Next Level Anxiety Relief Strategies


I’m a worrier by nature. I try to look on the bright side. OH, HOW I TRY! But my imagination is robust and always ensures that my brain is filled with images of the many ways my loved ones and I could all be maimed, killed, or otherwise traumatized at any moment. To maintain my sanity, I have practiced deep breathing, visualization, affirmations – all the usual anxiety reduction strategies, for years. And then we had a pandemic.

Breathing exercises, walking the dog, and the occasional cocktail were just not doing it for me.


I guess 18 months of bad news, worse news, isolation, uncertainty in every aspect of life, and questioning the capacity for humans to care about each other’s health and safety will do that to a person, am I right?

What’s a mama to do? Adapt and overcome, I suppose. I wish I could say I have done that. “Overcome” is definitely overstating my situation. But adapt? I am working on that with a few anxiety management strategies that are, out of necessity, a step up from the pre-pandemic anxiety tools I used to employ. Perhaps you could use some of these, too.

Rainbow Breathing

A long time ago, I took a class on self-hypnosis for childbirth. Every day for months, I practiced a rainbow visualization that got me through the 40 hours of labor my first little darling subjected me to. Fast forward 18 years to me, in my car with racing thoughts of doom while driving, trying to practice the well-known grounding technique of identifying five things you hear, then four things you see, then three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

It was not nearly enough to calm me that day, and I wondered, “Ok, now what?” But recalling the calm imagery of the rainbow, and knowing I needed to both breathe and get my mind refocused elsewhere, I started doing this. Find one thing in your vision that is red. Breathe in. Breathe out. Now find another, breathe in, breathe out. And another and breathe, until we get to five. Then find five orange things, breathe, and five yellow things and breathe… and so on until you get all the way through the rainbow. Yes, it takes a while to find five things for each color, plus breathe in and out for each one. But that is the point – to slow your breath, slow your heart rate, slow your thoughts, and that takes time.


No, I am not talking about carpool driving in traffic at 3 p.m. If carpool driving helped reduce anxiety, I’d be the most Zen person on the planet. Sadly, that’s not how it works. What does work is driving on a long, empty road, perhaps a little too fast, with nowhere to be, windows down, and radio up. While Cincinnati is a driving nightmare, we are lucky enough to have open roads near us where we can take a long, peaceful drive anytime. Need a farm-fresh tomato? No problem, let me drive the back roads to that cute farm stand in Walton to grab one. Craving a bagel? Oxford’s famous Bagel and Deli is a peaceful country road away. Sometimes, I put a destination in my GPS and select the “avoid highways” option. Other times, I just pick an empty road and go. Thank you, modern technology for ensuring I can get lost and still find my way home.

Connect with Friends

I know it’s not exactly news that friends are good for your mental health. Yet, spending time together consistently is a challenge in the best of times, much less in a pandemic when being together physically can be tricky. What saved me these last, difficult months are two friends, our group text, and our standing Sunday morning Zoom date. The one thing I will be forever grateful for in this mess is my connection with these women. While we have been friends for decades, pre-pandemic we were lucky to see each other twice a year.  Pandemic life both allowed and demanded more of us. We needed each other and figured out how to be there despite the miles, the virus, our schedules, and our responsibilities. It was worth the effort.

Schedule a Time to Worry

I have wasted more days worrying than I want to count, only to end up more stressed out and behind on the to-do list. Sure, there is plenty to worry about, but that doesn’t mean it helps to think about them endlessly! Half the time, my concerns are entirely out of my control, and even when it is something I need to take care of personally, it does not deserve the time and attention I tend to give it. Instead, I have recently been planning specific times to think about whatever is worrying me. Then, whenever I begin to worry, I remind myself, “NOPE! Thursday at 7 p.m. is the time to think about that, but NOT NOW!” Crazy as it sounds, it actually works!

Even when (if?) this pandemic ends, my worries will not disappear. That’s just not how I roll. I don’t have to let them win though, which is why I am always practicing new strategies like these to bring more peace and calm to my days. It is also why I would love to hear how you manage your worry and anxiety. Please share so I can try them, too!


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