How tuning into your nervous system can help you cope with anxiety

If your coping mechanisms aren't working—this could be why

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Peter Griffith)

Anxiety affects us all at some point in our lives, some may experience frequent or constant anxiety, while others find it creeps up when they’re feeling stressed. It can be debilitating and often hard to pinpoint what is causing it, but according to experts, tuning into your nervous system can actually help you recognize and avoid your triggers.

When it comes to anxiety and our mental health, we all have our own coping mechanisms, whether it’s journaling, meditating, or snuggling down and watching TV—anything that we think takes our minds off those panicked feelings. But, according to this latest research, your distraction tactics could be what's making it worse. 

According to Dr. David Hanscom, so many elements of our day-to-day lives could be making us more susceptible to our anxious feelings. He says by actually tuning into our body, and recognizing what they may be, will help you to avoid your triggers and as a result, ease your anxiety.

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Tara Moore)


Something as simple as watching a tense drama, scrolling the news—or gossiping with a friend—could be among the causes because they can make you feel agitated. 

As Hanscom explains in Psychology Today (opens in new tab): “Anger and anxiety describe agitated physiological states and are sensations generated by your body’s response to threats.

"When states of agitation are sustained, your body’s physiology causes physical damage to your tissues, sensitizes your perception of sensory input, and detracts from your capacity to enjoy life.”

The body has a very reactive ‘fight or flight’ response when it feels threatened, and our mind is the same. So it makes sense that negative thoughts and stimulation only stoke these feelings more.

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Maskot)

While all that sounds very doom and gloom, there is a silver lining. Hansom says: “To some degree, you are in charge of the information going into your nervous system, and what you choose to input into your nervous system will affect your body’s chemistry.”

Have a look at your daily routine, are you scrolling the news a lot? Are you in contact with negative people? Or are you finding yourself complaining often? All of these things could be contributing and are within your control to change.

Try to change things up and do things that actually create happy feelings or ‘spark joy’ as Marie Kondo would say, like watching your favorite episode of friends or having some self-care days—don’t mind if we do!

Hanscom adds: “Understanding the effects of what you are inputting into your nervous system is important in calming it down, initially, they may be so ingrained that you can’t see them or the effects they are having on the quality of your life. It takes practice to notice and is also challenging to change.”

While we wish there was a quick fix for anxiety, sadly there isn’t. It can be hard to overhaul your routine. Start simple, be kind to yourself and try to make your day-to-day you time as positive and calming as possible.

Naomi Jamieson
Lifestyle News Writer

Naomi is a Lifestyle News Writer with the Women's Lifestyle team and has recently earned her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ. She has a background in design, having studied Illustration at Plymouth University but has taken a leap into the world of journalism after always having a passion for writing. She currently writes pieces on beauty, trends, fashion, and entertainment for GoodTo and My Imperfect Life. She also tests and reviews beauty and skincare products and tries out the latest TikTok hacks for My Imperfect Life.


Before working for Future Publishing’s Lifestyle News team, she worked in the Ad production team. Here she wrote and designed adverts on all sorts of things, which then went into print magazines across all genres. Now, when she isn’t writing articles on celebs, fashion trends, or the newest shows on Netflix, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping.