Tools to Help Clients Calm Their Anxiety

Clients often experience anxiety as their body responds to danger – whether real or imagined.

And for some of our clients, when anxiety revs up, slowing it back down can take on a sense of emergency.

So what exactly is it that often keeps people from soothing anxiety once it begins to take hold?

According to Linda Graham, LMFT, it’s that they don’t know that they can. Not only that, they don’t know how.

In the video below, Linda takes us through four specific ways to help clients calm anxiety.

Take a look – it’s about 5 minutes.

This video was taken from the Next Level Practitioner training program where members receive a daily video full of practical insights from one of the top 25 experts in our field. That program is not open for new members right now, but if you want to be on a waiting list in case it opens up, please click here.

What tools do you use to help clients work through anxiety? Please leave a comment below.


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  1. John says:

    I myself have benefited from the learning if inspiration and aspiration through the breathing techniques. There are so many different ways – out there. But I realize that meditation can also help us to breath deeply – like when doing yoga basic posture to bring the oxygen to the brain and and burning fire to the belly. Basically, the brain is said to be the expansion of the consciousness to the unconscious realm. And the neocortex is responsible for higher thinking and the limbic system is responsible for emotion in the brain. Doing the meditation and breathing will allow us to unlock and become one with the unconsciousness subjectively. Aware of our oneness. See things as they really are but with “detached watching”. This has been my water cup ever since my past traumatic from separation – It is what has made my life valuable and in a new light.

  2. Thomas P O'Connor says:

    Wonderful presentation.

    I am a qualified counsellor/psychotherapist who came into this field because of these feelings and panic attacks. Unfortunately, I used alcohol to calm my fears and duly lost my job, my marriage & my home (and almost my life and mind).

    In my own therapy I had learned about breathing exercises and relaxation therapies and I applied these to my everyday life. All of the fear, anxiety and panic I felt stemmed from events that had happened to me as a child and most of which I was too young to remember e.g. Separation from parents at 5months & being locked in a press when I was only 4.

    I couldn’t use lifts, go on planes, be in crowds etc.

    There is a lot more to this but it is the reason I studied what I did so I could help others avoid going through what I went through – basically being a prisoner in my own body.

  3. jerry1602 says:

    Thanks, great work and your tool will definitely make changes in people and this will help them to overcome anxity

  4. This is EXACTLY what Emotional Freedom Techniques does! The client somatically feels their anxiety, and then as we tap together (Stephen Porges’ theories whereby the coach’s calm affect calms the client) the client focuses on that anxiety perhaps through a specific incident where the anxiety began, and as we tap the client somatically processes the feeling while the tapping calms the sympathetic nervous system, subconsciously telling the limbic system the client and their body is now safe. EFT is the way to go! Less work for the client; less work for the coach/therapist.xz

  5. Stephanie says:

    I explain how the stress response of anxiety relates to past trauma, often developmental, in order to normalize their reaction. I teach them to use compassionate self-talk.

  6. Marc says:

    Sensational! Thank you, Ruth. I can not wait until the Summit. Blessed your heart.

  7. Ann Hubbard says:

    Love all the comments above, I use grounding action and breathing. I have the client stand up feet a part, i ask them to feel the weight of their body through their feet, then as they take a breath in they raise their arms slowly to shoulder height, so arms in straight line, then on out breath slowly lower their arms down. We do this several times, it is very relaxing, I sometimes do it myself after a heavy session. Help the client also to learn how to breath from their diaphragm is helpful.

  8. Jeanne Hoecker says:

    I thought Linda’s suggestions were helpful and spot on.
    I’ve worked with anxiety for over 20yrs both as a therapist and in my own struggles. One notion I’ve come to realize that reminds me of what Linda is saying is that I have often wondered if anxiety is the body’s response when it is transitioning from Sympathetic to Parasympathetic Nervous System. To me anxiety in the body feels like pushing on the gas when your foot is on the brake and I’m wondering if that is similar to the body trying to balance going from getting motivated (SNS) to rest and digest (PNS) or visa versa. Just putting it into physiological terms has helped me and my clients adjust without adding alarm to the shift.

  9. Isobel Terry says:

    Brillant. Very clear with a first aid quality which I valued for myself.

  10. Lily Paul says:

    Thank you for the videos. I use guided meditation of a safe place. I start it off with the focus on the breath where I get them to visualise a champagne bottle inside them with the base of the bottle in their stomach. With every breath they have to visualise the air filling the base of the bottle. This helps not only to breathe correctly but reduces the anxiety very quickly.

  11. Joe Casey says:

    Yes to all the above. I ask the client to tell me where the anxiety is. Once I got into this, I realized I have not yet seen an emotion that isn’t palpable in the body. I am a fan of “Metaphors in Mind”, so I develop that physical sensation and invite it to show up as a healing metaphor. The anxiety tends to dissolve, especially when EFT plays a part. It’s more complex than that in practice, but that’s the general idea, and wow is it incredible.

  12. Joy says:

    I have been utilizing guided meditation as a tool set for calming the body. So far it has assisted my clients in calming the body.

  13. James W Malewicz says:

    Good morning, when working with clients when I’m aware of having their trust and establishing safety I will have the client role play anxiety in an empty chair , establishing a history and events . it really helps the client change their perception and empowers them.

  14. Thank you. Interesting variations of somatic approaches which appear very helpful.

    • Lilacs says:

      Thank you for sharing.

  15. HeeZee Lu says:

    I helped my client to develop a positive anchor. By activating the positive anchor helps them to break the chain of anxieties.

  16. Theresa says:

    I don’t understand a wait list for online studies that can help so many. I’m on several of your wait lists. Can you please help me understand this. It seems like a marketing ploy and would hope that is not the case.
    Thank you.
    Theresa Graham lpc lmhc

    • Lauren, NICABM Staff says:

      Hi Theresa,

      I do see that you subscribed to our waiting list for the Next Level Practitioner this past November – which means you’ll be among the first we reach out to when registration is open again.

      You just haven’t received anything yet because we only open registration for that program twice a year, and it hasn’t opened since you joined our list.

      But we will be opening registration in the next month, so you will soon see emails from us about the Next Level Practitioner program being available!

      If you have other questions in the meantime, feel free to reach out to us here:

      NICABM Staff

  17. Fontaine Waite says:

    Hand on heart and saying, “I will not scare myself.”

  18. Christine Miller says:

    I don’t feel my anxiety…which can almost reach panic levels…. during the day when I’m in the world. I find when I go to bed and it’s dark that awful pit of the stomach feeling sets in.
    Thanks to all those above who offered such helpful suggestions. I’m going to try some of them really right away.
    I’ve found getting up from bed and stroking my cats beautiful fur helps…and I sleep with a little light on.
    It’s good to know I’m not alone.

    • Gabby says:

      what is the difference between feelings and emotions ? The numbness or having a disregard for how one feels can cause a lot of distress. When mixed up it becomes essential to sort it out. Mixed feelings are the toughest . I give myself a time to prepare and cool downtime before seeing my colleagues , a sort of positive self talk to regain my confidence when in public eyes.? Panic can arise easily in me in social situation

  19. Bruce Hill says:

    Thank you very much. I believe the work you are doing is a genuine blessing to anyone willing to take the time to practice the simple ideas presented.

  20. John Potucek says:

    Naming thoughts and feelings together with slow breath out may reduce the intensity of that feeling (anxiety)

  21. Marlin says:

    Thank you for generosity of video and all suggestions offered. Absorbing language and words other than my own is enlightening and educational. The language in phrases here, the words here, often have not occurred to me while spiralling in anxiety or feeling so depressed I silently weep, or blaming or shaming – so just to learn to “ label” what my mind is doing, just to learn to “ label” where my mind takes me, is educational. I can neutrally own my own thoughts instead of blaming my partner for what I’m doing without, or for blaming my partner for what I’m enduring. Thank you.

    • E. Witherspoon says:

      Now, I don’t mull over the sadness or cogitate on what I do wrongly anymore or as often. I’d rather tell myself “I did it”, well and that would be my healing for that particular day. Rather than ruminating and ponder, I learn to “catch myself” doing great and that’s make my day much worthwhile. Labelling just do it as well, but not as much.

  22. Zoe Waggoner says:

    A great tool I have been using with clients, in addition to somatically based tools, is TRE: Tension and Trauma Release Exercises. Using this simple and effective process either on a regular basis or as needed helps calm the entire system.


    • Ann Hubbard says:

      I have heard of TRE can you say more about this, may be give an example of how it works as I work mainly with traumatised clients.

  23. Bridget says:

    Personally- I try to “shut up” turn off the WHAT IF? With students I have them imagine a button and turning it off.

  24. I use a bunch of somatic resources from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy ( Pat Ogden’s work).

    • Marc says:

      Thank you for your comment. I discovered Peter Levine’s art of healing by taking a course. I find somatic patients can get effective results. It’s integrative, eclectic and not intrusive. I want to know more about his contribution.

  25. The tool that I use is tapping (Emotional Freedom Techniques or just EFT). I’ve been using it for almost 20 years now – I’m a retired school counselor and therapist in private practice – and It’s the quickest method I know to reduce anxiety ,often in minutes. It talks to the energy system of our body and activates the calming para-sympathetic system. Stops panic attacks in their tracks. Fastest, safest way I know to deal with PTSD. Thanks for mentioning the upcoming Tapping Summit, Ruth. Hope anyone who isn’t familiar with this technique uses this free, once -a -year opportunity to learn more about it.

  26. Theresa says:

    I usually am aware I can do something about it and I try to be “in it” .I would say deep breaths are my “go to”but I can start the “what if’s and the ruminating”really quickly and start to spiral .At this point it can be difficult for me to settle down.

  27. Tebeth Hamon says:

    Hi Ruth.

    I also like to use the great ways Linda suggests to help clients. Another very important factor is often people with anxiety are not grounded properly in their bodies, not fully present because they are very focused in the mind. Getting them to sit or stand on the ground (in nature if possible) and feel a chord of light or energy from above the head coming down through their body and connect deeply into the earth, holding and repeating it. You can use the hands with this to help, best results come doing it very slowly and with focus.
    Tebeth Hamon QLD Austalia

  28. Hi, just had an experience with sports performance anxiety today. While I have studied and use the practice of self-compassion and self-regulation with clients, I learned today that the application of these tools in the moment, for myself…was another kettle of fish. So I think that repeated practice is important. The intellectual engagement of the skills of breath, hands on the heart, and seeking calming socially safe people are key, but then the body has to know it too, through practice. So in sessions now, I will use practice as well as education.
    And I will practice and practice myself.
    Francine Gohier M.A.

  29. Karen says:

    It is such a beautiful gift! Thank you.

  30. Thank you very much . As a yoga teacher I guided my students to stay in a asana a little more time than normal, that challenge to focus en other thing in the body, maybe power, than the feeling of anxiety or fear. Namaste dear Ruth . From Mexico City

  31. When a person is anxious, they loose their “ground”. That’s because with their level of fear they hold and do not exhale sufficiently to make enough room in their lungs to take in enough oxygen to fuel subsequent breaths. So I start working with them somatically by suggesting they put both feet flat on the floor, and feel their body being supported in space by the floor and the chair they are siting on. I then have them gently place their hands on their diaphram and begin to do breath work with them by having them inhale through their nostrils “down to the place in their body they are touching”. Then slowly and completely exhale like “blowing out a candle”, and even make a sound as they exhale which helps them to press down on their diaphragm and push out all the carbon dioxide. This is an important start as they get more present centered and experience the somatic supports that they have and makes way for greater self support and fuller awareness.

  32. Sandra Cohen says:

    I have used walking while breathing and saying a mantra. One lady was very religious and felt that she was a bad person, so the self talk/mantra was “The Lord loves me as I am”. In time to the footsteps and breathing in and out. I have also used the 5 senses as a immediate grounding technique.Breathing, mindfulness and visualisation can also help.

  33. Bev says:

    Expressive and body-based behaviors like art, writing by hand, and dancing to positive, meaningful, songs. Songs such as “I am woman” or “I did it my way” convey a message and feeling of power, and when paired with original movements, are very helpful.

  34. Malinda-Ro says:

    Thanks for these tips everyone.
    I find, pulling out an A3 size piece of paper and asking the client to draw a figure 8 on the paper with a pastel or crayon helps considerably. I instruct the client to repeatedly draw over the figure 8 in time with there breath. Eg. Draw one curve on the in breath and another curve on the out breath. This is something a client can do at home. After practicing this, when they are in a public setting they can imagine that they are doing this.

    • Jane Harris says:

      Wow, Malinda-Ro, what a great idea! Thanks for sharing it.

  35. Beth says:

    I found anxiety meds can help for during the day exposures and useless at night – except to increase dependency. I will go for relaxation as the best.

  36. I like to include the spiritual aspect , in helping clients with anxiety. Using a mantra,a prayer,a guided visualization that includes a safe place and a person either real or imaginary to be with has been useful.

  37. Clients need to be offered somatic experiences that help them deactivate the emotional intensity of what their feeling, rather than becoming saturated in their emotions. Also, a body in motion can also get them out off their heads and away from emotional activation. At the same time, I do belief that when they are less emotionally charged, which zaps their energy, willpower and motivation, they must be offered guidance in establishing a new narrative with their anxiety as something to instruct, talk back to, challenge and/or even float through — in other words, establish more supportive and less threatening view or beliefs related to their anxiety. As a former anxiety sufferer and current psychotherapist who specializes in helping clients gain freedom from anxiety, I have shared some of my personal experiences to help my clients appreciate what it took many years of therapy to learn — to accept anxiety, let it float past, and focus on the present. As a result, my relationship with anxiety is no longer one borne out of fear as I have learned to channel it towards healthy change and personal growth. The paradox of gaining freedom from anxiety is acceptance, time, and the loosening on the need to control it.

    • Lilac says:

      This is helpful. Thank you.

  38. Barbara de Faye says:

    From EMDR. Have your client choose two spots on a slight diagonal about three feet apart and then have them move their eyes back and forth between the two spots at their own pace. Many of my clients find this works well for them.

    I also have clients visualize a Clydesdale horse. It is a very tired workhorse, it is the end of it`s work day and the horse has to work it`s way back to it`s stable. It is so tired it can barely move. Have your client slowly tap each thigh as they imagine the horse`s progress. I usually say clip clop slowly as they get used to the pace. Clients find this very calming. If they need to calm themselves in public this can be adapted by something like folding your arms and tapping alternately on one side of the body and then the other.

  39. Leslie says:

    Letting go of the contraction present in fear, by allowing it to transform to the energy of life force is an additional method that sometimes works. This can be done through the breath, breath in the fear, breath out, I am alive.

    Observing, accepting and grounding through the phrase, “I can be present in this moment with this fear” is also helpful . Repeating the phrase multiple times seems to deescalate, because fear tells us to worry about something in the future and the phrase brings us back to the present, and includes acceptance.
    Connecting with something external, the ground underneath me, the sense of space, and noting that there is no fear present in that experience. Moving some of the attention into that experience, and allowing the container that provides, include the fear.
    Self compassion, as in Sylivia Boorstein’s phrase, “Relax sweetheart. You’re upset right now. Take a breath. Take another breath. ”
    Guy Armstrong reminds us that fear tells us that the logic in fear is that we cannot be happy right now because something unpleasant could happen in the future. Along with all of the methods to self soothe, the use of this cognition can add to my capacity to see how I am contributing to my own suffering by attaching to the state of fear. It supports seeing that fear can happen without losing connection to a state of unconditioned peace.

  40. Judy says:

    Thank you everyone Beautiful ideas especially rocking a baby!!!

  41. Jeffrey says:

    Use your fingertips and lightly begin to tap repeatedly on the chest just below the collarbones while whispering verbally or silently “inner peace, inner peace, inner peace…” over and over again is one method. Diaphragmatic breathing, sensory grounding, and using ‘anchors’ (training the body to drop into a state of calmness and safety with guided imagery and then anchoring that feeling state by touching the thumb to forefinger as a biofeedback reminder) are other methods I have found to be very effective.

  42. Dorothy says:

    Sometimes I honor my anxiety as what motivates me to think through a problem from every angle toward finding a solution. It is not always pretty but in the long run I cognitively acknowledge the wisdom of my anxiety. When I am ready to calm myself physically I use EMDR tapping techniques and mindful breath work.

    Thank you for being generous with your videos.

  43. pat says:

    Learning to be calm within oneself keeps one grounded. Body scan often focuses clients in their own concrete presence within time and space, they exist as they are. They may notice other sensations in their body which are overlooked when in panic. That moves focus away from the panic feelings and dissipates the intensity of those feelings.

  44. Corine says:

    EFT Tapping calms my anxiety

  45. Vicki Berkus M.D..Ph.D,CEDS says:

    My pups-Punim and Shekel

  46. Nancy Di Giorgio says:

    Thank you. I offer 3 relief tools. Try EFT -tapping. First acts as a distractor for a child/adults in anxiety/ fear/PTSD while releasing tension. Tap right side of hand under pinkie and say “I release this stop to my feeling love and peace as I am love and peace.” Gives children a sense of their power to choose to feel good works with inner child of adults too. Then tap on thymus gland – center of chest -repeat words while tapping as well as on Face (Vagus nerve begins) then navel (Vagus nerve ends) for those blaming self/others. See The Tapping Solution by Nick Ortner. Study Cell Salts – highly effective with no contraindications and Bach Rescue Remedy. I know I know but don’t knock it until YOU try it on YOU. All three are take home tools.

  47. Ork says:

    One of my fAvorite tools in helping the person with anxiety is to focus on perception/sensation- which I call orienting to the present moment-. 5 things they see and name these, five things they sense/feel in the body and name these, five things they hear and name these, one-two things they taste, name these and one- two things they smell and name these. I encourage folks to use this tool if they are beginning to experience panic and or anxiety and to practice it regularly even when not experiencing anxiety/panic…so when they need it,it is there more readily.

  48. Sheila Mohn, MA, LMHC, SEP says:

    In general, I use somatic experiencing techniques from Peter Levine’s work because it is so effective and it is a tool the client can use throughout life. With DID clients, I ask where in the body do they sense the anxiety and then what age is the part having the anxiety. This is usually a younger part anxious about something current that is triggering an unresolved trauma memory.

  49. Bern says:

    Hi thank you for this – so many people with anxiety do not have another person to regulate with therefore these tools are essential between sessions and for life. I have focused on Porges ventral vagal system and encourage anything that stimulates any aspect of it – done consciously – larynx – voice – sing hum speak chant pray – all on out breath – senses – head turning/ eyes – orientate to environment but also blinking/ eye exercises -ears listen to music – listen to yourself when you sing/ speak – if alone speak out what you are doing as you do it in the here and now – touch – any self massage, lift an object and feel its curves/ shape – hot / cold – smell relaxing oils – prepare and taste something you love. the main thing is they are done consicouly and if possible with the out breath. When we speak/ sing we are also using the language part of the brain so it is harder to think anxious thoughts. Also any movement changes our breathing and can shift the freeze aspect of anxiety. Psycho education is the best gift to give a client when they are open and curious about why they get anxious. waste of time when they are anxious because their cortex is off-line. looking forward to hearing what others do.

  50. Susanna Mader says:

    I use grounding Tools like awereness in the feets , long exhales throug the mouth, slow movement in yoga asanas with concsious breath

  51. andrea says:

    support clients to see anxiety as an internal helper… the part of us that is trying to protect us, plan for us, organize… but we don’t want that part of us in the driving seat, being the decision maker. Then I ask clients if they can thank anxiety and let her know they’ve got this… allowing anxiety to take a seat, to rest. Then we work with breath, and often hand on heart. I like the piece around allowing client a memory of a person or situation that they can call on to connect with calmness and kindness

  52. andrea says:

    I support clients to see anxiety as an internal helper… the part of us that is trying to protect us, plan for us, organize… but we don’t want that part of us in the driving seat, being the decision maker. Then I ask clients if they can thank anxiety and let her know they’ve got this… allowing anxiety to take a seat, to rest. Then we work with breath, and often hand on heart. I like the piece around allowing client a memory of a person or situation that they can call on to connect with calmness and kindness

  53. Genesis says:

    Resonating Repatterning and Meditation

  54. CAROL says:






  55. Frances Bynoe says:

    I have used Deep Breathing and the Butterfly Hug.
    Very interested in these new techniques.

  56. Elena Domínguez says:

    First of all, thanks for sharing such useful tips.

    So … what I do in the first place with my clients is to help them not to try to avoid, escape or fight against the emotional signal, the anxiety.

    I try to offer you a metaphor between a burning potato and emotions. I ask them what we do when someone throws a potato on fire and they say we want to throw it or even throw it against someone and then I tell them that if he or she throws this hot potato they can not eat it, and then you can not, in this metaphor, learn something about what your emotion needs to tell you, so I encourage them to gently blow this hot potato until it gets cooler and then if you continue blowing it very gently, it will brings you a lot of beauty and interesting information about yorself, so they becomes almost a crystal ball whith many answers. Many clients told me that they really find this methafore useful for them so this is why I wanted to share it with all of you.

    I wish my English would be better to make me understand better thank you

  57. gs says:

    I work with Caregivers. We do several deep breathing exercises and imagery. It’s something they can take with them and use anywhere… thank you for your practical information.

  58. Ruth Heal says:

    As a LifeForce Yoga Practitioner I use breath to work with anxiety. Stairstep breathing is one of the best techniques. The in breath is in 4-5 small sniffs with out breath a long slow slide out. This overcomes the difficulty of taking in a full deep in breath when overwhelmed by anxiety. It is the slowing of the out breath that creates the relaxation responses. Once the immediate anxiety subsides to a more manageable level one can use a breathing pattern where the out breath is longer than the in breath – 4:6 or 4:8 count.
    Yoga practice can teach the person slowly to inhabit their body more fully and the. Voice of poses can end towards calming.

  59. Leslie Hawes says:

    I typically use breath and relaxation, along with distraction. When I say distraction I will sometimes distract away from the body to a more mindful focal point, something that they have enjoyed in the past or something that is appeasing to the senses at the moment. In most cases these techniques are helpful.

  60. Mike says:

    One of the techniques that I find very effective is
    present moment awareness. I come back
    into the present moment by being aware
    that I am experiencing anxiety which has
    the effect of dropping my rumination over the
    past and future. I then add focusing on my breath.
    After awhile I am calmer.

  61. Adam H Ridgewell says:

    I immediately thought of the TRE method (trauma release exercises)- the method developed by David Berceli. It engages purposeful movements to create tension, mostly in the lower extremity, culminating in the patient laying on their back to “tremor” and “shake” the physical manifestation of anxiety out. It doesn’t sit well with everyone, so I do sometimes teach the mechanics of breath.

  62. Dee says:

    I’ve guided people to use the out breath. Blowing out at least 3 long out breaths. And not to worry about the inbreath because the body will automatically take breath in. With the concentration on the one bodily function is helpful. I agree with visualizing a safe place or a place of Love. Letting the woman think of that moment, for one lady it was holding her 18 month old grandson. Just imagining it brought a smile and a calmness to her face.
    Teaching her how to “change the radio station”. As she practiced worry about a medical procedure in heavy anxiety, then closing her eyes to see her grandson. She was able to see her heart beat race or her hands get sweaty, then stop suddenly.

    • Gangtok says:

      Thanks for sharing.

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