“Smart” Ways of Managing Anxiety


By Heather Miller, MSW, LCSW, Youth First, Inc.

Sometimes anxiety happens without much warning. One minute everything is fine. The next minute, “what- ifs” can become all consuming. 

Typically, teens and adults have a smartphone readily accessible. It may be feasible to grab your phone and try the following tips to help manage anxiety.

  1. Set reminders. For an individual who has anxious thoughts, being proactive is nearly as important as being reactive. Set reminders on your phone with positive self-affirmations. The frequency can be determined by how often they are needed. Psych-Central.com has suggested affirmations to help get started, such as “I inhale peace and exhale worry.” Using your phone’s calendar app, set up positive self-affirmations to pop up as notifications throughout the day.
  1. Use a timer. Studies show that anxiety typically peaks 10 minutes into an episode. Within 20 minutes, the most intense anxiety symptoms have passed. Amid the emotion, time can feel like it is standing still. Set a timer for 15-20 minutes. During this time, give yourself permission to feel anxious while practicing deep breathing, positive self-talk, or other healthy coping skills. Remind yourself that this feeling is not permanent and it will pass. Once the timer goes off, take a few more deep breaths and move forward with the day.
  1. Write down your worries. Anxiety has the power to distort rational thinking. Often, anxiety leads to fearing dismal outcomes for everyday situations. When a worry pops up, take a minute to document it on a Notes page. Write down the worry and feared outcome. At the end of the day, review the list. How many turned out to be true? Typically, not very many at all. Use this as proof that most anxiety distortions are not cemented in truth.
  1. Distract yourself. Often worries are rooted in fear of what cannot be controlled. There may not be a single thing that can change our inability to control an outcome. Rather than sitting in fear, play a game on your phone to serve as a distraction. Our brains are not wired to truly multi-task. If we focus on a game or another distraction that makes us think, our brains will turn off the task of worrying, at least temporarily.

Anxiety is a natural part of life and serves a purpose. However, if anxiety becomes too frequent or intense, working with a mental health professional may be helpful. If you feel as though you or your child are experiencing frequent and intense anxiety, please reach out to your school’s Youth First Social Worker. They can help link you with resources for learning to manage anxiety as well as assist in supporting your child.