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Tips to Help Calm Anxiety

Try these relaxation techniques to take the edge off your worry.

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Most people feel anxious some of the time – such as before taking a test, after losing a job, or when public speaking – and what stresses one person may not stress another.

But if you are worrying excessively – every day, all day, for example –  without an apparent cause, you may have  generalized anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) results in unrelenting tension and anxiety that interferes with your job, school, and relationships.


GAD is a persistent condition that can last 6 months or longer. It causes excessive, unrealistic, or even unidentifiable worry. You can't turn off your anxious thoughts.

Along with excessive worry, you may have the following physical symptoms:

  • Restlessness or feeling wound up or edgy
  • Easily tired or fatigued
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Grumpiness or irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep problems, such as insomnia

Doctors aren't sure what causes GAD, but most believe it's a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Its onset seems gradual, often starting in the teens or early adulthood. It can come and go over time, and stressful situations can be a trigger.

Self-soothing techniques

Working with a behavioral health professional can help you gain control over the anxiety.

Practicing self-soothing techniques can also help you manage your anxiety. These methods typically involve doing something that pleases one or more of the senses:

  • Sight. Look at a favorite piece of artwork or cherished photos, or take a walk in a picturesque setting. Close your eyes and imagine a peaceful scene. Consider other ways you may enjoy to take your mind off worry, such as coloring in a coloring book.
  • Sound. Listen to a favorite song that inspires you or holds a special meaning. Sit near a fountain or a bubbling brook.
  • Smell. Literally stop and smell the roses. Breathe in fresh air or fresh laundry. Step into your favorite coffee shop or bakery to absorb the smells. Consider seeking out smells that will bring back pleasant memories – the area in the brain that processes memories is located next to the area that processes scents.
  • Taste. Savor a bite of gourmet dark chocolate, a sip of special tea, or a juicy piece of fresh fruit.
  • Touch. Take a warm bath, wrap up in a blanket, or snuggle your pet. Hug a friend.

Additional support

In addition to learning self-soothing techniques, talk with your physician about taking up exercise, such as yoga or tai chi, as well as about talk therapy and other forms of counseling. Antidepressants or antianxiety medications also may be helpful.

Most cases of generalized anxiety disorder can be successfully managed with self-help techniques, talk therapy, a support group, medication, or a combination of methods.

By Andrea Hazard, Contributing Writer


Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Generalized anxiety disorder. Accessed April 14, 2017.
Helpguide. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Symptoms, self-help, and treatment to break free from chronic anxiety. Accessed April 14, 2017.
National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety disorders. Access April 14, 2017.

Last Updated: October 20, 2017