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Taylor Burton May 22, 2024 8:15:00 AM 5 min read

6 Coping Methods to Combat Anxiety

Your client is depending on you. You've done your due diligence in preparing for this case. You're as ready as you'll ever be. Then, just before stepping into the courtroom, it hits you: a pounding heart, shortness of breath, and a dizzying lightheadedness. Anxiety. found through a recent survey that 71.1% of lawyers acknowledged having anxiety. Considering it's one of the most stressful careers with incredibly long working hours, it makes sense. Despite an awareness of this issue, the number of lawyers with anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems are rising across the board. Why?

One reason could be that society is finally comfortable with talking about mental health. The stigma is falling away. People are no longer ashamed to admit they have a problem or see a therapist to address it. This transparency and ongoing conversation can serve to aid others who are in need. But what do you do when an anxiety attack creeps up on you at the worst possible moment? Here are 6 coping methods to combat anxiety when it shows its face.

Being prepared for the future can ease anxiety in the long run, too. Join us for a live webcast of "Succession Planning: What to do with Your Practice" on Wednesday, May 29th. You owe it to yourself, your family, your colleagues, and your clients to think about practice succession. As with many things, planning ahead gives you the best chance at capping a successful practice with a successful transition. Don't miss this chance to gain helpful advice on deciding your own future on your own terms.




Breathe. Deep breathing is the tried-and-true method to hitting the brakes on your panic before it takes off. Be sure to make your exhales longer than your inhales because this will help slow your heart rate. Try breathing in for four seconds, pause for four, then exhale for eight. This is called 4-4-8 breathing, but many variations on the timing exist.

Another method you could try is alternate nostril breathing. It's exactly what it sounds like: breathing through one nostril while keeping the other shut, then switching at the top of each breath. This forces you to slow down your breathing since the solo nostril can only take in so much air at once. 


Ground yourself with a sensory exercise. Before your thoughts get away from you, take a moment to anchor yourself by focusing in on your surroundings. Challenge yourself to name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

Here are some prompts to help you out: What are the people around you wearing? What colors can you see? Is there any interesting art or architecture to behold? What is it made out of? What is the texture of your clothing--is it soft? Can you hear any conversation or music playing? What instruments created that music? Can you detect any scents such as perfume or flowers? What about taste--perhaps someone nearby is sipping on coffee or chewing a piece of gum. What flavor do you think it might be?

This is a great, simple activity to pull you out of your head and observe the present moment.


Young cute woman smelling pink flowers


Release tension with exercise. Okay, if you're about to enter the courtroom, you can't exactly take off running while wearing a suit. However, a few simple stretches or a brisk walk around the room might release some of the nervous energy you're feeling. Roll your neck and shoulders. Soften your brow and unclench your jaw. Relaxing your body can help relax your mind.

Remember that more exercise in general can help reduce anxiety overall!


Listen to brown noise. We're all familiar with the static of white noise. Brown noise comes in at a deeper frequency and resembles the distant roar of the ocean or the low hum of a fan. There's not a whole lot of science behind it, but it's become an online trend, with some comparing it to "wrapping your brain in a blanket." You can give it a try here.

If you find it's not for you, there's always your favorite music! Just make sure it's something slow and soothing, and not something that will fuel the fires of your anxiety attack.


Man listening to music on headphones at home


Challenge the negative thoughts. Anxiety can be a swirling vortex of negative self-talk trying to tear you down. Or it could be an ever-growing mental list on every which way your case could go wrong. Imagine this anxiety as a separate being. Would you allow another person to talk down to you like this? Or if a friend or your child was saying these things about themselves or worrying about the future, would you just let it happen or would you make an effort to assuage their fears and build them up? Exactly.

Treat yourself gently, as though you would your best friend or a family member. Challenge the negative thoughts with reason. Use examples of past triumphs to present as evidence against your anxiety. Practice compassion for yourself, because you are doing your best, and sometimes that's all you can do.


Acknowledge your anxiety. This involves taking a moment to understand why you are feeling this way. What's the reason behind it? Maybe there is no reason behind it, and that's okay too. Acknowledge these thoughts and feelings, and then peacefully let them go. Imagine blowing on a dandelion puff and watching these thoughts depart on the wind like little seeds. Or picture them as leaves floating down a creek, disappearing into the distance.

It can be healthy to acknowledge these thoughts, but there is nothing to be gained from holding onto them. There is peace to be found in letting go. Accept that you cannot control everything in your life but know that you will always do right by yourself and others to the best of your ability. From there, you carry on.


Portrait of a girl blowing a dandelion at sunset