In my work as a Coach, I’ve had the privilege of engaging with a diverse array of people — executives, parents, stepparents, and entrepreneurs. A common challenge that many of them face, in various forms, is anxiety or anxious thoughts.  As an entrepreneur, a step parent and a mother myself, I too have experienced my fair share of anxiety over the last 10 years.

We are all too familiar with the staggering statistics on anxiety today. I won’t dwell on these numbers but instead, I want to highlight a powerful coaching tool, my number one tip to combat anxiety, that everyone can access is…the power of gratitude.

Using gratitude in the face of anxiety can have an incredibly calming effect for the mind and body.  This isn’t just a feel-good notion; it’s backed by science. Numerous studies have shown that practising gratitude can increase happiness, improve mental health, physiological health, improve relationships and even strengthen our immune system.

Dr. Alex Korb, states that the brain can’t respond to both negative and positive thoughts at the same time – the brain is not capable of responding to anxiety and gratitude concurrently.  When someone is experiencing gratitude, it reduces the feelings of fear and anxiety by regulating the key stress hormone called cortisol.  It also enhances dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters for happiness.  Repeated feelings of gratitude can even foster cognitive restructuring to create a more balanced long-term emotional state.

I stumbled on the connection between gratitude and anxiety nearly 5 years ago when I was getting ready to return to work after maternity leave.  I would look at my daughter, think about my impending return date and feel a huge wave of anxiety, concern and worry.  I found that if in that moment, I shifted my thinking to things I was grateful for (gratitude for the time I was able to spend with her, gratitude for the coffee I was drinking, gratitude for the sun that was shining, gratitude for the job I had to return to, gratitude for my health and her health etc), instead of allowing the loop of anxious thought  and worry to continue, my mind and body felt calmer immediately and the anxious thoughts subsided.  I still use this tactic today.

While this is one way to use gratitude, here are a few more ideas to help you build a gratitude practice into your life that will work for you…even if you lead a busy and abundant one!

1. Make a mental note – Throughout the day, even once a day, take a mental note of things you are grateful for in that moment – try to be specific and notice some of the smaller and not-so-obvious things you have to be grateful for.  As an example, at this moment, I am grateful for the sunshine dancing on the leaves outside my window.

2. Journal -  This is a more traditional way of expressing gratitude, at the beginning or end of your day, make note of what you are grateful for.

3. Share gratitude – Share your gratitude with your nearest and dearest or even with your team, colleagues and wider network.   When was the last time you told someone why you are grateful for them in your life.  Spread this high vibe energy far and wide and set an example to those around you!

4. Accept gratitude – When someone expresses gratitude to you, acknowledge it, take a moment and allow it to sink in.  We move so fast that sometimes these important words can slip away before they have really been digested.

5. Layer habits – Layer the habit of a gratitude practise onto an existing habit.  Perhaps you walk to work a few days a week, meditate or workout in the mornings.  Incorporating gratitude onto these existing habits will help you more easily adopt it as a regular practice.

Embracing gratitude doesn’t have to take much time but the benefits can be really quite significant.  Whether you’re a working mother, stepmother, or both, you have the power to transform your experience of anxious thoughts through the practice of gratitude. Why not give it a try right now.  What in this moment, however large or small, are you grateful for?

Ainsley Keller (ICF ACC) founded The Step Collective in 2023 with the mission to empower step parents and future step parents.  From her own personal experience, Ainsley realised there was very limited professional support for step parents and she wanted to change that.  The Step Collective provides 1:1 and group coaching for step parents and future step parents helping them to embrace their role with confidence and clarity so they can create a balanced life (both personally and professionally), meaningful relationships and a happy home.

Reach out and say hello if you are interested in learning more: