In today’s uncertain world, an increasing number of people are grappling with anxiety, characterized by feelings of nervousness, fear, and worry. When we find ourselves in a defensive state, it profoundly affects our emotions, thoughts, and connections with others. This defensive stance not only impacts our overall well-being but also triggers our nervous system’s fight, flight, or freeze response.

In this heightened state of defense, individuals may exhibit various symptoms such as rigidity, disorganization, irritability, and feelings of being overwhelmed or unsafe. They may struggle with accepting limits or boundaries, experience digestive and sleep disturbances, and engage in obsessive or compulsive behaviors.

However, when we perceive the world as safe, we can connect and engage more effectively and enjoyably with our surroundings and with those around us. This sense of safety fosters resilience, calmness, and attentiveness, enabling us to think logically and creatively. It empowers us to learn, socially connect, and embrace flexibility and acceptance, ultimately leading to improved overall well-being, stamina, digestion, restful sleep and a more joy-filled life.  

Tips to decrease anxiety

  • Acknowledge and validate fears and feelings.  You and your child need to feel heard and respected. 
  • Have regular contact with nature. This helps ground us, fostering a sense of inner peace and calm. 
  • Spend time with your pet. Pets provide companionship and support. They can help us be more active and get us outside in fresh air. Holding and snugging our pets elevates our levels of serotonin and dopamine, helping us feel calm and relaxed. Pets also give us structure and routine.
  • Have a healthy diet. Avoiding processed foods and foods high in sugar helps our bodies experience fewer highs and lows of blood sugar and reduces inflammation throughout the body and brain, which can contribute to anxiety. 
  • Get proper amounts of sleep.  Lack of sleep increases cortisol, which can increase anxiety.  
  • Exercise. Movement and exercise of your body increases feel-good hormones and enhance your mood.  
  • Quiet activity. Any individual activity such as coloring, doodling, painting, knitting, crocheting, journaling, reading, etc. This can help us get into a meditative and calming state.  
  • Massage.  Massage helps work out tension in our muscles and can help us relax. 
  • Meditate or belly breathing.  Focus on slow breathing. This helps calm the nervous system and can improve our attention and mood. If you’re feeling anxious and want to calm down, concentrate on your exhale. If you’re feeling stuck and want to become more alert, focus on your inhale.  
  • Routines. Implement daily, weekly, monthly and annual rhythms, seasons, festivals and celebrations.  Predictable and repetitive routines are calming and help reduce anxiety.  
  • Humor. Laughter is a great form of stress relief.  

Hannah Freed is a family health and wellness educator. She currently runs a private practice helping both children and adults integrate and regulate mind and body.  Learn more at