In our modern world, it is easy to feel anxious with the constant barrage of news and information that saturates our days. Many of us are discovering the need to calm ourselves and take a break from the seemingly unending things to worry about.

With this in mind, yesterday morning I sat at my favorite local coffee shop (having a cup of tea) and made a list of 72 things to do during anxious times. I wasn’t aiming for 72, or any number, I just kept writing until I had to leave. My goal was to create some suggestions for activities that might take our minds off our ever-changing and sometimes-scary world.

As a former shrink turned novelist, my hope is that you find at least one of these suggestions helpful and that it will somehow make your time on this planet a little less anxious and perhaps even a tad more enjoyable. xo


72 Things to Do During Anxious Times

  1. Read fiction–escape into a really good story
  2. Sit in the sun for 10 minutes
  3. Take a 10 minute walk
  4. Sit or walk by a body of water or a fountain
  5. Listen to live music
  6. Breathe deeply for 4 breaths every hour
  7. Read a poem
  8. Smile at a stranger
  9. Write and mail a postcard to an old friend
  10. Join a book club
  11. Sketch a really bad self-portrait from looking in the mirror
  12. Sing Zip-a-dee-do-dah in the car
  13. Write an old-fashioned fan letter to someone you admire
  14. Watch young children play
  15. Write a really bad poem
  16. Watch birds for 10 minutes
  17. Make a cup of tea
  18. Buy a small plant and talk to it
  19. Make a list of 10 things you are grateful for
  20. Write a positive word for every letter of the alphabet
  21. Listen to a song from when you were a teenager
  22. Make a list of 10 thoughtful things you can do for someone you care about. Do one a day for 10 days. Or do all 10 for 10 days
  23. Ask for help while doing something hard and then return the favor
  24. Make a donation to an organization you believe in
  25. Seek out good news stories
  26. Pet your dog or cat or visit a shelter
  27. Cancel subscriptions to things you don’t have time for or that make you feel anxious
  28. Make a list of things to do during anxious times 😉
  29. Write a note and tell someone what you appreciate about them. Do this once every day for one week, or a month, or a year
  30. Make a list of things you believe in
  31. Volunteer one afternoon a month
  32. Attend a support group
  33. Have one night a week where you play old fashioned games with your friends or family
  34. Study a tree, plant or flower. Imagine what is going on inside them
  35. Find photos of your ancestors and thank them for allowing you to exist
  36. Spend one hour straightening something you’ve been meaning to put order to
  37. Tell someone that you love them
  38. In silence, watch it rain or snow
  39. Eat an entire meal of unprocessed food
  40. Dance in front of a mirror to your favorite song
  41. Pretend you are the happiest you have ever been. What will you do next?
  42. Introduce yourself to a neighbor you’ve never met
  43. Learn to play didgeridoo
  44. Sit in a coffee shop and people watch instead of looking at your phone or tablet
  45. Explore what kind of art you like by visiting a museum or art gallery
  46. Go somewhere you’ve never been before
  47. Pick up trash in a natural area for 30 minutes
  48. Thank someone for their service
  49. Do one thing every Saturday that you’ve never done before
  50. Place something in your kitchen that inspires you or that you find beautiful
  51. Create a Haiku
  52. Call or visit someone that you usually only email or text
  53. Look out a window and make a list of everything you see
  54. Tell someone they are not alone
  55. Spend an hour with someone who is very old. Think about what kind of old person you want to be if you have that opportunity
  56. Remember a pleasant experience from your childhood and try to replicate it
  57. Make your favorite meal and share it with someone. Or if you are seldom alone, go have a favorite meal by yourself
  58. Say ‘thank you’ to everyone you interact with for an entire day
  59. Hand deliver or send someone flowers or buy flowers for yourself
  60. Detach from the internet and television for 24 hours and study your reactions
  61. Remove yourself from someone who is toxic to you
  62. Practice extreme self care
  63. Detach from all news sources for one day and see if you feel calmer
  64. Help someone in trouble (if they want help)
  65. Read a genre of fiction that you don’t usually read
  66. Go to the library and enjoy the quiet
  67. Taste a vegetable that you’ve never eaten before
  68. Read one book considered a “classic.” See if you agree
  69. Read a book you used to love as a child
  70. Open the door for someone
  71. Write a love letter with crayons
  72. Devote yourself to something creative


What would you add to this list of things to do during anxious times? Do you have any that you want to try?

72 Things to Do During Anxious Times

Susan Gabriel is the acclaimed southern author of Amazon #1 Bestselling novels  The Secret Sense of Wildflower (named a Best Book of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews) and Temple Secrets. Her other books include Grace, Grits and Ghosts: Southern Short Stories and her latest southern historical novel, Trueluck Summer. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina.


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