How To Calm Down Anxiety By Practicing Gratitude

Woman sitting at Thanksgiving dinner table and practicing gratitude to calm down anxiety.

What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you think about the Thanksgiving holiday? For me, I think of family and food—lots and lots of food. Of course, I also think about what I am grateful for, but if I’m honest, I have to say that food comes to my mind pretty quickly. And not just any food but the mouth-watering spread that makes up the typical Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t know about you, but it’s not every day I’m eating turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and the rest of the fixings. So, I get excited. Okay? But honestly, the holiday is not just about the food. For it’s important to remember it’s about celebrating gratitude also. Now since you are here reading this blog, I’m going to assume you are looking for real answers to your question of “How do you calm down anxiety”? And I believe I have an answer for you, but first.

Brain food and your mood

Do you know how you feel sluggish and tired after eating all that food on Thanksgiving? Well, that’s because of what you put into your digestive system. If you can think of your mind the same way, you’ll realize that what you put into it impacts how you feel. 

Feeding your mind a constant flow of things such as worry, fear, envy, self-criticism, and negative news is bound to impact your mental wellbeing negatively. So, let’s change that up and give your mind a healthy eating plan to help calm your anxiety. How can we do that? Well, one way is to practice gratitude.


Have you ever noticed how anxiety feels heavy and gratitude feels light? That’s because expressing gratitude causes your brain to release dopamine and serotonin—two hormones that make you feel lighter and happier inside. 

Practicing gratitude is something we should all be practicing not just at Thanksgiving but all year long. And that’s because the benefits are so great. So, let’s look at some practical ways we can incorporate some gratitude into our lives.

Ways to find and practice gratitude

1. Look for goodness. Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean you stick your head in the sand and ignore your problems. Or that your life is not perfect. On the contrary, it means that despite your anxious thoughts, you actively look for the good things (big or small) in your life regardless of the bad. 

2. Set gratitude reminders. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of life and focus only on what is going wrong during the day. So take some steps to remind yourself of things you can be grateful for. It can be as easy as setting the alarm on your phone to go off at regular intervals. When it goes off, take a moment and think of something that makes you feel thankful. Or visual reminders like post-it notes strategically placed in areas you frequent throughout the day, such as the kitchen, bathroom mirror, desk, nightstand, etc. Even though you are setting these alerts up ahead of time, you are training your brain (and heart) to express gratitude.

3. Keep a gratitude journal. Take a few moments in the morning and evening of each day to write down something you can be thankful for. It can be something as simple as “I feel grateful today that I have hot water for a shower.” Or “I’m grateful for the roof over my head.” No matter how hard life feels, there really is always something to be thankful for if you look for it.

4. Practice and don’t stop practicing. Practicing gratitude may start as a practice, but eventually, it will become more natural. It’s a skill, and just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you become at it. However, it can also fade from non-use. So keep on practicing until it becomes a habit.

“Interrupt anxiety with gratitude.” — Danielle Laporte

Practicing gratitude isn’t going to calm your anxiety overnight, but it can be beneficial in lessening your anxiety. In fact, did you know it is scientifically impossible for your brain to feel stress and gratitude simultaneously? The two emotions may alternate, but you can’t feel them at the same time. So at the very least, by practicing gratitude, you’re putting your anxiety on pause. And at the most, by cultivating a more appreciative attitude in life, you’re telling yourself there’s a lot less to feel anxious about and a lot more to feel joyous about.

I believe it’s good practice to take the opportunity each day to express gratitude.   If for nothing else but to guard ourselves against taking things for granted.  And something else I like to keep in mind is that gratitude isn’t just about being grateful for what we have. But it can also mean being grateful for what we can give others.

After using the ways I shared above of finding and practicing gratitude, you would like to learn additional ways on how to calm down anxiety; working with a coach is a great way to do it. A coach can help you discover the best calming techniques that will work for you. They will also encourage you to keep practicing them until they becomes second nature when you start to feel anxious.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. xxxxxxxx If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and find many things to be grateful for. 

This article originally appeared on My Anxiety Link

How To Cope With A Stressful Family Life

Young family at the grocery store coping with stressful family life.

I’m going to show my age here, but when I was growing up,  “The Brady Bunch” was a popular show on TV. And oh, how I envied those kids in that family which looked nothing like my own. For example,  they lived in a big house, the girls and the boys had their own bathrooms. They always wore “cool” clothes, and hey, they even had a live-in maid. Come on! Those kids had it made in the shade! And yet, even “The Brady’s”, had their fair share of stressful family life issues. 

Now, I have to say I was blessed to grow up in a good family. But we, like every other “real” family out there, had our fair share of family issues. But, unlike “The Brady’s” issues which were fictional and always ended up resolved and in smiles, ours lasted more than a half-hour and definitely didn’t always end in smiles.

The myth of the perfect family

While there are healthy families, there is no such thing as a perfect family. And yes, even healthy families experience stressful family life. They have quarrels, uncooperative children, and sibling rivalries. And they also experience other challenging life events such as job losses, family member deaths, and financial struggles. 

How to cope with stressful family life

Every family reacts to stress in different ways. And while there is no perfect way to manage  stress, there are good coping strategies that can help guide you and your family when dealing with everyday stress and crises.

Here are a few ways that may work for you and your family:

  • Keep the lines of communication open. It’s so important for family members to feel comfortable talking with one another about their feelings when they feel stressed.

  • Check your behavior. Stressed-out parents without realizing it can set the tone for the rest of the family. So once again, this is where having an open line of communication can be beneficial. Tell your family you are having a difficult time and that you are working on finding a solution. 

  • Determine if some changes need to be made. For example, perhaps your family is getting overwhelmed by jam-packed activities, creating late bedtimes and crazy schedules. In that case, consider dropping an activity or two. Or maybe you are a single-parent family or you and your spouse both work. If so, it can be quite the challenge to keep the house clean, and you need more help from everyone. Have a family meeting and discuss some ways you can make changes to make everyone less stressed. However, keep in mind, most people don’t like changes, so start slowing and gradually make the changes your family needs. 

  • Set some family priorities. Family life is so different today than when I was growing up. It’s no wonder that parents and kids get stressed out while trying to squeeze so much into a too short period of time. It stresses me out just thinking about it. So, make some judgment calls on what is truly important for you and your family to be involved in. And don’t forget things such as family meals, playtime in the backyard with your kids, family movie or game nights, or just sitting on the porch and enjoying the fresh air or a good book. 

  • Develop and use a support system. As a parent, there are times when it is inappropriate for you to discuss particular concerns with your children. For those times, it is crucial to have a support system in place where you can share your feelings or turn to when you become overwhelmed.

  • Laugh often. When stress levels are high, it’s pretty easy to worry, stress, and remain serious.  Laughter, however,  can help lighten the mood. And when your family hits a rough patch, there’s nothing like some light laughs or even a round of belly-busting guffaws to balance out the pressures of stressful family life. Laughter is contagious and truly is the best medicine. And though laughter can’t solve all your problems, it can help your family connect with one another, making it easier to work together and tackle any problems facing you.

“To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.” ―Jill Botte Taylor

So, until someone invents a way to live our lives stress-free, the best we can do is learn how to recognize, accept and manage the stresses that life can bring. I’m certain if you lock these coping strategies in place, you’ll be well on your way. And here’s a bonus, by managing your stress, you’ll have more time to focus your energies more on the things in life that really count.

And lastly, if you want to explore additional strategies to cope with stressful family life, working with a coach can be very helpful. A coach can walk you through various techniques that can help you and your family live less stressed and happier together.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. I’m looking forward to your call.

This article originally appeared on My Anxiety Link.

What To Do If You Have An Anxiety Attack At Work

Anxious looking woman having an anxiety attack at work.

Wouldn’t it be nice if anxiety attacks would wait until after hours to appear? Not that I think there’s ever a perfect time for them to show up. But, talking from experience, having an anxiety attack at work or out in public is a whole different story than feeling the rising tide of anxiety in the privacy of my own home. However, when that happens, I’m thankful there are ways of working through it quickly to get on with my day. And if you want to know how you can do it too, keep on reading because I’ll be sharing a few ways you can do just that.

What does an anxiety attack feel like?

Anxiety attacks are not the same as panic attacks, though they share many of  the same symptoms. 

Here are a few of the emotional symptoms you might feel during an anxiety attack.

  • restlessness
  • fear
  • apprehension and worry
  • distress
  • jumpy 

While here are a few of the physical symptoms that both anxiety and panic attacks have in common

  • chest pain 
  • heart palpitations or fast heart rate
  • shortness of breath 
  • sweating
  • nausea
  • fear of dying or losing control
  • numbness or tingling

While panic attacks tend to come out of the blue and be more intense, anxiety attacks are often caused by a trigger such a stressful situation, experience, or event. 

What to do if you have an anxiety attack at work.

So, you’re sitting at your desk, and you feel an attack coming on. You’re probably trying to figure out how to hide the symptoms from your co-workers and remain professional in the process. That’s understandable. However, you shouldn’t bottle up your emotions and suffer in silence because of the negative effect it can have on you.

It’s okay to let your close co-workers and even your boss know that you suffer from anxiety. Yes, it might be an awkward discussion, but you might be pleasantly surprised how understanding they are. 

Below are some steps you can take to deal with anxiety or panic attacks.

1. Go somewhere private

If you are able, get up from your desk or work area. If you need to, use the excuse that you need to visit the restroom.  Anywhere is good where you can have a little privacy. But if you can’t leave your work area, it’s okay. You can still proceed with the following steps.

2. Focus on your breathing

To regulate your breathing, breathe in for four counts, hold for seven counts, and exhale for eight counts. Repeat this pattern five times.

3. Remind yourself this will pass

Acknowledge the situation and remind yourself you’ve had these symptoms before and they will soon pass. If you need to, keep saying the phrase, “This will soon pass.” 

4. Challenge your negative thoughts

For the most part, people’s worries tend to be false alarms. And of the small percentage of worries that do happen to come true, the outcome is usually better than expected roughly a third of the time.

So, when you are experiencing an anxiety attack at work, pause and ask yourself some questions to help you challenge those anxious thoughts. Below are a sample of questions you can use.

  • Am I overestimating the danger?
  • What is the evidence to support this thought of being true/not true?
  • Is this just a thought or a fact? 
  • What would I tell a good friend if they had the same thought?
  • Okay, if this thought (fear) comes true, what can I do to cope with or handle it?

And here some ways of challenging your negative thinking:

  • Yes, I headed straight to the worst-case scenario.
  • There is no evidence, but I just feel like what I fear is going to happen.
  • Because there is no evidence, I’m going to assume it’s more thought than fact.
  • If my friend was in this situation, I would probably say something like this to my friend, “Look, you’ve felt this way before. There’s nothing to point to that says what you’re worried about is going to happen. But if it does, I’ll be there for you.” 
  • Okay, even if it happens, yes, I’ll be disappointed, but I’m strong, and I can get through it. 

 5. Tell yourself you will be ok

The physical symptoms that accompany anxiety attacks can be downright scary sometimes. It’s important to tell yourself that you’ve been here before, and you were okay then, and you will be okay now. You might find it helpful to say it over and over again until you feel better.

6. Focus on your breathing again

This time do a different  breathing technique called Box Breathing. 

  • Inhale to the count of four 
  • Hold for a count of four 
  • Exhale to the count of four
  • Hold for a count of four  

Repeat this exercise for five minutes. 

7. Repeat steps 2 – 6 as many times as you need to.

Remember, it’s a process. You don’t need to rush. In the end, everything is going to be okay. And once the anxiety attack is over, pat yourself on the shoulder. Think about how you feel emotionally and physically. And then, remember that feeling. Good Job!

“Some of the most comforting words in the universe are ‘me too.’ That moment when you find out that your struggle is also someone else’s struggle,  that you’re not alone, and that others have been down the same road.” — Unknown

So last but not least,  when you do experience an anxiety attack at work, there’s no need to be ashamed or embarrassed. I know it can be easier said than done. But rest assured, more people deal with anxiety than you know. And even better, if you have a co-worker you feel comfortable enough with, by all means, share with them what you are going through. You’ll find immense comfort in knowing you have an ally in your corner to help you when you need it the most. 

Well, I’m confident these seven steps can enable you to push through the anxiety when it wants to come knocking at your workplace door. However, if you want to learn additional ways to manage anxiety and stop stressing out, working with a coach is a great way to go. I’d love to hear from you.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. There are numerous coping skills to manage anxiety, but not always one best way to proceed. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together, let’s discover which strategy works best for you to  feel more confident, competent, and in control at work.

6 Hacks For Anxiety & Stress Relief That Really Work

Smiling woman finding anxiety & stress relief outdoors.

Don’t you love it when you’re stressed out and ready to pull your hair out, and someone comes along and tells you to just calm down or quit worrying? How’s that work for you? Probably about as much as it helps me—it doesn’t. In fact, in all likelihood, it ramps your stress up even more. And nobody needs that! So, whether you’re stressed, overwhelmed, or worried about the state of the world,  I’m sure you’ll find the anxiety and stress relief hacks below are not only helpful but practical as well. 

6 Hacks For Anxiety & Stress Relief That Really Work

1. Control your breathing

You might think that breathing is involuntary. But that’s only partly true. Your breathing is automatic so much as you don’t consciously think about your breathing all the time. Also, when you feel stressed, your breathing rate and pattern change without you thinking about it as part of the ‘fight or flight response.’ 

However, there are times when we need to control our breathing when we do things such as talking, singing, playing musical instruments, swimming, etc.

Therefore, it shouldn’t seem such a stretch to think that you can successfully bring about anxiety and stress relief by controlling your breathing pattern. And in fact, it’s one of the easiest, fastest, and most effective ways to reduce anxiety. 

While there are various breathing exercises to try, you’ll find a simple one to get you started if you click here.

2. Ask a “1-for-1” question

Unfortunately, when anxiety ramps up, your mind wants to go to the worst-case scenario and park there. So, to rebalance your perspective, try replacing every negative thought with a positive thought. For example, instead of thinking, “What if this plane crashes?” you should swap it out for the thought, “What if I arrive on time and it’s perfect weather?” 

Or, “What if I don’t meet my sales quota this month and I get fired?” Flip that question upside down and ask yourself, “What if I make the most sales out of the whole department?”

It does take practice, but when you start focusing on more favorable outcomes, your mind has fewer opportunities to ruminate on negative thoughts.

3. Clench your fists

Place your hands down by your side. Ball your fists up and clench them as tight as you can. Then, take a deep breath and loosen your fists a little bit at the end of your first exhale. Continue to take deep breaths and relax your fists a little more with each exhale until your hands are completely open. Finally, stretch your fingers out as much as you can.

4. Peel an orange

You’ve probably heard about using the scent of lavender for stress relief, but it turns out citrus may bring a sense of calm also. In fact, it is believed that the smell of orange can relieve stress by over 70%. And the act of peeling gives your hands something to do, which other research shows can also help relieve stress and anxiety.

For the times when it’s not practical to peel an orange,  using essential oils is a good alternative for getting that whiff of calming citrus.

5. Put your phone down

When you feel stressed and anxious, it’s probably not a good idea to scroll through all your social media apps. I’m not saying that all social media is bad. However, it often leads to feelings such as frustration, inadequacy and being left out. Or cause you to think about all the desirable things you don’t have in your life at the moment (i.e., a partner, children, travel excursions). Can you see where that can lead to increased anxiety or stress?

Really, do yourself a favor and take a time-out from the overload of misinformation, social comparisons, world problems, and politics, etc., and do something instead  that will improve your mood.

6. Tapping your body

Years ago, I was introduced to this technique at my dentist when I had some work done on a tooth. I told them I was nervous, and as the dentist started to give me the numbing shot, the assistant started tapping on my arm. Now, I admit, I was puzzled and thought, “What in the world is she doing that for?” I later learned this was called the EFT technique (Emotional Freedom Technique), which is clinically proven to be a stress, anxiety, and pain reliever.

For a walk-through of this technique,  click here to give it a try.

“Calmness is the cradle of power.” — Josiah Gilbert Hollan

Of course, anxiety-reducing hacks are not one-size-fits-all. So, it might take you a bit of time and effort to find your perfect hack. But if you keep at it, you’ll find the ones that work for you. However, if you want to jumpstart your learning of additional anxiety and stress relief techniques, consider working with a coach. You’ll find the support and encouragement that a coach can provide will be a huge benefit to you as you walk through this process.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call.  I’d love to cheer you on as you discover you can master anxiety and stress, allowing you to live a more balanced and less anxious-filled life.

This article was originally published on My Anxiety Link