Control What You Can: 12 Ways to Manage Anxiety When the World Feels Out of Control

I know many people—adults and children—right now who are feeling anxious and worried. One expert I spoke with recently told me that today’s kids are the most anxious of any generation.

As our kids most influential role models, what are some simple things we can do right away to help ease stress and anxiety for ourselves and for our kids?

1. Limit violent images. Sadly, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, violence is a daily part of life that we invite regularly into our homes. If we overexpose ourselves to hostile, dark images and stories, we risk growing increasingly angry, fearful and aggressive. We are what we consume. In the same vein, if we allow our kids to regularly view death and destruction on TV, in the news, and in video games, I believe we effectively manage to terrorize and desensitize these most precious, vulnerable spirits. We don’t want our kids to begin to see the world as a cruel, cold place. Indifference is the enemy of empathy and can feed narcissism.

2. Swap good news. Search the back pages of your daily newspaper or online for interesting nuggets of news that you can share with your family around the dinner table or when you’re headed to extracurricular activities. What are stories that bring you hope? Who inspired you today? Who showed generosity in an interesting, unusual or thoughtful way? What is a story that made you laugh? And ask your kids: “What’s something you heard, did or witnessed that made you feel good today and made others feel good?”

3. Show gratitude. When we take time to give thanks for the gifts in our lives, we can move away from feeling like we don’t have enough or that we aren’t enough to the people we care for and love. Ironically, the scarcity mentality is rampant in our abundant culture. And yet, there are people who literally have next to nothing and still find reasons to be grateful. The more energy we put into enjoying what we do have in our lives, the less we’ll focus on what we don’t have. Gratitude provides a solid return on investment for the spirit.

4. Create a family bulletin board. Put up a bulletin board in your house where you post the good stuff. If you don’t have a bulletin board, use your refrigerator or a door in your home that everyone regularly sees. Include a collage of accomplishments of each family member, favorite photos of your family having fun together, uplifting quotes and inspiring stories about people in your community and around the world.

5. Share positive news online. While we shouldn’t ignore what’s happening in the world, we can help spread joy to counterbalance the negative. Share uplifting, humorous and thoughtful items. Begin following organizations, writers and artists that will help fill your news feed and inbox with more uplifting, creative and inspiring items. Some that I personally like include TED, Project Happiness, Uplift Connect, SARK, Flora Bowley, Martha Beck, Christina Katz, Marie Forleo and Wayside Waifs (an animal welfare organization here in KC) .

6. Tune in and then move along. If you’re a news junkie, too much news can drive anxiety and stress and harm your overall sense of wellbeing. Try limiting your news intake to twice a day. Avoid fear-mongering personalities and mean-spirited commentators. After reading an article, move on to something else rather than reading the rancorous comments that follow. If you’re worried about missing out, sign up to receive breaking news from one of your favorite news organizations.

7. Unplug. Turn off social media. Focus on a work project, go fishing, meditate, read a book, cook a new recipe, craft, play a game with your kids, clean out the junk drawer, journal, shop or write a letter. The options are endless. If there’s an issue that is particularly bothersome to you, take action rather than ruminating. Write that letter to the editor, call your congress person, contact the customer service person about the problem or work to resolve a conflict in an important relationship.

8. Call a friend. Talking to a good friend can help ease anxiety. Schedule lunch or go for a walk together. Gather your friends for happy hour. Social time can give us a break from the worries that plague us.

9. Engage in self-care. Make a list of everything that makes you feel happy, comforted and cared for. Then pick one and go do it. Carve out 15 to 30 minutes a day to do something that invigorates and calms your spirit even if its something as simple as a hot bath or painting your toenails.

10. Run it out. Exercise can have a profound effect on your overall wellbeing and can help reduce stress, anxiety and tension. Run, dance, walk, do yoga—whatever you enjoy that gets you moving.

11. Listen up. Turn on your favorite music station, listen to Pandora, play soothing classical music in the background or tune in to an inspiring podcast.

12. Laugh. Follow comedians and funny writers online. Watch your favorite sitcom, late night show or a funny movie. Invite your kids to take turns telling jokes at the dinner table. Listen for laughter in your home. Nothing makes me laugh like listening to my 11-year-old cracking up as he reads Calvin & Hobbes or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Laughter truly is the best medicine. 

What do you do to manage stress and anxiety?

2 thoughts on “Control What You Can: 12 Ways to Manage Anxiety When the World Feels Out of Control”

  1. Thanks for this article. Recently, I’ve become increasingly more aware of my anxiety and how it affects my behavior. Keeping things in perspective and thinking through the situation has helped. I like #3 and #10, too.

    1. I hear you, Angie. Thanks for your comment. You make a great point–keeping things in perspective is definitely important and it helps us stay grounded. Taking lots of deep breaths helps too. 🙂

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