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Here's the Verdict on TikTok’s Most Popular Anxiety Hacks

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Key Takeaways

  • Tips for anxiety have gotten nearly 40 million views on TikTok.
  • While some anxiety hacks on TikTok can be helpful, others may not be.
  • Talk with your doctor before trying any anxiety hack suggested on social media.

Throughout the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. This is a jump from one in ten adults who reported symptoms between January and June 2019.

As people deal with the stress, anxiety and fear of the pandemic and post-pandemic life, many look for advice on social media platforms like the video-sharing company TikTok. 

To date, #anxietytips has over 39.5 million views on TikTok, but it's important to verify the safety and effectiveness of these techniques before trying them.

A Psychiatrist Weighs In

“I would advise individuals to consult with their physicians prior to partaking in coping techniques mentioned on social media platforms as each individual has a disparate story and diagnosis and may not benefit from or may respond poorly to the recommended technique,” Dr. Leela R. Magavi, psychiatrist and regional medical director for Community Psychiatry, tells Verywell. 

For example, Magavi recalls a patient of hers who learned about the plant extract kava on an Instagram story. The woman began ingesting kava on a daily basis to help with stress relief. 

“I ordered her labs to check a few important levels and found that her liver enzymes were significantly high. Kava caused significant hepatotoxicity [liver damage], and I advised her to discontinue this herbal supplement right away,” says Magavi. 

Another concerning result of following medical advice on social media is if the recommendation doesn’t work, people can experience hopelessness and demoralization, she adds.

“It is important for treatment and coping skills to be individualized,” Magavi says.

Top Anxiety Hacks on TikTok

Given the popularity of TikTok, we break down some of the most viewed hacks for relieving anxiety.

Note from a Psychiatrist

I would advise individuals to consult with their physicians prior to partaking in coping techniques mentioned on social media platforms as each individual has a disparate story and diagnosis and may not benefit from or may respond poorly to the recommended technique. - Leela R. Magavi, MD


Putting Salt on Your Tongue—1.5M views @ericbzink

This hack suggests you put salt on your tongue as soon as you have an anxiety attack to divert your attention away from your attack and force you to drink water. 

“This trick could be extremely effective in stopping a sudden anxiety attack and can engage your senses to help ground you as your focus will be on the taste rather than what you are panicking about,” Stephanie Taylor, founder and wellbeing expert at StressNoMore, tells Verywell.

However, Magavi adds that, “Some individuals experience shortness of breath and coughing episodes when anxious due to increased acid production, and this hack could potentially trigger general discomfort,” she says.

Relaxing your Tongue—553.3K likes @nahala_oaks

One TikTok user recommends removing your tongue from the top of your mouth and holding it still in order to stop ruminating thoughts and calm your mind. 

“Relaxing your tongue could redirect focus from the amygdala, the fear center of the brain, to the motor cortex, and thereby, assuage anxiety,” Magavi says. 

Leela R. Magavi, MD

Relaxing your tongue could redirect focus from the amygdala, the fear center of the brain, to the motor cortex, and thereby, assuage anxiety.

— Leela R. Magavi, MD

Taylor agrees, adding that tiny movements in the tongue work by saying the words of internal dialogue, which for people with anxiety can be troublesome. 

“By simply relaxing the tongue, you can stop the brain from producing internal dialogue and make way for a clearer mind,” she says.

Using Bath Crayons—476.3K likes @notgotenoughgf

Many people find taking a bath calming, and one user says coloring her bath and bath walls (with special crayons that clean off easily) helps calm her even more. 

“This is a great way to relieve stress and unwind. According to research, coloring reduces anxiety by refocusing our attention, while another study found routine bathing was beneficial for people who suffered from anxiety. So, it combines the best of both worlds,” says Taylor. 

Magavi points out that this activity may bolster happiness and calming sensation for people who enjoy art and creative ventures. 

“However, some individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder could experience discomfort and distress with this coping skill,” she says.

Applying Sensory Rings—123.6K likes @greyyyy

TikTok users are toting small spiked wire rings as an effective way of relieving anxiety when they are rolled up and down the finger. 

Magavi agrees that sensory rings could decrease focus on worries because of their colors and the sensations they provide, however, she says make sure they are comfortable. 

“I would recommend against wearing rings that pierce or irritate the skin as this could potentially lead to unhealthy, self-injurious behavior,” she says.

Kim Norwak, LCSW

Engaging your senses is an effective way to bring you back to the present moment, and distract you from anxiety-inducing thoughts like, 'how long will I feel this way?' Or 'what if this doesn’t end?

— Kim Norwak, LCSW

Kim Nowak, LCSW, lead therapist at Rogers Behavioral Health, explains that the ring approach is part of a DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) distress tolerance skill called TIPP, which stands for tip the temperature, intense exercise, paced breathing, and paired muscle relaxation.

She teaches clients distress tolerance skills to self-soothe with senses during an acute panic attack.

"Engaging your senses is an effective way to bring you back to the present moment, and distract you from anxiety-inducing thoughts like, “how long will I feel this way?” Or “what if this doesn’t end?” says Norwak.

Another grounding skill Nowak teaches clients is what she refers to as 5-4-3-2-1. When feeling anxious, she encourages them to focus on the following: 

  • 5 things you see
  • 4 things you feel
  • 3 things you hear
  • 2 things you smell
  • 1 thing you taste

 “Again, this helps someone in an acute panic attack to come back to the present moment, instead of catastrophizing about the future," Nowak tells Verywell.

She advises clients who struggle with panic or who turn to unhelpful behaviors to cope with panic to have a small crisis kit on hand.

"This might include items like hot hands or an ice pack for temperature, mints for taste, a smelly lotion, and some sort of fidget,” says Nowak.

Holding Ice in Your Hands—146.1K likes @loriwheeler

Holding ice to distract yourself and suppress feelings of anxiety is another trick shared on TikTok. 

Nowak says this is also a distress tolerance skill

“These are skills to use when in crisis. I teach my clients that if their anxiety (or urges) are so intense that they’re near panic attack, something like this is a good alternative to a maladaptive coping skill, such as using drugs or alcohol,” she says. 

However, she points out that this type of coping skill shouldn’t be used for daily anxiety. 

“It’s better to let your brain learn it can sit with some anxiety, and it will eventually go down on its own,” says Nowak. 

Rather than holding the ice still in your hands, Magavi suggests wrapping the ice in a towel to avoid irritating the skin. 

“Temperature changes could help individuals experience a sense of peace. Usually, individuals prefer heat and weighted blankets, but I have evaluated patients who prefer cooling techniques,” Magavi notes.

Know When to Get Professional Help

While some TikTok hacks can help calm symptoms of anxiety, Nowak suggests asking a mental health professional before trying any of them. If you are told they are safe to try, she suggests trying them when you are not in distress, so you know what brings down your anxiety before you’re in crisis. 

“For example, what if cold actually makes you more anxious? I urge all my clients to practice skills in a regular state of mind, so they can easily access the helpful ones when they need them,” says Nowak.

What This Means For You

As you look for ways to manage your anxiety, turning to social media platforms can be helpful for advice. However, checking with your doctor before trying any suggestions is the best way to ensure your safety and that you won’t be let down by ineffective hacks.

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Article Sources
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  1. Kaiser Family Foundation. Adults Reporting Symptoms of Anxiety or Depressive Disorder During COVID-19 Pandemic.

  2. National Centerfor Health Statistic. Early Release of Selected Mental Health Estimates Based on Data from the January–June 2019 National Health Interview Survey. May, 2020.

  3. Curry N, Kasser T. Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? AATA 22.2.05 fin (ed.gov) Art Therapy. 22(2) pp. 81-85 2005.

  4. Goto Y,  Hayasaka S, Kurihara S, Nakamura  Y. Physical and Mental Effects of Bathing: A Randomized Intervention Study (nih.gov. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018; 2018: 9521086. Published online 2018 Jun 7. doi: 10.1155/2018/9521086.