Managing Somatic Anxiety

August 4, 2022

What is Somatic Anxiety? 

We all manifest anxiety in different ways. For some people, anxiety is experienced mostly in the mind. For example, through feelings of fear or confusion, disturbing thoughts, or difficulty focusing. But for others, it is experienced as physical symptoms. When anxiety affects your body more than your brain. This is called somatic anxiety.  

How Can I Tell If I Have Somatic Anxiety? 

Usually, anxiety manifests in both mental and physical ways. But people generally experience more or stronger symptoms of either cognitive or somatic anxiety. Symptoms of somatic anxiety include:  

  • Pain (such as stomachache, headache, or muscle aches) 
  • Nausea 
  • Sweating 
  • Shaking or muscle tension 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Rapid breathing or hyperventilation 

How Can I Manage Somatic Anxiety? 

Not surprisingly, people with somatic anxiety often respond better to body-related treatments than to cognitive techniques. Here are just a few techniques you can use specifically for somatic anxiety.  

  • Massage can relax your muscles, relieve tension, and put you in a more relaxed state of mind. If you are unable to get a massage due to COVID-19, consider asking your partner or even try self massage
  • Exercise has a proven positive impact on mood. It contributes to the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which is known to enhance mood. Exercise has also been shown to reduce the risk of major depression
  • Yoga can be adapted to any level of fitness and flexibility. Gentle yoga promotes calm by keeping the heart rate low while still allowing you to stretch your muscles and relieve aches and tension.  
  • Meditation might sound like a cognitive treatment, but by focusing on your breathing, you can calm your body and teach yourself to breathe through anxiety and discomfort.  
  • Laughter is great therapy. Find a favorite comedian to listen to, or play with pets or young children—you’ll find that laughing is a quick way to reduce anxiety and boost your mood.  
  • Do something enjoyable with your hands, such as whittling, painting, or crochet, to bring your body into a calm, focused and relaxed state.   


While people with somatic anxiety tend to respond best to treatments that target the body, that doesn’t mean there’s no place for other types of therapy. Counseling and talk therapy can help you to identify your symptoms and learn new ways of dealing with them. Plus, having a counselor or therapist, even for a short time, can help you to stay disciplined in using somatic anxiety management techniques until they become a habit you can easily fall back on.  

Because anxiety often manifests in both the body and the mind, it’s useful to try several different techniques until you find the ones that work best for you to better manage anxiety 

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