As a therapist, I talk with patients every day about developing coping tools and strategies to help them better manage anxiety. Things like deep breathing, challenging faulty thinking, and building self care strategies are often what we focus on in sessions but there are some products that are widely available via online in in person retailers that people should also consider adding to their anxiety tool kit.
Here are 7 must-haves* for anyone with anxiety and since each of these tools has a variety of options and price point, you can totally individualize each option!
1. Weighted Blanket
Are you someone who likes a good hug or snuggling up under a warm blanket? Do you feel better when you can sit somewhere that makes you feel safe and secure? A weighted blanket provides all of those physical sensations. I first used weighted blankets over 25 years ago when I worked with children who had sensory processing difficulty. The blankets were heavier than your normal blanket and would help calm them and make them feel safe. I soon learned that they also worked for me, giving me an instant feeling of calmness even from holding the blanket on my lap. Today, weighted blankets are available in a variety of sizes from lap blankets to king size blankets and in a wide variety of weights. I promise you, a weighted blanket will quickly become your favorite item to turn to when feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
2. Essential Oils
I use essential oils all the time in my home and in my office. When it comes to anxiety relief, there are essential oil blends specifically formulated to reduce stress, improve relaxation, and help you to calm your mind. You can use some of these oils topically (mix them with a carrier oil first such as almond oil) or even ingested. I prefer to diffuse a few drops of them in an essential oil diffuser. Just a few drops will help to ease any stress and anxiety you or your family may be feeling and it will leave the air smelling fresh!
3. Workbooks and Journals
If you are self-motivated, workbooks and journals can be a great tool to use to help you gain insight into the root causes of your anxiety. You can set some time aside each morning or evening to review a section and complete some of the worksheets included. Although not a replacement for one on one counseling, workbooks and journals like the ones below can be an excellent way to help you start to gain control of your anxious feelings.
4. Zen Garden
If you have ever seen these tabletop Zen Gardens, you know how calming it can be to allow yourself to do nothing but rake the sand and lay out the decorative rocks. Adding one of these to your desk at work or to a tablespace at home will provide you with a daily reminder to slow down and breathe.
5. At Home Fitness
One of the most effective ways to combat anxiety is to find a way to release some of the pent-up anxious energy. Exercise is a perfect way to do this. If you don’t have time or the funds to go to a gym, there are lots of ways that you can work out right in your own home. Cardio has a lot of benefits when it comes to anxiety management so a simple home exercise machine like a rower or a stationary bike can be a good addition to your routine. You can get one delivered to your door for less than $250. That’s a small price to pay for some anxiety relief coupled with physical fitness.
6. Grown Up Coloring Books
There is something very calming and relaxing about coloring an intricately designed picture. I’m not talking about cartoon character coloring books like we had when we were young. These coloring book options for adults are meant to take some time and are even more enjoyable when done with a set of good quality thin tip markers or colored pencils. This is an activity you can do with others too. So, grab a few friends, put out some refreshments and get your coloring on! Watch as your anxiety starts to drift away.
7. Bath Bombs
You either are a bath person or you’ve never actually had a good bath. A nice hot bath at the end of a long day can be a great way to quiet your mind and increase your relaxation. Bath bombs can make the experience even more beneficial by adding some calming fragrance and skin softening properties to the water. Don’t like bath bombs? Try bath salts or take a bubble bath. No matter how you prefer your bath, make some time to pause from your daily hustle to slow down and relax.
Wouldn’t it be great to feel like you have a bit of a better handle on your anxiety? Can you imagine your life without the weight of anxiety always looming over it? Isn’t it time to add to your anxiety management tool kit? Go ahead and invest in yourself!
*Some of these links are considered “affiliate links,” meaning if you click through these links to make a purchase, I might earn a small commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and these products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. All of these are products that I have used personally or professionally and many have also been successfully used by my clients and colleagues.
You know those days that just don’t go right?
Days where you sleep later than you planned.
Days where you can’t outrun the dark cloud following you around.
Days where you spill your entire protein shake and then your giant glass of water all over your rug 4 minutes before a work meeting.
Days where you stub your toe while rushing down the hallway.
Days where you accidentally forget to pay a bill, return an important call, or miss a text message.
Days where the brand new rug cleaner stops working.
Days where everything annoys you and nothing feels right.
Sometimes you can reframe it all.
Sometimes you can laugh it off.
Sometimes you can take a deep breath and reset.
Sometimes you just can’t.
Sometimes some days are just not meant to be great or even good days.
On those days, pour yourself a hot cup of tea (be careful you don’t spill it on yourself), soak in a hot bath, or leaf through a light and airy magazine.
Give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack.
Then go to bed.
Trust that tomorrow is a new day.
You can try it all again tomorrow.
I know I will.
My therapy sessions with my patients have grown heavy once again — especially for my patients that work in healthcare.
Day after day they share, with tear filled eyes, their overwhelming fatigue. They stare blankly ahead at the telehealth screen as they describe lying awake night after night, too exhausted and overwhelmed to find sleep.
Each patient and their story is different but the common theme is the same — burnout.
Complete and total burnout.
So many question their career choice — for many of them have felt failed by their employers.
So many question their own humanity — for they now dread going to work and being around people.
So many question their future — for the passion that they once felt for their work is now nowhere to be found.
Like so many of us they are crawling, bruised and broken, toward some nebulous finish line on the horizon.
Sometimes as we near the end of a session, they will stop me and ask me if I am doing ok.
“How are YOU managing it all?”
They are caregivers by nature and struggle to keep the focus on themselves-even during their own therapy session.
But I think they are mostly looking for signs of hope.
Hope is what is missing most now.
Hope is what is needed most now.
In times of great sorrow, loss, and tragedy it is hope that keeps us tethered to our life and to each other.
Hope that something and someone can be consistent.
Hope for brighter days.
Hope for rest.
Hope for passions to be reborn.
Hope to enjoy the world again.
Hope to make it to tomorrow.
As you crawl toward the finish line right now, find hope.
Find it anywhere you can.
And hold onto it.
What is your self care plan this month?
As you are making your holiday shopping list and checking it twice, don't forget to plan for your own self care! Use this free guide below to plan how you will care for yourself this month in 6 main areas: body, mind, emotions, spirituality, finances, and others,
Keep it simple by committing to 1 or 2 tasks or goals in each of the 6 areas. I recommend making a new checklist each week and hanging it somewhere where you can see it often.
For example, mine may include something like this:
Body: Exercise bike for 30 minutes 3 times this week
Mind: Read for 15 minutes each day
Emotions: Journal my feelings each night
Spirituality: Meditate each day for 2 minutes
Finances: Set a budget for holiday shopping; Put 5% of my income in savings
Others: Select an item from the giving tree; Reach out to 5 friends this week to check on them
Sometimes you will be too much for people.
Sometimes you won’t be enough.
Sometimes they will find you too sensitive
Sometimes they’ll say you are too insensitive.
Sometimes you will make decisions that hurt others.
Sometimes the decisions of others will hurt you.
Sometimes you will be lonely.
Sometimes you will wish for solitude.
Sometimes you will feel like all eyes are on you.
Sometimes you will feel invisible.
Sometimes the people you need to cheer you on won’t be there.
Sometimes people around you will shout things that aren’t true.
Sometimes you will feel too focused on a goal.
Sometimes you will feel lost and directionless.
Sometimes you will lie awake at night unable to find sleep.
Sometimes you will crawl under the covers, afraid to face the world.
Not all the time.
Sometimes you will feel valued, seen, and appreciated, despite your flawed parts.
Sometimes you will find your confidence, support, and direction.
Sometimes you will be at peace and rest easily at night.
Through all the sometimes, there will be constants to hold on to.
Your life has meaning.
You are not alone.
Tomorrow is always a new day.
Sometimes you just need to hold on.
Sometimes the darkness sets in.
Like many people right now, I am emotionally spent.
My thoughts are cloudy.
My creativity is stunted.
My attention span is non existent.
The arguing and tension and constant back and forth of the past week has completely drained me.
The anger, hatred, mistrust, and insults have deflated my hope.
I could feel the darkness coming this time and I tried hard to make it stop.
I decorated my house for the holidays to usher in some cheer.
I rearranged my living room to give a refresh to my surroundings.
I limited social media.
I firmed up my boundaries with people that drain me.
I spent time being with and talking to people I love.
I clung to anything that felt remotely like hope.
But the darkness still came.
I opened my eye this morning and felt it - the crushing weight of depression and anxiety. The air was thick with it.
So, I stopped fighting it.
This morning I let the tears come. I moved some of my “to do” items to later this week. I gave myself permission to be gentle with myself. I leaned in to the things I can control.
Although I feel the weight of the darkness, I will show up today for the people who need me.
I will be kind to myself.
I will keep looking for signs of hope and cling to them tightly.
I will continue to try to spread lightness, even in times of darkness.
I will celebrate the little things.
For those of you feeling it all too, remember that you are not alone.
This hard time will pass.
Brighter days are ahead.
They have to be.
Life is messy today.
Right now from my home office window, I can see the first snow of the season as it drifts gently down into my backyard — a backyard that still is somehow straddling not just summer and fall but now also winter.
The hammock that I like to lounge in on hot summer days is still sitting under my favorite tree.
That favorite tree is still in the process of shedding its vibrant orange and red leaves, many of which now cover my backyard.
Summer, fall, and winter are alive in my backyard-all at once.
My yard is in the space between. The space where nothing is clear. The space of messy overlap.
My life feels like it is in that messy space too.
My kids are remote learners but also attend school in person a few days each week.
I am working full time but I haven’t seen the inside of my actual office in months.
I am exhausted but also cannot sleep.
I am content but also cry at the drop of a hat.
I am hopeful but also anxious.
I feel loved but also lonely.
I long for the warmth of summer but also enjoy the forced hibernation winter brings.
I crave connection but also need time to be alone.
I am like my backyard — messy, unclear, and clinging to different seasons all at once.
Today I will embrace the beauty that this in-between space brings.
Today I will marvel at the scene of summer, fall, and winter co-existing in one messy space. One beautiful messy space.
Sometimes there is beauty in the mess.
Even my mess.
Even yours too.
Today my laptop crashed.
In the middle of my workday, with 27 tabs open as I balanced insurance billing, reviewed new client documents, read emails from my children’s teachers, and did some online shopping before my Kohls cash expires, my laptop was like “Nah. Peace out. I’m done.”
I have never identified more with a machine than I did in that moment.
It reached its limit. It simply had too many internet tabs, excel documents, word documents, sticky notes, and programs running all at once.
It just couldn’t do it anymore.
How many of you can relate? How many of you, right now, are at the end of your rope? How many of you feel like you can’t do it anymore either.
My laptop and I are right there with you!
As I sat staring at the screen, unable to engage the mouse, or the escape button, or any reset tricks, I realized that I had no choice. I had to force my laptop to reset.
As I pushed the power button, sending the laptop into its power down mode, I felt a twinge of jealousy. How lovely would it be to power down right now? How nice would it be for someone to walk in and say to me: “You need to reset. I’m shutting everything down for you and giving you a chance to catch your breath and restart.”
I’m quite sure a lot of you can relate. As a psychotherapist, I get to have some insight of how people, in general, are doing. You know what, the pulse check right now is pretty concerning. People’s lives are filled with stress, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness right now. So many people have a million tabs open at a time and are completely overloading their operating systems, at risk of crashing at any minute.
Don’t be like my laptop. Don’t wait until you have no choice but to shut down.
Take a break now.
Close some of your open tabs.
Schedule a reboot.
Give yourself a break.
Recognize that we all need a break and if you don’t schedule one for yourself, eventually you will just get stuck and need a forced reset — probably in the middle of some important project or at the worst time possible.
Take a few minutes, maybe right now, but at least soon, to figure out how to prevent your own crash.
Today I painted my nails two different colors.
I’m sure some of you are thinking “Girl, what’s the big deal? I paint my nails ten different colors each week!”
But when you are like me, you get comfortable with being comfortable. You don’t stray too much over the lines. You avoid change.
You order the same meals at the same restaurants.
You watch the same tv shows over and over again.
You wear the same clothes week after week — often buying the same shirts and pants in different colors and sometimes in the same colors because you know you like them.
You look for the predictable, the routine, the ordinary — especially in the midst of a pandemic. Those ordinary things became a lifeline for me this year.
As the world outside me swirled into chaos over the last several months, I leaned into the things I could control and the things I could predict. I responded to the daily uncertainty of our lives by choosing to live my life in comfort, a space that sometimes felt like control.
But today I leaned a bit out of my comfort zone. I embraced something unpredictable and different.
I chose change.
Yes, today I remembered that even though it’s safe and cozy sometimes to live inside the lines, sometimes the things that make us feel secure are actually the things that hold us back from living life to its fullest.
So, to those of you out there coping like me — by choosing order, predictability, and ordinary — today might be a good day to stray just a bit outside the lines.
I can’t promise that you won’t regret it but I can promise that it’s an important exercise.
It’s hard to find these days.
I don’t think it’s been here for over 6 months.
Between the kids and 2 parents working from home and 3 noisy dogs and 2 cats (or 4 dogs and 1 cat if you count the cat that thinks she is a dog), this house is very loud.
Silence here is simply not a thing.
Sometimes I can sneak away and soak in the bathtub while the bathroom fan drowns out the noise of dogs barking, video games being shouted at, pianos being played, cats knocking stuff off tables, and dishes being washed.
In those moments, I can almost hear silence.
But tonight I found silence that I didn’t know I was missing.
After my oldest and I ate dinner, he left the kitchen to take a shower. My youngest and my husband were out running an errand. The dogs were sleeping peacefully with their recently full bellies. I have no idea where the cats were but they were quiet.
Work was done.
TVs and radios were off.
The street was empty.
All I could hear was the gentle humming of the ice machine and the soft snores of the dogs.
Rather than getting up to do the dishes or flip over the laundry or sort the mail or prep backpacks for tomorrow, I sat.
I took in the silence.
I breathed in the silence, allowing myself to be fully present for the first time all week.
I felt the chair legs beneath my feet (because I’m short).
I felt the smoothness of the kitchen island built by my family during the height of quarantine.
I felt the air fill my allergy-induced asthma lungs and took my first full deep breath all day.
I felt my mind wander but I brought it back each time to focus on my breathing and the sounds of the silence.
I sat fully present in that moment for as long as it lasted.
Gradually the silence was filled. The ice machine dumped its newly formed tray of ice. The shower turned on in the bathroom down the hall. A car pulled down the street, waking two dogs, causing one of them to bark and the other one to tip tap up and down the hallway, her way of asking to be let outside.
As I stood to do those dishes and flip over that laundry and sort that mail and pack those backpacks, I noticed a lightness inside.
The weight I had been carrying all week was lighter, somehow made less heavy just by being in the silence.
Then I remembered an important fact about me. Silence refuels me. It recharges me. It recenters me.
But silence is hard to find.
Tonight I remember that I have to try harder to find it, even if I have to find it in some stolen moments at a kitchen island.
Mental Health & Wellness
Now, more than ever, we all need a little support to help get us through the rough spots. With all the pressures of life, it can be a challenge to find time to not only take care of yourself but also to truly understand who you even are anymore.