If you deal with an anxiety disorder, learning to manage your anxiety is one of the most important things you can do to improve your quality of life. Here are five ways to manage your anxiety that you may not have thought of before:

Use Your Hands

Many people find that keeping their hands busy has a soothing effect. Coloring is becoming a popular stress- and anxiety-reducing strategy, and other ideas include playing with playdough or silly putty, learning simple knit or crochet stitches to make a scarf or blanket, or using a Zen sand garden.

Make Connections

Talking and relaxing with good friends has a positive effect on our sense of well-being. Make and maintain connections with people, and, as much as possible, make sure that you are physically spending time with them. Studies have shown that too much time on social media can actually heighten anxiety, so try talking on the phone or writing notes to friends who don’t live nearby.

Eat Right and Exercise

We all know diet and exercise affect our physical health, but they have a huge influence on our mental and emotional health as well. Drink plenty of water, and eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid sugary or highly processed foods, alcohol and other stimulants, and too much caffeine. Anxiety is sometimes worsened by vitamin deficiencies, low energy, and dehydration, so taking care of yourself physically can make you feel better emotionally.

Exercise is known to release endorphins that make us happier and calmer. The repetitive movements of running, walking, and cycling can induce feelings of relaxation that fight anxiety both during and after exercise. Yoga is often beneficial for those with anxiety, stress, or depression, as it is a highly meditative form of exercise. It also teaches breathing techniques that can be used on their own to promote feelings of calm and control in difficult situations.

Pet Your Pets

Many people find that being around animals reduces their anxiety levels. Petting a dog or cat, holding a guinea pig, or even watching fish swim around a tank can be extraordinarily calming. If you have a pet, giving them attention can be beneficial for both of you. If you don’t have a pet, be sure to consider before you rush out and get one. Pets come with responsibilities that may be stressful if you’re not prepared for them. Chances are you know someone with pets who would be happy to have you come over and spend some time with them. Volunteering with your local humane society is another option that can give you many of the benefits of pets without the constant responsibility.

Do Hard Things

Perhaps the most surprising way to manage anxiety is to put yourself in anxiety-inducing situations. Take it slow, and realize that consistent baby steps are often more helpful than a single massive effort. At first, your efforts may increase anxiety, but as you continue you will find that your anxiety in these situations is reduced and your self-confidence increases. Whatever type or level of anxiety you are dealing with, know that you can learn to manage it. Be creative, find what works for you, and embrace the unique challenges and triumphs that life brings your way.