do the best I can.”

-“I am satisfied with who I am.”

-“I’m in control of my life.”

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Use your body to reduce physical agitation

4.  Deep Breathing

-“Belly Breathing”- lay on your back putting one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take a deep breath in until the hand on your belly rises. You may need to practice moving the air past your chest all the way to your diaphragm. If only the hand over your chest rises you are not breathing deeply enough.

-“7-2-7 Breathing” – Inhale for 7 seconds, hold your breath for 2 seconds, exhale for 7 seconds.

5.  Visualization – Close your eyes and imagine a place that you are safe, calm and content. Include all five senses in your visualization. What do you see, smell, hear, feel and taste.

6.  Progressive Muscle Relaxation – As you are lying down, focus on each muscle group starting at your feet and moving progressively up to your face. Tense and relax each muscle group for 7 seconds. Hold the tension for 7 seconds then relax the muscle group for 7 seconds. Move up to the next muscle group and the next until you’ve completed each muscle group.

7.  Focal Meditation – Choose an object such as a lit candle, a tree, or a stream. It helps if the object has some inherent movement. Set a timer and focus on the movement of the object for 5 minutes. Let any thoughts that enter your mind pass through as you focus only on the movement of the object.

8.  Physical Activity – Walk, Stretch, Dance, etc.

9.  Biofeedback  – Using a heart rate monitor such a fit bit, vivo, etc., in times of stress when you notice your heart rate is elevated above what is normal for you; take deep breaths until the number reaches your normal

10.  Schedule Downtime – Allow no less than 15 minutes in your schedule every day for relaxation. That can include reading, soaking in the tub, drawing, sitting in the sunshine. NO screen time.

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We all agree that stress, anxiety, depression and anger are a part of life. However, if ongoing, these emotional states have a detrimental impact on our emotional and physical health. It takes a commitment of time and effort to learn and incorporate these coping skills into our daily lives to head off the consequences of lingering and long term negative emotions. Practicing these skills daily will improve your mood, your relationships and your overall health.

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PTSD Screening Tool

This screening tool will help you determine if you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.  This tool is not intended to diagnose PTSD but to serve as a reference to discuss with a counselor or primary care provider.  This assessment is entirely confidential and the results will be emailed to you.

Below is a list of problems associated with stressful and/or traumatic events.  Indicate using the 1-5 scale of severity how much you have been bothered by the problem in the past month:

1. Repeated, disturbing memories, thoughts, or images of a stressful experience from the past.
2. Repeated, disturbing dreams of a stressful experience from the past.
3. Suddenly acting or feeling as if a stressful experience were happening again (as if you were reliving it).
4. Feeling very upset when something reminded you of a stressful experience from the past.
5. Having physical reactions (e.g., heart pounding, trouble breathing, sweating) when something reminded you of a stressful experience from the past.
6. Avoiding thinking about or talking about a stressful experience from the past or avoiding having feelings related to it.
7. Avoiding activities or situations because they reminded you of a stressful experience from the past.
8. Trouble remembering important parts of a stressful experience from the past.
9. Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy.
10. Feeling distant or cut off from other people.
11. Feeling emotionally numb or being unable to have loving feelings for those close to you.

Feeling as if your future will somehow be cut short.


Trouble falling or staying asleep.


Feeling irritable or having angry outbursts.


Having difficulty concentrating.


Being "super-alert" or watchful or on guard.


Feeling jumpy or easily startled.

This is not intended to diagnose or to replace the care of a health care professional.  This is a screening measure to help you determine whether you might have Post Traumatic Stress disorder.   Source: Weathers FW, et al. (1994). PCL-C for DSM-IV. Boston: National Center for PTSD, Behavioral Science Division. 

CO-OCCURRING DISORDERS PROGRAM: SCREENING AND ASSESSMENT.  Document is in the public domain. Duplicating this material for personal or group use is permissible.

Email required to send results.