May 14, 2024

The Anxiety Toolkit: 5 Proven Strategies for Managing Anxiety in Daily Life

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Imagine: You’re out at dinner with friends, but you’re struggling to be present. Your mind keeps wandering, racing with thoughts and worries about work tomorrow, that weird Hinge date from last night, and when you’ll possibly find the time this week to get to the gym. You repeatedly glance down at your phone under the table to see if you got a work email, a text from last night’s date, or a social media notification about your latest post. Somehow, a dinner that was supposed to be fun, an escape from the stress of the day, hasn’t provided you with any relief at all. Instead, you feel distracted and unable to let yourself relax. If this sounds familiar, know that you’re not alone – anxiety seems to find its way into the lives of young and professional women in NYC.

The reality is that being anxious in today’s world is entirely understandable. Between the pressure to succeed at work, advance your career, maintain a social life, navigate the dating scene, and keep up with the latest trends on social media, it feels impossible to stay on top of everything all the time. You’re faced with a never-ending cycle of to-do lists and deadlines, and you feel pressure to not only do it all but to do it all and make it look easy. When you think about it like that, it’s no surprise that anxiety has become a daily struggle.

While a certain amount of stress is unavoidable, especially in a city like New York where hustling and chaos are a part of daily life, chronic anxiety isn’t sustainable. The constant worrying and overthinking is exhausting, and it limits your ability to relax and enjoy experiences that are supposed to be fun.

My approach as a NYC Anxiety Therapist

As a NYC anxiety therapist, I work with many young and professional adults who struggle with anxiety, and I want you to know that you don’t have to just “deal with it” or live with those racing thoughts and feelings of dread. Anxiety doesn’t have to be your new normal –it’s actually very manageable when you have the right toolkit of strategies and techniques.

In this post, we’ll explore five strategies you can use to help manage your anxiety. These anxiety coping strategies will help you to gain better control over your emotions, feel less overwhelmed and overstimulated, and enjoy life’s pleasurable moments in the way you deserve. Hopefully, these strategies will become your go-to toolkit for navigating your anxiety in the chaos of NYC life.

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Strategy 1: Mindfulness and Mediation

When you’re anxious, it’s difficult to feel grounded and centered because an anxious mind veers toward worries about the future or dwells unproductively on the past. So, in those moments when your thoughts are spinning about that upcoming deadline, or the party tomorrow night that you’re dreading, or the weird text you got from your friend, mindfulness and meditation can be really helpful. By intentionally focusing on breathwork, bodily sensations, or your immediate surroundings, you can interrupt the cycle of anxious thoughts and find a sense of calm.

Meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness. There are even apps that offer guided meditations and mindfulness exercises, like Calm or Headspace. They offer brief, 5-10-minute exercises, which is ideal if you have a busy schedule. Experiment and find what works for you to add to your everyday self-care routine.

If meditation or the apps aren’t for you, there are other ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. It can be as simple as taking a few minutes each morning to practice deep breathing exercises, body scans, or mindful stretching. Or, you can try adding mindfulness into your routine through your regular, everyday tasks. Anything can be done mindfully – commuting, doing laundry, cooking. Instead of zoning out, focus on what you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel – be in touch with your senses and what’s going on around you in the moment. Anxiety and mindfulness can’t coexist, so the more you can practice intentionally living in the present moment, the less anxious you will feel.

Mindfulness is about bringing your attention to the present moment with kindness and curiosity. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated. Even small moments of mindfulness throughout the day can make a big difference in reducing anxiety and stress.

Strategy 2: Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is a fancy way to describe the process of changing the way that you think. When it comes to anxiety, the goal is to challenge your anxious way of thinking and reframe the pesky worry thoughts that don’t seem to go away. In a sense, cognitive restructuring for anxiety is like playing detective: you gather all the evidence against your anxious thoughts, consider alternative perspectives, and challenge the thought with facts.

Instead of letting your mind run wild with the “what if” thoughts, you can start asking yourself questions like “Is there any evidence to back up this worry?” or “Have I been through this before and come out okay?” Managing your anxiety this way is about detecting flawed thinking and reframing the anxious thought with rational alternatives.

Let’s say you’re anxious about a first date tomorrow night. You’re thinking, “What if it’s awkward? What if I say the wrong thing and embarrass myself?” The reality is, you actually have no evidence to prove that these things will happen. They might, but they also might not, and if they do happen, it might not be so bad.

Restructuring your thoughts

Try restructuring your thoughts to sound more like this: “Some awkwardness is normal on a first date, I’ve gotten through that before (and it actually made for a great story to tell my friends). If there are some weird pauses, I can redirect the conversation. If I have an embarrassing moment, that just makes me human.

My date might not think twice about it, he’s probably embarrassed himself before too. It’s possible that we’d even laugh about it.”

Cognitive restructuring for anxiety takes practice, but once you start identifying those anxious thoughts and replacing them with more realistic ones, you’ll feel like you have more control over your anxiety.

Notice when you get hooked on those unhelpful, worst-case scenarios, and then challenge yourself. You’ll start to realize that anxious thoughts aren’t facts or predictions, they are just false alarms.

Strategy 3: Journaling and Expressive Writing

Another strategy to add to your toolkit for managing anxiety is journaling and expressive writing. Journaling gives you a chance to put your anxious thoughts on paper, which can be incredibly freeing. Plus, by writing about your experiences, you can start to spot patterns and triggers that might be fueling your anxiety, which can help you come up with better ways to cope.

If you don’t know where to start, try:

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  • Expressive writing: Just let it all out—no filters, no judgment. Write whatever comes to mind, whether it’s a rant about a stressful day or a stream-of-consciousness on how you’re feeling.
  • Gratitude journaling: Jot down things you’re thankful for each day. Focusing on the good stuff can actually help shift your perspective and boost your mood.
  • Mindfulness journaling: Write down how you’re feeling after a mindfulness exercise, or what you observe with your senses- what you see, hear, smell, feel, taste.
  • Structured/guided journaling: Use a prompt to help structure your writing, and focus on a specific feeling or experience. This could involve writing a letter to someone but not sending it, or identifying and describing times you overcame a specific challenge.

As for prompts, if you’re stuck, try thinking about:

  1. “What’s one thing that’s worrying me right now, and why?”
  2. “What’s something small that brought me joy today?”
  3. “What do I feel right now, what do I notice around me?”
  4. “If I wrote a letter to my anxious self, what would I want to say?”
  5. “What are some examples of times I have overcome stressful situations in the past?”

Whether it’s through expressive writing, gratitude journaling, or something else entirely, journaling can be a game-changer when it comes to managing anxiety and taking care of your mental health.

Strategy 4: Physical Exercise and Movement

Working out, or physical activity in any form is one of the best natural remedies for anxiety. When you engage in physical activity, your brain releases endorphins, which are chemicals that promote feelings of happiness and well-being. Regular exercise can also help reduce symptoms of anxiety (and depression, too) by promoting better sleep, increasing self-esteem, and providing a healthy outlet for managing stress.

For many, that stress comes from work, which can be all-consuming. It takes up most of your time, you spend all week primarily indoors at a desk, and the thought of making time to both exercise and be social, on top of everything else you have to do, seems impossible.

Physical activity serves as a benefit for all of the workaholics out there because it encourages a much-needed change of scenery! It also serves as a forced “pause” or step back from work. Physical activity can be social. Whether it’s a workout class or a walk with a friend, there are ways to get your endorphin high and combat isolation, all in one fell swoop. So, in addition to physiological benefits and mood improvements, it can be a place for both human connection and a change of pace, which we all need!

Here are some suggestions for how to incorporate physical exercise and movement into your daily life:

  • Find Activities You Enjoy: Whether it’s dancing, running, yoga, or playing a sport, choose something that you actually like doing – you’re more likely to stick to it if it’s something you like!
  • Make it Social: Be active or exercise with friends to make it more interesting and motivating.
    Get it on the Calendar: If you’re really busy, and exercise always moves to the bottom of your to-do list, booking a workout class in advance or blocking off time on your calendar ahead of time can be helpful.
  • Incorporate Exercise into Daily Tasks: Look for opportunities to add movement throughout your day! Take the stairs instead of the elevator, do stretching exercises while watching TV, go for a walk to pick up food, instead of having it delivered.

Strategy 5: Time Management and Organization

The hustle culture in NYC makes you feel like you’re constantly juggling too many obligations. When you’re feeling pulled in too many different directions and don’t have a plan for how to accomplish everything, it can feel overwhelming and suffocating. Days begin to feel like a whirlwind of deadlines, work calls, and appointments, and there’s somehow never time to get everything checked off the to-do list. The loop of thoughts like “how am I going to get everything done?” and “I need more hours in the day” is draining, and can develop into feelings of dread and anxiety about the day ahead.

If this sounds familiar to you, then it won’t come as a surprise that having a time management system in place is a game changer. As opposed to living in a constant state of overwhelm, you can give yourself a framework for how to get through the busy, chaotic day that causes you to feel anxious.

Here are some tips that are helpful when it comes to time management for anxiety:

  • Schedule it in: Map out dedicated windows of time for work, exercise, social life – everything you have going on. This helps you stay organized, and can also help with setting boundaries.
  • Tackle your to-do’s: Put your thoughts on paper (or on your Notes app) and into list form. This helps to visualize what you have to accomplish and gives you an actionable list that you can refer to during the day when you feel overwhelmed, or like you don’t know what to do next.
    Segment your schedule: Group similar tasks together and tackle them in designated blocks of time.
  • By focusing on one type of task at a time, like responding to emails or making phone calls, you can minimize distractions and the need for mental context switching.
    Prioritize what matters: Sometimes, it’s not realistic to get everything checked off your list in one day. Make sure you’re focusing on the tasks that really can’t wait until tomorrow.
  • Jumpstart your day: Create a productive morning routine that you can stick to. The thought of waking up any earlier than you need to probably isn’t appealing. However, taking advantage of that time before work to get prepared for your day can make you feel more in control of your time.
  • Give yourself a break! Burnout is real, and sometimes the most productive thing you can do for yourself is to relax and recharge.
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The goal is to approach each day with intentionality, rather than feeling overwhelmed by various obligations. You should feel in control of how you’re allocating your time and energy, and this will help reduce your feelings of anxiety.

Creating Your Own Personal Toolkit for Anxiety

Arming yourself with the knowledge and tools to help manage your anxiety is especially important in a whirlwind city like New York. The competing priorities, pressure of work, and social obligations become a constant juggling act, and it’s exhausting. As a therapist for anxiety, I have seen firsthand the many ways that anxiety impacts people’s daily lives. I’ve also witnessed individuals like yourself experience the transformation from feeling overwhelmed by anxiety to feeling in control of your own mind and emotions.

The strategies in this blog are a great starting point if you’re not sure where to begin on your journey towards managing anxiety. If you struggle with intrusive, anxious thoughts, challenge yourself: restructure your thoughts and embrace the facts. If you have trouble slowing down, being present, or feeling like your mind is constantly racing, experiment with time management strategies. You can also try techniques like mindfulness and meditation – this can be very grounding and calming. Similarly, journaling and physical activity are great outlets for those who need a forced break or a moment of calm in the midst of a hectic day.

Advocating for what works best for you

All of these strategies are merely guidelines and suggestions because at the end of the day, anxiety management is about finding what works best for you and determining what you can realistically incorporate into your routine. Having your own anxiety toolkit, no matter what it looks like, is a step towards taking control of your life, and not letting anxiety call the shots.

If you need extra support, consider reaching out to a mental health professional such as a therapist for anxiety. You don’t have to tackle your anxiety alone. At Gold Therapy NYC, our therapy for anxiety in NYC is a great place to explore your feelings and develop self-awareness and anxiety-coping strategies. Knowing yourself is ultimately the best tool you can have.

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Finding the Right Support

I know that taking the leap and starting therapy can feel daunting, so I applaud you for considering it as the next step. If you do make the brave decision to begin anxiety therapy, it’s important to have the right anxiety therapist there to support you in your journey.

At Gold Therapy NYC, our anxiety therapists are dedicated to helping you regain control of your life. As New Yorkers, we understand that living here comes with unique challenges and anxieties that leave you feeling overwhelmed or out of control. You shouldn’t feel overrun by your anxiety, we want to equip you with personalized tools and strategies that you can use in your everyday life to feel more in control of all of the chaos and stress around you.

  1. Book a Consult with us.
  2. Learn more about our therapy services.
  3. Discover your own anxiety toolkit in therapy for anxiety!

Other Therapy Services Offered at Gold Therapy NYC

You’re goal-oriented and want to develop coping strategies to help you better manage your anxiety. However, you might be thinking about addressing other parts of yourself that hold you back from reaching your full potential. At Gold Therapy NYC, we offer a variety of therapy services to meet your specific needs, and we support you to feel more empowered and confident. We offer additional depression therapy, Communication & Boundaries counseling, Self Development & Esteem therapy, and more. Together, we can work towards creating a life that feels fulfilling and authentic to you.