6 Tools to Use in Times of High Stress and Anxiety

January 19th 2021

When the source of stress or anxiety cannot be easily removed, you need a series of approaches to build resilience.


There are those times when stress is acute – like those hours before doing a presentation at work, or before an exam.

And then there are the situations that result in prolonged levels of stress and anxiety – like a threat of redundancy, or a failing relationship, or a pandemic!

There is no one magic way to deal with stress or anxiety, however, having a number of ‘tools in the toolkit’ means that you can use different ones depending on what is happening.  The following ones are particularly suited to those times where there may not be a short term end to the cause of the anxiety.

My recommendation is to pick one that you feel most relates to you.  And then when you are ready, select another until your toolbox has all 6 in it!

1. Stop planning

This may sound a little ironic as plans tend to help people feel more secure.  However, in a dynamic environment such as the current pandemic, things are changing so quickly that longer term plans can quickly become unworkable.  This results in wasted effort in creating them and disappointment when you throw them away as they’re no longer relevant.

A compromise may be to dramatically reduce your planning horizon – mine is about 2 hours currently!  However if you are used to planning a year ahead, take it down to a month.  The key is to consider what time frame you operate in that is within a reasonable level of control and aim to work within that.

2. Focus on what you can control

Anxiety is a response to vulnerability so focus on things that you can be in control of.  This may be your exercise, your diet, what you choose to read (or not!)

I am choosing to use lockdown to finish off a number of online courses I never quite gave enough attention to.  I have also set myself a walking challenge – 1 million steps in 90 days.  These are both things that regardless of what is happening with lockdown, I can still give my energy to and that can support a sense of purpose and achievement.

3. Cut down on your news intake

This is a personal bugbear of mine as most of the news broadcasts I see are all doom and gloom.  The only positive things I read about – and there are many of them – are on social media.  There are huge acts of kindness and generosity going on, but I have yet to see any of the major TV broadcasters focus on these.

Negative energy will mentally drain you, so my advice is to move away from it.  Select the resource you wish to follow and use it selectively. I am choosing to watch Boris’s broadcasts only which gives me what I need to know. Hearing how many people have died in Italy, or about the latest riots in America do nothing to support me so I choose to avoid engaging with them.

4. Practise an attitude of gratitude

Energy flows were focus goes.

This is a common saying in the world of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).  Whilst there may be many things that are genuine sources of concern, when we give them our attention, our energy goes to them too and we tend to ignore the positives that are still there.

Gratitude boosts energy by taking focus to the positive.  I am grateful that my family are all still fit and healthy.  I am grateful that we live in the countryside and so getting out and about in nature is easy.  What would you have on your list?

There is a short exercise you can do each day that really helps build positive energy – a bit like flexing a mental muscle that when it is strong, gives you a wonderful resilience.   It is called ‘How to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude’ and you can download it here .

5. Boost your immune system

Worry/anxiety/stress; they all impact your immunity and will potentially make you more vulnerable to illness. So be proactive in doing things to boost it; eating healthily, being hydrated and exercising are all things that will positively boost your immune system.

6. Notice your thoughts, change your language

Your subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between reality and imagination.  If you keep telling yourself, “I bet I am going to get ill,” your mind literally hears “I am going to get ill, ” and says, “Yep, I can do that for you!”

My husband got into a habit of every night, climbing into bed and saying, “I bet I will wake up early again.”  Hey presto, at 3am he’d be wide awake!

After hearing this a number of times, I suggested he take another approach, such as “I am going to sleep through the night tonight.”

After a rather sarcastic repetition of my suggested wording, he woke up with his alarm the next morning and turned to me and called me a witch!  Maybe I am but I’m a witch who knows that your thoughts create things and your language is an expression of your thoughts.  So, when you use them, create the thing you want!

So as mentioned above, aiming to use all 6 is likely to mean you add to your stress!  Pick one and then as soon as this feels comfortable with you, add in another.  None of these tools are going to reduce chronic stress and anxiety overnight, however they can support the building of resilience making you less susceptible to external pressures.

And I would love to know…which of these 6 do you favour?  Please share your favourite one with me in the comments box below.

Caroline Cavanagh is an anxiety specialist  and hypnotherapist in Salisbury, Wiltshire.  She is an author and public speaker and would love to talk to you if you would like to know more about her work

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One response to “6 Tools to Use in Times of High Stress and Anxiety”

  1. Lindsay West says:

    These are great tips, Caroline. For me , at the moment, number 4 is working. As I drift off to sleep I try to think of all the positive things that have happened during the day that I am grateful for. If something pops into my head that is negative, I just mentally press the delete button as I don’t need to hang on to it.

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