How to Manage Anxiety – Techniques for your Anxiety Toolbox

How to Manage Anxiety – Techniques for your Anxiety Toolbox

By Amanda Hipkiss-Torrance – Mental Health Nurse, Master NLP Coach, EFT and MRA Practitioner (April 2024)

Do you ever find yourself worrying about what happened in the past or what’s going to happen next rather than enjoying the moment? Or maybe you just have this constant sense of unease that you can’t explain, a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach? 

If you’re shouting yes at the screen right now, you may be experiencing anxiety. 

Anxiety is a pretty normal response to some situations and can actually be really helpful in some cases. For example, to get us out of a dangerous situation quickly or give us that extra motivation to get something done.  

However, when anxiety becomes excessive, it can impact every aspect of our lives, taking the enjoyment out of things, causing us to avoid certain situations or even resulting in us checking out altogether (The Mental Health Foundation,2023).

Good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way and there are lots of great techniques that can help us to stop anxiety before it stops us.   

I have pulled together my top 5 favourites for you below, things that have helped me and my clients over the years. 


I am really not a fan of roller coasters so when my husband decided on a family trip to Thorpe Park, I can’t say that I was excited! However, I learned a valuable technique to manage anxiety that day from my super smart step daughter (aged 12 at the time). 

We were thinking about trying one of the bigger rollercoasters. Still not committed, we walked over to one of the rides, both feeling pretty anxious watching the screaming passengers. Suddenly she looked at me and said ‘90 seconds’. After a moment I realised what she meant; she had counted how many seconds the ride took from start to finish. And you know what, this made me think ‘ok, I can do this’ and we joined the queue. 

Unbeknown to her, there is something called the 90 second rule, a term coined by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor (2006). Taylor explained that when we have an emotional response to an event the chemical reaction in the body lasts only 90 seconds. 

Admittedly, they might not be the most enjoyable 90 seconds you have but knowing that the emotion will pass can help ride it through (pun intended)! 

Taylor went on to say that if we continue to experience the emotion after this time we are choosing to. Sounds a bit harsh! What she means is it’s our thoughts keeping us in the ‘loop’. The next few techniques will help you get out of that loop. 


Ok, I know that everyone says this, but it really does work! I know this because I had to learn the hard way. A few years back I had therapy for driving anxiety and although in my day job I was telling people multiple times a day to do breathing exercises and meditation, I wasn’t walking the walk! However, when my therapist tasked me with taking one minute out twice a day to do a breathing exercise, I knew it was time I started. And you know what? In two weeks my anxiety greatly reduced. 

The great thing about breathing is it’s simple and you can do it anywhere. There’s lots of different ones to see what suits you best. Here’s a couple of my favourites for you to try: 

Box breathing: 

  • Sit comfortably with your feet on the floor. 
  • Breathe in through your nose into your belly for a count of 4
  • Hold for a count of 4 
  • Breathe out from your belly through your mouth for a count of 4
  • Hold for a count of 4 
  • Repeat! 

Heart Breaths:

Evidence shows that the heart actually perceives any threat before the brain, so calming your heart can calm your mind (Salem, 2007, Alshami, 2019). Heart-focused breathing, a technique where you focus your attention to the heart area and breathe a little more deeply than usual, is a great way to do this. Again, it’s really simple. 

  • Breathe in for about 5 to 6 seconds imagining you are doing so through your heart.
  • Then breathe out for another 5 to 6 seconds, again through your heart. 
  • Be sure your breathing is smooth, unforced and comfortable. 

Tip: Placing your hand over your heart as you breathe can help direct your focus there.

Want to take this a step further? Once you are feeling more centered, bring to mind something that gives you a positive emotion (a person, a place, a pet) and imagine that picture flowing into your heart space as you continue to breathe. 


If we’re worried and we talk to someone who is also worried then the likely outcome is, yup you guessed it, we get more worried! This is what happens when we don’t talk about the things that make us anxious and rely on our own internal chatter. 

I’m sure you’ve heard ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Well, it’s true. In a study by Age UK (2012), researchers found that approximately over a third of adults that shared their worries felt better as a result and a quarter felt relief when they confided in someone about a problem. Some even found that the problem completely disappeared once shared! 

Anxiety can be pretty isolating and it’s easy to think that you are alone with it but you’re not! In fact, there’s about 8 million more of us in the UK alone (Anxiety UK, 2020). Sometimes it can be hard to open up to those closest to us. If you are feeling this way and don’t know who to talk to here are some helplines you may find useful.


Have you ever heard the saying ‘you gotta feel it to heal it’? Well, there is some truth in this (Gray, 1984). Emotions are just our body’s way of communicating and if we ignore them, they will just get louder! However, If we are able to allow (feel) and accept these difficult feelings they will pass (remember the 90 second rule). 

One way to do this is by using a technique called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT, also known as tapping, is founded in the understanding that energy flows through the body in channels called meridians and that if this energy is blocked from flowing freely, we can end up with all sorts of distressing symptoms including anxiety.

EFT clears these blockages by stimulating (tapping) acupressure points along the meridians while focusing on the negative emotion or situation. This changes our perception of the situation so that next time it comes up those old anxious feelings will be easier to manage if not gone! 

Here’s a quick breakdown so you can try EFT yourself. 

  • Bring to mind something that makes you feel a little anxious. 
  • Notice how you feel. Sad? Ashamed? Angy? Something different?
  • Whatever it is, just allow it.
  • Notice where you feel that in your body. Stomach, chest, fingers?
  • Can you describe it? Does it have a shape, size, colour, texture?
  • Rate the intensity from 0 to 10 (10 being the worst feeling ever).
  • Start tapping on the side of your hand* and repeat the following statement
  • ‘Even though I have this describe the feelings and emotions when I think about describe the thing, I choose to accept myself anyway’
  • Repeat twice more
  • Now, while repeating the feelings or emotions (remember to be as specific as possible) lightly tap on each point* around 7 times moving down the points
  • Keep going until your intensity is below 2/10
  • see tapping points on the picture below

EFT really is an amazing self-help tool and not just for anxiety, in fact Gary Craig (2008), the founder of EFT always said ‘try it on everything’ so I encourage you to do just that and notice the difference. 


Finally, grounding techniques. These techniques help by diverting your attention from distressing thoughts or emotions and reconnecting you with your surroundings. This interrupts that anxious spiral we can get in. If you find that nothing’s working and you’re heading towards an anxiety attack you want these in your tool kit. Here are a few to try: 


‘I am’ statements work best. For example ‘I am safe’ or ‘I am strong’. Just keep repeating until the feeling passes. I would practise affirmations regularly when you are feeling calm to get your body and mind used to hearing them. The more we tell ourselves these things, you never know, we may start to believe them!

The butterfly hug:

This technique, used in EMDR, a form of therapy particularly helpful for people who struggle with panic attacks and PTSD, is a simple way to soothe yourself whenever you need it. Here’s how: 

  • Close your eyes or soften your gaze.
  • Take a few deep breaths.
  • Cross your arms across your chest with your thumbs crossed. 
  • One hand at a time, tap your chest lightly with your fingertips (like a butterfly would flap their wings).

Using your senses: 

Another simple yet effective exercise you can try that uses all your senses is the 5,4,3,2,1 exercise. All you need to do is name five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste. Easy! 

There are lots more ways to ground with your senses. Try putting your feet flat on the floor (if you can do this in nature with your shoes and socks off even better). Hold something with you that’s grounding for you. It could be a crystal, or even ice if that’s practical. You could carry a scent that is grounding for you; lemon is a common one. Just keep exploring until you find what works for you. 

One final bit of advice is don’t wait until you’re feeling anxious, use these techniques regularly. The more often we can get ourselves into a state of calmness, the better equipped we will be when something tricky comes up. 

Think of it like calming our inner ocean. When the ocean is calm it’s easier to stay afloat but when it’s choppy takes a lot more effort and can feel stressful. So, if we start at a place of calmness those waves will be easier to ride! 

Anyway, I hope that you now feel that you have a few more things in your toolbox now.

If you’d like to find out what is really behind your anxiety so you can stop it in it’s tracks before it even get’s started, it can be helpful to work with a trained theapist who can help you find the route cause.

To find out how I can help you let go of anxiety so that you can get back to enjoying life to the full, book your free discovery call here.


Alshami, A.M. (2019). Pain: Is It All in the Brain or the Heart? Current Pain and Headache Reports, [online] 23(12), p.88. doi:

Age UK. (2012). Share problems to lighten your load. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2024].

Craig, G. (2008). The EFT Manual. Elite Books.

Gray, J. (1984). What you can feel you can heal : a guide to enriching relationships. Sydney: Pan Macmillan.

Mental Health Foundation. (2023). Uncertain times: Anxiety in the UK and how to tackle it. [online] Available at:

Mental Health UK. (2019). What is anxiety? – Mental Health UK. [online] Mental Health UK. Available at:

Salem, M. (2007). The Heart, Mind and Spirit. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2024].

Jill Bolte Taylor (2006). My stroke of insight : a brain scientist. New York: Viking.