Practical Tips for Living with Anxiety: S.O.S.

living with anxiety sos

Photo credit: GraceOda via / CC BY-NC-ND

I’ve got a post it on my refrigerator and another one on my car dashboard with this technique written on it. Sometimes, a panic attack hits or anxiety is too high and it’s almost impossible to remember to slow down and breathe, so my next practical tip for living with anxiety is to use S.O.S:

Slow Down

Orient to the Present

Scale of 1-10

It’s taken me several months of practice for this to become something I use regularly, but i feel like it’s finally becoming a habit.


During a panic attack (or just before and after one), my mind races so fast that I feel like I can’t even see straight. The first step is to slow down. It could be taking deep breaths, closing your eyes for a few minutes, or sitting still. Do whatever it takes to slow your mind and begin to relax.


The nature of anxiety is that it makes you obsessive about the “future”. I use the word future loosely because having anxiety makes you obsessive about what might happen and possible consequences. Sometimes I find myself convinced that a certain situation is going to play out in a certain way and it paralyzes me. When I take time to orient to the present, it helps me to remember that I cannot predict people’s responses or read their minds.

Note: this obsessive anxiety about the future is not the same as worry. If you haven’t experienced anxiety or panic attacks, it’s important to understand (or at least trust me) that anxiety and worry are completely different.


The last step of S.O.S. is to figure out on a scale of 1-10 how severe the situation is. This step has been the most difficult for me, so I plan on devoting an entire post to it. Each situation in life has a varying degree of stress, (1) being minimally stressful and (10) being ridiculously stressful. For example, a (1) situation would be running low on milk before I plan on going grocery shopping and a (10) situation would be the loss of a spouse or child. Anxiety messes with my perception of how stressful life is and I tend to respond to situations that warrant a 2, 3, or 4 as if it were an 8, 9, or 10. Reminding myself of the significance of the moment helps me to retrain my mind to pause before jumping into an anxiety-laden response without thinking.

Has anyone else heard of this technique or practiced it before? What tips would you add?

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  1. marynewman on February 22, 2016 at 11:11 am

    I never heard of any of these but I like that scale system. What a great way to get perspective and refocus! I also like the orient to present concept. I actually am in the past more than the future, replaying and fixating on things I can’t change. That’s good advice too!

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