Using Comfort Objects to Reduce Anxiety

Focusing on a small object when anxiety flares can reduce anxiety in the moment. Comfort objects can reduce your anxiety and train your brain to shift attention away from anxiety.

One of the many annoying things about anxiety and anxiety disorders is that they are almost always there. Whatever we do, wherever we go, there it is. Another irksome thing is that sometimes it feels even bigger than we are, dominating our entire being. Fortunately, no matter where we are, what we’re doing or how big anxiety feels, we can shrink it.

Meeting Anxiety Where it Is


Anxiety follows us around. In uncomfortable situations, it grows bigger. Waiting until “later” to try to deal with it (“I’ll go for a walk when I get home,” or “Tonight I'll meditate”) sometimes isn’t the best option. It’s often necessary to reduce anxiety immediately just to function in the moment.

This means that we have to address anxiety when it flares, wherever we and our anxiety may be. A great way to do this is to carry with you a small object to use to sooth yourself and calm anxiety.

Comfort Objects Can Reduce Anxiety

Focusing on a small object when anxiety flares can reduce anxiety in the moment. Comfort objects can train your brain to shift attention away from anxiety. A comfort object can be anything. It should be small enough to fit in a pocket, purse, backpack, etc., but beyond that it can be anything you find soothing. A rock, a squishy stress ball, a bouncy ball, a pen, or anything else you can hold.

Your object becomes something you automatically engage with when anxiety flares. Use your senses: look at it, touch it, and manipulate it. Be repetitive in your interaction with the object; for example, rub your thumb across the surface over and over again. Doing so moves your mind’s focus away from anxious thoughts and onto the object. Your thoughts shift, and your anxiety decreases.

In carrying with you and using a comfort object, you are not only reducing anxiety in the moment, you are training your brain to shift its focus when anxiety flares. In the following video, I further discuss the use of objects to reduce anxiety.

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APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2014, November 27). Using Comfort Objects to Reduce Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 17 from

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

December, 5 2014 at 6:03 am

I have had Anxiety/Panic Disorder for over 30 is not going away but I have learned coping techniques...I think holding something of your choice and Concentrating on it and rubbing it will help even more to calm the mind and body...thank you for suggesting yet another way to help with Anxiety...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 5 2014 at 1:11 pm

Hi Janice,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I'm happy for you that you have learned coping techniques. You're right -- sometimes anxiety doesn't go away, but we can learn to cope and figure out ways to keep it from controlling us. And the more tools we have for that, the better. I'm glad you like the suggestion of an object. May it work well for you!

December, 2 2014 at 10:08 am

For me, what reduces anxiety is prayer. That's probably not being secularly correct, but it does work. I keep a Rosary nearby for those worst moments. It reminds me that
1. There is someone that is bigger than myself who I can tell my fears to
2. The act of praying in itself is a form of gratitude and recognition for not only my troubles, but the troubles of others
3. I feel that there is something I can do about my fear, which helps it fade away.

November, 30 2014 at 12:47 pm

An interesting idea, never one I've thought of using before.
I've found that my anxiety reduced when I stopped caring if it existed or not, instead I just got on with whatever I had to do no matter how I felt.
I would have thought this just re-inforces the anxiety by having to carry something around with you to remind you of having anxiety.
Maybe best to be called a coping technique rather than a way to reduce anxiety happening in the first place?

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