Ways to Cope with Anxiety

Posted February 19, 2021

Working with Breath 

Learning to monitor and work at regulating breathing is a fundamental skill for settling the anxious body.  

  • Breathing is immediately affected when shifting into an anxious response. In order to move adrenaline and oxygen more quickly through the whole body, the sympathetic response shortens and quickens breathing rhythms. 
  • Consciously slowing down and lengthening the rhythm of breath immediately stimulates the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. 
  • Becoming aware of the breath rhythm and consciously choosing to regulate it stimulates the higher brain, strengthening the capacity to use awareness to override the reflexive lower brain that is stimulating panic or fear.  

Practicing Breath Focus

First steps. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down. First, take a normal breath. Then try a deep breath: Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).

Breath focus in practice. Once you’ve taken the steps above, you can move on to regular practice of controlled breathing. As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, blend deep breathing with helpful imagery and perhaps a focus word or phrase that helps you relax.

Other practices to help cope with Anxiety 

Strategy #1: Neck Rolls and Stretches 

Stand or sit with your spine upright and so you are well supported. Gently release your head so that it tips forward – only as far is comfortable. Explore small, gentle neck rolls from side to side (caution going back) and stretching. Find what is comfortable right now. Clicks and cracks in the neck muscles are normal as they release and let go. 

Strategy #2: Tense and Release 

Systematically go through general muscle areas focusing on one at a time. Intentionally tense and squeeze those muscle groups for about 5 seconds, then release and breathe fully. Go through the head and face, shoulders and arms, abdomen, legs, feet and toes. It can be useful to experiment starting from the feet up as well.  

Strategy #3: Finger Push-ups

Place the fingertips of one hand against those from your other hand. Gently, slowly and firmly push your palms toward and then away from each other while keeping your fingers strong – like a push-up. Try to take at least five seconds for wch “push-up.” 

  • Additionally, if any adolescent/family at Hamilton Middle School needs any supportive services or resources please contact Ms. Torrez-Fluent, LCSW School Social Worker at 720-423-3951, Mr. Crespin, MSW Social Worker at 720-423-9513 for assistance.


Mental Health  Resources: 

Counseling Resources: 

  • Jewish Family Service of Colorado
  • Phone: 303.597.7777                                      
  • Address: 3201 S Tamarac Dr., Denver, CO 80231
  • Rocky Mountain Child and Family Therapy Center
  • Phone: 303.660.5896
  • Address: 4155 E Jewell Ave., Ste 905, Denver, CO 80222
  • Denver Family Institute
  • Phone: 303.756.3340    
  • Address: 3600 S Yosemite St., Ste 1050, Denver, CO 80237