I’ve invited two people from my team to share their spiritual and practical tools for dealing with anxiety.
The first is my chief technology officer (and the host of a podcast about anxiety called Don’t Freak Out), Allison Micco. The second is my editorial director, Katie Karlson.
Alli and Katie are both very open about living with anxiety and skilled in dealing with it. And they offer different perspectives on it. Their spiritual and practical tools will help you deal with anxiety and feel better now!
I invite you to share in the comments about how you deal with anxiety. I hope this will be a really helpful post for everyone. There is no single “right” way to think about or deal with anxiety. I invite you to share your own experience if it feels safe to do so.
Important notes on this blog post
The suggestions we offer below are by no means the be-all, end-all for dealing with anxiety. If your symptoms are not manageable with these spiritual tips, we suggest you work closely with your doctor and/or therapist to create a protocol that works for you.
Another thing I want to mention is that Katie and Alli’s tips and tools are what they have found to work for them. These are spiritual and practical tips for general anxiety, and they may not resonate with everyone. There are different kinds of anxiety and it manifests in different ways, and we don’t cover everything here.
If you are struggling to deal with your anxiety or other mental health symptoms, we recommend you talk to a doctor to come up with a plan that works for you. (There are also more resources at the bottom of this post.)
Before I turn things over, I want to share some important resources. If you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call 911 or go the nearest emergency room right away. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 to talk and find support 24/7.
If you need help with mental health or substance abuse, go to samhsa.gov or call 1-800-662-HELP for free and confidential help available in English or Spanish.
From Allison Micco: Loving your anxiety
Everything I say about the topic of anxiety is rooted in a spiritual perspective. When it comes to anxiety, so often we get caught in this trap: “Anxiety is something terrible that I have to fix. I’m broken, something is wrong and I need to search outside myself for the remedy.”
For most people, this way of thinking is automatically disempowering. I say that we have to love our anxiety and see it as a source of strength.
One of the foundational principles of A Course in Miracles that we are not separate from God, and God is love. Therefore, every single aspect of me has divinity to it and has that essence of love. So if I’m holding that perspective, then I have to look at anxiety as something that is divine.
If anxiety is love, what does it mean? It means there is wisdom, guidance and light in this thing that I have previously seen only as terrible.
If you have ever-present anxiety, it offers you a roadmap to healing. So when you have a panic attack on the subway, or your relationship is giving you anxiety, or you just feel crappy every day, holding this loving perspective helps you to see what in your life isn’t in balance and how to course correct.
Bring awareness to your anxiety by journaling
Bringing awareness to our perceived suffering is so empowering. So often we just get consumed by this feeling of fear without actually bringing attention to what makes up the experience.
Journaling made a big difference for me. When I was consumed with anxiety, I started keeping an anxiety diary. I wrote it in every day. Now I have so much information about what made up my experience and what anxiety looks like for me.
Keeping a journal allows you to see your patterns. As you go back through what you’ve written, you’ll notice certain things keep coming up. For example, maybe you keep getting stuck in a certain fearful thought. Or maybe you always have panic attacks on days when you have a lot of coffee.
Get to know your body and mind
For me, eliminating caffeine, sugar, alcohol and tobacco is one of the best things you can do. They are all stimulants (except alcohol) and they all affect our sense of peace.
If you can eliminate those things, even for 30 days, you will likely see a difference in your overall mood during that time. This space gives us time to re-evaluate our relationship to these things. We have the chance to get to know our body and mind. We learn to trust in the innate wisdom of our body.
Getting rid of sugar has made a big difference for me when it comes to anxiety. When I’m having sugar, I get brain fog. It makes me anxious because I feel disconnected from my body and my environment. The next day I feel like I’m hungover. My mood is unstable and I’m more likely to have a panic attack.
Getting to know your body can be really helpful in getting to the root of your anxiety. Genetic mutations, food allergies, and hormonal and thyroid problems can all trigger anxiety symptoms. Understanding your body’s natural tendencies can lead to freedom. You may want to work with a doctor to understand these potential causes.
On that note, I want to reiterate that if these tools don’t resonate with you, or if you are struggling to manage your anxiety symptoms, please reach out to your doctor.
Reframe your anxious thoughts
On my podcast about anxiety I interviewed Dr. David Carbonell. He wrote a book called The Worry Trick. This is a great book if you have “what-if” thinking, black-and-white thinking and other errors in thinking. This book teaches us how to recognize our errors in thinking and learn how to deal with them.
So much of anxiety is about feeling out of control with your thoughts. But you can actually stop that spiral of negative thinking.
Reframing our thoughts is empowering. I feel this way about my diagnoses, too. I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I am aware of my diagnoses but I’m not attached to them. Recognizing what OCD is, for example, helps me see when OCD comes up. When I’m in the behavior I can say, “Oh, this is OCD. How can I reframe this?” Just by not attaching, I gain so much power and clarity.
While I’m open about my diagnoses, it’s important to know that these are diagnoses I received from medical doctors. I work closely with my doctors to manage my own conditions. I want to encourage anyone who is struggling with symptoms to talk to their doctor as well.
Gradually increase your baseline mood
This is a process of gradually increasing your baseline mood. Once you’re out of the depths of anxiety, you’re so much better equipped to know what takes you out. When you’re just starting to become aware of your anxiety, everything takes you out. But slowly but surely, if you commit to loving your anxiety, you will have so much more information and you can begin healing.
Gabby talks a lot about how subtle shifts add up to radical change. I have found this to be true when it comes to anxiety. When you stick with this type of practice, you might see that your mood is entirely different six months or a year later.
When you choose to love your anxiety and see it as as a source of strength, a whole new world opens up to you.
From Katie Karlson: How can I accept my anxiety?
I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in my twenties, but anxiety has been with me for as long as I can remember. When people ask me what I’m anxious about, I don’t really have an answer. Anxiety is just there. Sometimes it hangs around in the background. Sometimes it’s front and center.
Often my anxiety manifests as a sense of dread. Sometimes I can’t focus and I’m impatient. I also get a lot of physical symptoms, like this fluttery feeling in my chest. My breathing gets shallow. I get a knot in my stomach. Sometimes I start to feel like I’m lifting out of my body.
Before I had a diagnosis to help me understand my anxiety, I felt powerless over it. For a long time I fought my anxiety. I hated it and just wanted to get rid of it. I tried to control everything. I got mad at myself for being anxious. But all of that only manifested more anxiety.
Now I’m much more accepting of it. It might sound paradoxical, but I accept my anxiety while simultaneously not identifying with it so much. It’s something I have. It’s not who I am.
With that in mind, I want to share some amazing tools that help me release anxiety and remember my true nature. One note: In the interest of keeping this blog post readable, I didn’t include everything in my list below. Three things that have helped me a lot are psychotherapy, psychiatry and exercise.
I know that therapy can be difficult to access and expensive. I’ve had a hard time finding therapists in the past. But that struggle helped me to get creative in finding help. Before I had insurance and when money was super tight, I started seeing a therapist at a local social services center. She’s so amazing that I continue to see her four years later. So don’t dismiss community centers and nonprofits that provide free or low-cost care. There are many incredible and dedicated people who work there.
Note: Near the bottom of this post there are some links to check out along these lines.
While the things I offer below are amazing spiritual tools, please do not hesitate to talk to a doctor, therapist or other medical/mental health professional if you need more help.
I learned Transcendental Meditation in 2015 and I’ve never looked back! TM helps me let go of anxiety, stress, anger and anything else that is upsetting me. When I am meditating I feel so calm and connected to source energy. It’s become a daily habit that I can’t imagine living without.
TM was also the catalyst for a major spiritual awakening for me. I was led to know, with total conviction, that I am inextricably and beautifully connected to everyone and everything in the world. This knowing led me to make some significant changes, such as becoming vegan.
Living in accordance with my values has helped lessen my anxiety. I feel much more grounded in life. I feel aligned with bigger missions (both with animal activism and my work with Gabby), which helps me focus my energy on helping others. I’ve also gotten clear about my desires, which has helped me attract more of what I want — like the opportunity to volunteer at SASHA Farm Animal Sanctuary, which is one of the most spiritual places in the world for me. (If you’re curious, this photo is a selfie I took with one of my favorite animals, June Carter Cash, who lives at SASHA.)
Prayer and guided meditations
One of the most powerful things I’ve learned when it comes to anxiety is that I have a lot more power than I think I do. I am not powerless over my anxious thoughts. I can stop that negative momentum. I have divine guidance on my side.
When my thoughts start spiraling into anxiety, I stop myself the moment I notice it. I will literally say, “These thoughts aren’t helpful. I’m done with them.” And then I turn it over. I say a prayer on the spot, asking for help and surrendering to the guidance I receive.
The moment I ask for help and let go, I feel so much relief. Knowing I’m being guided feels so good. I can surrender my worries and anxieties to the Universe. Gabby always says that when you ask for guidance, you get it fast. In my experience this is true 100% of the time.
Mantras to soothe anxiety
Mantras and affirmations really resonate with me, so when I can’t stop anxious thoughts I often turn to one and just keep repeating it to myself, over and over, until I’m calmer. “Sacred love, flow through me now” is one I learned from Dr. Wayne Dyer. That one works miracles for me. Find one that works for you or just make one up in the moment. This is a profoundly powerful way to stop the rush of negative thoughts.
Guided meditations for anxiety
I also practice other forms of meditation. I love Gabby’s guided Yoga Nidra meditation, which you can download free now as part of her four-track meditation album. It’s incredibly relaxing and energizing. This is a great practice to do after work or in the middle of a hectic day if you work from home like I do!
I also like to chant along with “Aad Guray Nameh.” This Kundalini mantra for protection is very comforting and helps you feel centered.
You can also find this song and album on Amazon.
Another meditation to help with anxiety is the Meditation to Prevent Freaking Out. If you like breath work, then try this Kundalini practice. (If breath work tends to rev up your anxiety instead of calm it, then I suggest the “Peace begins with me” Kundalini technique that Gabby breaks down in the Beginner’s Guide to Meditation. It’s #5 in the list.)
Gabby breaks down the Meditation to Prevent Freaking in the video below. (There are also written instructions below.) This practice is in the book Miracles Now, which is a great book to have on hand for lots of tips that help reduce anxiety, stress and fear!
The Kundalini Meditation to Prevent Freaking Out
How to practice the Meditation to Prevent Freaking Out
Pose: Sit comfortably in Easy Pose (cross-legged) with your spine straight.
Hands: Interlace your fingers with your right thumb on top. Place your hands at the center of your diaphragm, lightly touching your body.
Eyes: Gently close your eyes.
Breath: Concentrate on your breath, bringing awareness to the tips of your nostrils. Notice which nostril is dominant right now. It may take a few moments to clarify the dominant nostril. Once you are aware of the dominant nostril, focus your attention on switching sides. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed. You can have pressure in your hands but none in your shoulders.
Continue changing the dominant nostril breath back and forth as long as you like.
Book recommendations for anxiety
Last thing: There have been some books that have helped me a lot when dealing with anxiety.
The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. I recommend getting it both in paperback and audiobook, because Wayne’s voice is incredibly soothing.
Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns was a godsend when I was having a hard time finding a therapist. I’ve read it cover to cover a couple of times. It’s very powerful for depression, but it helped my anxiety as well. Pro tip: Don’t skip the writing exercises!
Judgment Detox! Step 1 alone helped me let go of judgments and resentments that compounded my anxiety. Every practice in the book has helped me to deepen my understanding of our interconnectedness and see others with so much love.
From Gabby: Removing shame from your path to healing
There’s been a lot more conversation around anxiety and mental health in recent years, and some of the old stigma is beginning to fade. These are beautiful developments. But I want to be cognizant of some hurdles many people still face.
The first is that it can be difficult to access mental health care. If you are struggling to find care, there is a really good roundup of resources by Men’s Health that I recommend checking out. You can also go to mentalhealth.gov, The National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
The second hurdle is that while stigma has decreased, it still exists. If you feel judged for struggling with anxiety or any other mental health issue, or if you feel shame around your healing path, I want to recognize that pain. I want to honor you for doing all you can to care for yourself. It takes courage and strength to find help and change habits.
If you struggle with shame or self-judgment around this topic, you may find some relief by practicing EFT. You can tap on judgment with me by watching the video in this blog post on Emotional Freedom Technique. Instead of talking about judging another person (as I do in the video), just substitute “myself.” If you have Judgment Detox then I also suggest following the script for tapping on shame.
Additional resources for anxiety
I hope these tips from Allison and Katie serve you. Remember to share your own tips below if you feel called to comment!
Here are some past blog posts that offer more ways to release anxiety:
- How to Release Anxiety Fast with Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Emotional Freedom Technique: A Guided Video on EFT Tapping to Release Judgment (you can use this to release judgment toward yourself, too)
- How to Release the Story of Victim
- A 6-Minute Walking Meditation You Can Take Anywhere
- How to Meditate with a Mantra
- Meditation to Prevent Freaking Out
- We Can’t Live in the Light All the Time, But We Can Come Back Fast
On a final note, remember to talk to your doctor if you are struggling with anxiety or anything else related to mental health. Mental health, like many aspects of health, is highly personal.
We’re offering spiritual tips for general anxiety that we hope serve you greatly. But what’s best for you is what works for you. So don’t hesitate to work closely with your doctor or therapist to create a personal protocol.