David Joel Orenstein
David Joel Orenstein

The Mood Lifting Anti-Anxiety Toolbox


These are rough times. Covid 19, climate disruption as well as political and social strife make life difficult and exacerbate all the other challenges life throws at us. Fortunately, human biology and culture have provided us with many tools to help us keep calm and carry on. Here are some that help me.   

  1) Self – Talk  What we say to ourselves matters. Therefore, absolutely no being mean. I try never to say anything to myself that I would not say to a baby or child or most anyone else:  

 “I am so stupid” – absolutely not!!!  

 “I am such an idiot” – absolutely not!!!!  

If I find myself saying such things, I cease fire and say to myself, 

 “STOP IT””  

Rather, I try to say things like:   

  “I am trying my best.”  

“My intentions are good.”  

 “I am only human and people make mistakes. Screwing up is part of being a person.”  

“How can I learn from this and improve myself?”   

I have tried to get in the habit of being nice to myself and frequently (every day) saying nice things to myself.  

In the morning, I look at myself in the mirror and say:  

“Good morning, David”  

  “I love you, David”  

I felt very awkward at first, but I got over that soon and it has become easy.  

Other things I say:  

I am a good person.”   

“I am a good son.”  

 “I am smart.”  

“I am funny.”  

“I am creative.”  

“I am kind.”  

 “I am compassionate.”  

 “I care about myself and I will take good care of myself.”  

Be creative and make this a habit,  

  2) I have written down the names of my loved ones. I look at that list frequently and remind myself that they love and care about me.  

  3) Aerobic exercise really makes me feel good.   

A half hour of brisk walking, swimming or dancing every two or three days works wonders. 

  4) I limit refined sugar to a few grams per day and am trying to eliminate it altogether.   

   5) I try to figure out what my anxiety is trying to tell me or what it wants me to do or not do.  

  6) A few times each day I stop for a moment, take a few deep breaths, observe where I am and what is going on around me and, if possible, what is good, at that moment.  

 7) Box breathing 

Do the following set five times:  

                             1) inhale deeply 

                             2) hold breath for five seconds 

                             3) exhale deeply 

                              4) hold breath for five seconds 

8) I practice mindfulness and meditation.  

9) I practice (gentle) yoga. 

10) I take a few moments every day to appreciate a few of the good things I have in my life.  

11)  Once out of childhood it was almost impossible for me to cry. I have learned during the past few years how to let myself weep.  Maybe because I am a man in this culture, I still find it nearly impossible to do it around anyone but my therapist. I allow myself to do it when I am alone and sometimes feel as it I am washing some of the hurt, pain, sadness, heartbreak, etc., out of my brain.  

12) Have compassion 

13) Change is inevitable. There is no going back. Embrace your human ability to adapt. 

14) The only real thing we have is each other.  

About the Author
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, grew up in Los Angeles, and worked and studied for a year in Israel before beginning my adult life. I enjoy writing poetry and essays about surviving childhood brain cancer, climate change, peace in the middle east and many other subjects.
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