Anxiety coping skills for adults 

By Sarah Cannata

Anxiety is not who we are. It’s part of the human experience. This Harvard Health Blog states, “Anxiety is your body’s natural threat response system. When your brain believes you are in danger, it sends out a series of signals to your body, resulting in the fight-or-flight response.”

Anxiety starts to become challenging when it interferes with our daily life

The Harvard Health Blog also states, “Diagnosable anxiety disorders occur when anxiety levels rise enough to rapidly decrease performance and cause impairment.” 

I’ve recently finished listening to the audio version of DARE: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks Fast. I’m one of the lucky ones. My anxiety is situational and limited to a couple of specific triggers. While that doesn’t make it easier to contend with when I feel the symptoms, my heart goes out to anyone dealing with anxiety on a 24/7 basis. DARE stands for:  

  • Diffuse
  • Allow
  • Run toward
  • Engage

I like the simplicity of Barry McDonagh’s model. Simple doesn’t mean easy, however. With my specific triggers, it’s been challenging to replicate the intensity of the anxiety so that I can experience being with and processing it. Practising the DARE response in the heat of the moment isn’t ideal.

Writing to help ease anxiety

I have found writing to be a vital tool in my toolkit when my anxiety flares. Sometimes, the overthinking feels maddening. Getting the concerns down on paper helps me considerably. My approach isn’t to simply brain dump everything I’m worried about onto a page and walk away. I feel my physical body as I write, providing me with cues that allow me to explore the emotions attached to the thoughts.

I have found using journal prompts helpful with the clients I have worked with who are beginners. When the anxiety flares, people’s go-to isn’t necessarily to write. We’re too caught up in the anxiety loop. 

Here are some super simple ways using journaling prompts can help people cope better with anxiety.


Self-reflection is a gift. When we set aside time in our busy schedules to sit with ourselves and reflect, we give ourselves the space to go within. How often are you on auto-pilot throughout the day? It’s easy to stuff down our emotions and feelings as we tackle our to-do list and move from one task to another. By examining our thoughts and feelings, we can better understand what triggers our anxiety and how it manifests. After all the personal development work I’ve done since turning 30, I know something is up when three specific triggers appear in my life (gut stuff, insomnia and racing thoughts). Those are giant red flags for me, but it’s essential to remember everyone is different.


I’ve written about a lot of experiences over the last 36 years. I would not consider some of those experiences my finest moments. Some come with shame, others embarrassment. There are things I’d never admit or say to even my closest friend or family member (maybe the dog because she can’t speak). All bets are off when writing, especially when you know your words will be destroyed afterwards (shredded, burned – whatever your personal preference is). Writing has helped my clients and me to process so many anxiety-inducing events. Once I have expressed something on paper, I can feel a considerable drop in the intensity of the accompanying anxiety and symptoms in my body.


I enjoy teaching people my approach to writing (embodied writing), which is different from standard journaling or diary writing. What I love most about this approach is that writing becomes similar to a choose-your-own-adventure novel. Your writing can go anywhere, and everything is welcome. When we allow our body to take the driver’s seat for a while, we may be surprised at where we end up. When I’m really in the swing of embodied writing, there is absolutely zero expectation, and I can be fully present.

Structure and guidance

Journal prompts can provide structure and guidance for people struggling with anxiety to explore their thoughts and emotions, develop coping strategies, and promote self-care and self-awareness. We are all different, so if you’ve tried using journaling prompts in the past and they haven’t worked for you, that’s perfectly understandable. Free writing may be a better option.

Whether you’re an overwhelmed professional, a teenager navigating growing up, a stay-at-home parent or a retiree looking for a new way forward, journaling prompts may help to ease your anxiety. Please give it a go. What do you have to lose? Seriously.

Want to use writing to explore your anxiety? I’ve created a workbook with over 30 pages.

This workbook includes:

  • 30+ pages
  • Journal prompts
  • A brief explanation of anxiety
  • Some of the more common types of anxiety
  • How to use writing as a healing tool to help process trauma
  • 3 guided meditations

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