Thursday, August 5, 2010

How to Cope with Anxiety

I subscribe to Real Simple magazine.  It's the only magazine I've ever subscribed to and I really like it.  So, anyway, I saw this article called "10 Ways to Cope with Anxiety."  I tend to be a worrier, so I was interested to read it.  There were a few I thought were pretty good.  Here they are:

Repeat your worry until you're bored silly.
If you had a fear of elevators, you'd get rid of it if you rode in one a thousand times in a row.  At first, you would be very anxious, then less so, and eventually it would have no effect (except to make you sick of riding in an elevator).  So take the troublesome thought that's nagging at you and say it over and over, silently, slowly, for 20 minutes.  It's hard to keep your mind on a worry if you repeat it that many times.  I call this the "boredom cure" for obvious reasons, but it sure beats feeling overwhelmed by anxiety.

Set aside worry time.
All too often we take a "Crackberry" approach to our worries:  They show up unannounced, like constantly dinging e-mails, and we stop everything to address them-even if we should be doing something else.  But what if you don't respond right away?  Try setting aside 20 minutes every day-let's say at 4:30 pm-just for your worries.  If you are fretting at 10 am, jot down the reason and resolve to think it through later.  By the time 4:30 comes around, many of your troubles won't even matter anymore.  And you will have spent almost an entire day anxiety-free.

Take your hand off the horn.
You constantly check the weather before a big outdoor event.  You replay that clumsy comment you made, wishing you could take it back.  And, yes, you honk your horn in traffic.  When you desperately try to take command of things that can't be controlled, you're like the swimmer who panics and slaps at the water, screaming.  It gets you nowhere.  Instead, imagine that you are floating along on the water with your arms spread out, looking up to the sky.  It's a paradox, but when you surrender to the moment, you actually feel far more in control.

Make peace with time.
When you're a worrier, everything can feel like an emergency.  But notice this about all your anxious arousal:  It's temporary.  Every feeling of panic comes to an end, every concern eventually wears itself out, every so-called emergency seems to evaporate.  Ask yourself, "How will I feel about this in a week or a month?"  This one, too, really will pass.

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