16 Ways to Manage Anxiety in a High Stress World

Could this be a description of you?

~ Feeling more, sensing more, thinking more, knowing more

~ Extreme sensitivity to sounds, smells, tastes, colors, touch, emotions, weather, food, chemicals, energy, bad news, criticism, the invisible world, and beauty

~ A mind that moves at warp speed, seeks meaning, analyzes the hell out of everything, wonders, generates millions of ideas, and watches itself watching itself

~ A heart that weeps at the cruelty humans inflict on one another and on the planet

~ A soul that yearns for knowledge, understanding, and love

And you wonder why you are anxious?

(photo by le minh phuong, unsplash)

Anxiety is such a real phenomenon for people with finely tuned nervous systems, which you know you have. Not to mention, your capacity to feel the suffering of neighbors, trees, children everywhere, and your lonely Aunt Lucille. And, these days, not to mention pandemics, climate crises, racism, civil wars, psychopathic dictators, and more.

And, if you had to start worrying when you were two years old because your mother was screaming obscenities at you and your father was unreliable and self-absorbed, for example, well then, you likely have developed a remarkable ability to become anxious at a moment’s notice. Or to remain anxious all of the time on all occasions. Just in case. You never know. You need to be prepared for the worst.

And so, your anxiety may manifest in many ways:

You want to strangle your neighbor who uses her leaf blower to clear the dust off of her driveway every morning. The chaos at birthday parties leaves you and your child shrieking. Your very active, creative mind imagines unending catastrophes. You can’t stop ruminating about the horrific story you just heard on NPR. You have migraines, allergies, and insomnia.

What, then, are some ways you can help yourself?

  • Make a list of self-soothing techniques that work for you. Try the different apps that exist such as Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace. It often helps to create a daily meditation practice or exercise plan. Some people have found morning pages from The Artist’s Way to be useful. Notice if food sensitivities or hormones are a factor.
  • Make a list of calming reminders. Here are some items on one teen client’s list: I’m a fallible human. I make mistakes, like everyone. I’m learning. I’m experimenting. Making a mistake does not make me a bad person. Am I catastrophizing? Do I need to be this upset? My body tends to be anxious, but I’m actually safe. It’s going to be OK. I’m older now and I have more control over my experiences. It makes sense that there are many things that I don’t know. 
  • Procrastination by Burka and Yuen is a good resource for perfectionism and procrastination.
  • You have great compassion for others. Let yourself receive some of that sweetness, too. Forgive yourself for not being perfect.
  • Understand that your perfectionism and anxiety might exist not because of something you have done wrong but because of the nature of growing up gifted. The complications begin at an early age. You have a right to take the time to focus on your self-understanding and growth.
  • You know how fear tends to make you want to freeze or shrink or hide or push it away? Instead, notice it and be with it. Where do you feel it in your body? Hello, anxiety. Then, remember that it is just a part of you. And you are bigger than it. Imagine yourself expanding. Breathe and expand. As odd as it sounds, welcome the anxiety. Bring it on, baby! And keep expanding. You will begin to feel your higher Self and the Love that is in you and around you. Breathe. You might start to notice that you feel lighter and more peaceful. The fear may still be there but you’ve become so large that it becomes insignificant. Imagine that! The more you practice this, the easier it will be to get into this more peaceful state. And if you want to take it one step further, turn it into a tonglen practice (from Pema Chodron) where you breathe in all of the anxiety all over the world (Seriously!), and you breathe out Love to everyone, including yourself.
  • Move your body. When worried, we tend to freeze. That only increases the anxiety. Try moving. Walk, dance, shake, exercise, sing.
  • If you grew up in a seriously dysfunctional family, get psychotherapy. Events in your present life can trigger PTSD symptoms where you are unconsciously re-experiencing trauma; feeling anxiety that makes no sense. Therapy can help you identify the triggers and learn ways to cope and to heal.
  • Keep a journal and write dialogues with your anxiety. Visualize the anxiety as a person and be curious. Ask why it continues to hang around. You may be surprised by the answers
  • Find your sense of humor. If you are alone in your car, scream obscenities at passing drivers. Avoid eye contact.
  • Try one of the research-based guided imagery CDs produced by psychologist Belleruth Naparstek. She has CDs on anxiety, stress reduction and many more topics. Experiment with emotional freedom techniques (EFT) also called tapping.
  • Read the research from the Heartmath Institute and see if you might want to try one of their devices to improve what they call your “heart rate variability” and reduce your stress.
  • Get hugged by someone you love, including your animals. Breathe and feel the connection deeply in your body.
  •  If you are a parent, share these ideas with your children. Listen to them as they share their frustrations and fears. Careful listening and reflection often works better than advice giving or rescuing. If they are very young, give them the specific words for their emotions. Let them know you will keep them safe. Don’t take their meltdowns personally. Take time away.
  • Consider working with a team of sensitive, capable practitioners (naturopaths, physical therapists, psychotherapists, doctors, acupuncturists, healers, shamans, teachers, artists, etc.) who will help you find the best tools for your particular needs. You are complicated so there is no one practitioner or one technique that will be the perfect answer. You do not have to be alone with your anxiety. Even though you tend to solve problems for others and you may be the smartest person in the room at any particular time, do not give up on finding help for yourself.

You may be naturally inclined to worry. Because you think a lot, it is easy to slip into an anxious state. You have a mind that needs to be active, questioning, and dancing. Imagine that if you get more intellectual stimulation, you will worry less. And, yet, during times like these, anxiety will likely be a frequent visitor.

So, if all else fails, go for beauty. See the gorgeousness of the flower, the rainstorm, the laughing children. And the beauty of you. Worries and all.


To my bloggEEs: I am sure we are all anxious about the horrific situation in Ukraine. Here is a place you can go to help. For the climate crisis, Jon Stewart is one resource. For racism, look for the work of Resmaa Menakem. I am sending you so much love. Let us know what calms your anxiety. Speaking of love, I am still looking for your thoughts on love and all types of relationships for my new book. And remember to tell me about the many forms of love you experience outside of partnership. Thank you!

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

25 responses to “16 Ways to Manage Anxiety in a High Stress World”

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  1. Maria Avatar

    I need this post this days. Thank you Paola 😉

    1. pprober Avatar


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  5. renovatio06 Avatar

    One word: Perfect!

  6. Miranda Avatar

    ‘It’s not personal’ is a message I seem to be seeing everywhere at the moment and it’s so poignant. Not having control of all that is going on around me is ok, and I don’t have to feel the responsibility to fix it. Being still and breathing without reacting is my next goal! Thanks for sharing your wisdom 😊

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      That sounds good, Miranda. Breathing without reacting.

  7. cathytea Avatar

    This is so helpful. Thank you. I love the list provided by the teen.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, cathytea, I liked that list, too.

  8. Stuart Danker Avatar
    Stuart Danker

    Moving my body is an awesome panacea, and has never failed me to date. If there’s anything I need to deal with—assuming my body’s fine—a little exercise never fails to help me see things in a more positive light. Thanks for this post!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Good to see you here, Stuart!

  9. yesiamrevolting Avatar

    I wish I’d had this information, as well as you teaching it, decades ago.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober


  10. Amy Marsh Avatar
    Amy Marsh

    Wonderful wise words arriving at just the right time. ❤️ Thank you Paula.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Amy.

  11. Artie Avatar

    Yes, that sounds like me. Don’t know why but it doesn’t feel exactly good, more like terrified. “Am I special?” That doesn’t sound right. I’m quite proud of my inability to feel close to others, even if I feel lonely because of it, but that’s because I feel like an anomaly, a biological accident, not special.

    Also, I’m an INTJ. I’ve gave up on acting as if I were unaffected and lost the strength to regain composure. I’m tired of having to smile when I’m depresed all the time, being sardonic because I’m frustrated with the state of the world or put on the classical poker face when sh*t happens and I want to cry (not an easy task to me). The point is, despite discovering that I’m a very sensitive person, my inner essence is tainted by the extraverted thinking working with the introverted intuition as a boss to form a very complex Cassandra syndrome. The guy in the third spot (Fi) is taking the results and feeling overwhelmed, then he goes to the guy in the fourth spot for help, just to hear the little rascal saying “things are f*ucked, nothing to do here. Let’s go wild!!”. Honestly, these guys aren’t helping at all, these couple of years I’ve been feeling ashamed of the ugliness of my soul. So, my mind right now is saying “You can’t be a rainforest mind”, “Gifted? You? Ja! Wake up, dude” or “Get the hell out of here! you’re making a fool out of yourself”. Still, I’m curious (Ni) and want to have an answer (Te), while feeling anxious (Fi) and wanting to run to escape from the all the complicated stuff (my Se is probably rolling his eyes).

    I’m ranting, but I still feel like writing… Although my situation was a bit different, I really had to start worrying at an early age, my grandma died when I was three and my mother took it really bad, I didn’t want to leave her feeling like that, so I did what I could… My memories before that are a little fuzzy, but my grandmother wasn’t the most stable person either. I imagine myself even at that time looking at everyone with strange eyes but still following along because they were the normal ones. Needing to be prepared for the worst sounds about right too…

    Sorry, Paula. I was taken aback, shocked by this strange feeling of being understood. A first time for me, didn’t expect this could happen, not in a lifetime (despite considering every possibility). Anyway, maybe is just an illusion, but still want to check. I’ll follow your recommendations. Even if I’m not a RFM or gifted, maybe they’ll work for me too… My intuition almost has faith in it.

    Thank you so much for the links at the bottom of your post!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You belong here, Artie. You have a rainforest mind! Believe it. Have faith.

      1. Artie Avatar

        That’s reassuring, Paula. Now I have something to work with thanks to you. I send you a big hug and thank you again for your work and your kindness.

  12. dagmar Avatar

    “And you wonder why you are anxious?” YES, because rationally there is no reason for it…
    Thank you, Paula for reminding that I am complicated. Something I have heard all my life, but it always had a negative connotation. Today I do not hear the negativity in it and can finally accept that I am just that com-pli-ca-ted!
    For quite some time I got the worst anxiety and panic attacks when I actually sat down for meditation. It was during meditation that I uncovered some facts I dissociated from and I guess I feared to uncover more which I uncovered anyway. I still struggle to sit in meditation, but other forms like walking, tapping and yoga are fine.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, sitting meditation is not a good fit for everyone. Glad you are finding alternatives and doing your inner work. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Joy in HK Avatar
    Joy in HK

    I like to turn to music as a way sometimes. You might like this song by Sara Hickman that sort of goes along with the ideas in this blog.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Beautiful. Thank you, Joy.

  14. Ana Avatar

    Dearest Paula.
    I read all your posts very carefully, and I have to thank you, for this one and for all of them, for the clarity, the love, and the resources to survive in the jungle.

    Thanks thanks.

    (I translate with google, but surely some of the message arrives well)

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      The message arrived perfectly! Graçias.