Strategies for dealing with Anxiety and Stress

Photo by Darius Basher

Photo by Darius Basher

I have experienced anxiety my whole life, at times to degrees that made it really difficult to just have normal, every day interactions. However, I’ve always simultaneously pushed myself really, really hard. Which meant I had to develop coping strategies to survive. Here’s what worked.


  • Zembrin: Basically calm, energized focus in a pill. No side effects that I’ve seen. Remarkable supplement. If you have trouble with focus and energy, try this first.
  • L-Theanine: Gits rid of the jitters from caffeine. Naturally occurring in Green Tea, if you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine it basically gives you all the good without the bad. Completely changed coffee for me.
  • Lavender Pills: Noticeably calmer but not so much that it feels like a hindrance or produces side-effects. Pleasantly calm.
  • Magnesium Citrate: Useful to go to sleep, just be careful to not take too much. It is a diarrhetic and will give you wild gas if you over do it.


  • Beta Blockers: Great if you experience situational anxiety so intense that there’s no real “takeaways” or learning from the experience. Very useful for things like interviews where it’s harder to get “at bats” and the stakes are high. The key feature is it makes it so your anxiety/fear doesn’t produce physical side-effects, like shakey or sweaty hands, rapid heart rate, twitching, etc. It’s non-addictive and isn’t mind altering, but beware that it keeps heart rate down so you can’t exercise on it (your heart rate won’t keep up with the exercise). The cool thing is you still experience the fear, but it is more thrilling because of the lake of physical stuff.

Exercise / Sleep

  • Intense Exercise: I ride my bike up hills so steep they cause me to lose feeling in my fingers, and I feel incredible, almost euphoric afterward. I have related this to others, and almost everyone who does some form of exercise that is so intense they can’t think during parts of it remarks the same thing. You just feel great afterward. Doesn’t need to take a long time, 20 minutes of exercise that includes 5 minutes of super high intensity is great. I like biking because I get to see cool stuff while I’m doing it, and see way more than other exercise, but do whatever you like. If you like it, you’ll do it more often.
  • Minimum strength training: I can do about 50 push-ups in a single set along with 50 squats at the age of 40. I never do more than 1 set of these in a day. I know very few people who can do this at any age, much less 40. The trick is that you never push yourself too hard. Make it easy, and keep it easy. It takes very little of my time and it makes my body feel great.
  • Get an amount of sleep that makes you feel good. This really varies from person to person. I usually only let myself get 7 hours minimum, but I probably could use 9. My wife gets 9 and feels great. I wish I could discipline myself to do this, I think it’s probably the next big unlock for me.


  • Ana Pana aka breath meditation/focus: This is what you do for the first 3 days of a 10-day sit when doing a Goenka-style Vipassana. Just focus on the breath leaving/entering your nose. Pay attention to everything about it, go ‘deep’ on your attention, notice the humidity, the sensation, how one nostril is closed, the quality of the breath. See how long you can focus before your mind wanders. 1 minute is a big achievement here. Quick, Goenka-led 15-minute version.
  • Vipassana aka “body scanning”: Start at the top of your head, and slowly move down your body, focusing on the sensation on your skin. If you are doing this right (ie with the right level of focus), you can usually feel your body releasing tension while you’re doing it. This can be hard to do well without getting good at Ana Pana first.

Little Cheats

  • Box Breathing: 4 seconds breathe in, 4 seconds hold, 4 seconds breathe out, 4 seconds hold. Repeat. Has a noticeable calming effect. Do this for a couple minutes and you can quickly center.
  • Cold Showers: Aka Wim Hoff showers. The cheat here is to take a hot shower, and then at the end switch to cold. It’s a great systemic wake up, see how long you can do it!


  • Talking to yourself/coaching yourself: You can talk to yourself in a friendly way, as if you are coaching a friend. E.g. “Let’s not think about that right now, we can think about it later. It’s time to go to sleep, let’s go to sleep”. “It’s time to focus, we need to focus on this and get it done. Let’s focus on this task really hard”. “Tonight when we sleep let’s really clear the brain, we don’t need to repair physically as much.” It is kind of insane how well this works.
  • Reframing: The kids probably call this ‘cope’ now, but reframing is a key psychological device. Cope is useful to survive! If you have a shitty experience, there can be a tendency to just focus on the negative, but that’s actually an inaccurate way to view experience. Almost all experience has upside. Focus on it! What was good about it? Articulate it, write it down, feel the goodness of it. A lot of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is oriented around this. It’s basically positive self-talk within a framework.
  • Becoming your own friend: I’m gonna work on a whole post on this, but learning to like yourself is the ultimate unlock and basically solves for most everything else. Just like you root for your friends, love your friends, and give them good advice, you gotta root for yourself, love yourself, and give yourself good advice. This is a consistent practice, and if your default is to be mean to yourself, either emotionally or verbally, it takes practice. I’m no where near done yet, but just the little bit I’ve done has dramatically helped.
  • Stop trying to be other people: You are yourself, that’s really all you can be. Learn to be the best version of that shamelessly. Trust your judgement of what this means. You will never be able to compete against people who are enjoying the experience of being themselves and doing what they’re doing. They will crush you. Just like you will crush others when you learn to do what you like and yourself.