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Managing Anxiety

It is important to remember that some degree of worry can be a good thing, as it can help us avoid unreasonable risks. However, free-floating, constant anxiety can be paralyzing and at times quite difficult to manage.  Therapy and medication can be of help. I have provided some tips below which I often discuss with my clients who are dealing with anxiety…I hope that these are of help to you:
  • Notice and Name: The first step is to identify patterns in your present life. Try to write down which triggers are linked to your anxiety. Notice what sets your anxiety off, and give it a name. Once you bring it into the forefront of your consciousness, you can begin to make sense of it and then to address it.
  • Put a plan in place. Address your worries right now, head on! Write your specific worry down, and then develop a plan to address it. Start with just one or two worries. Once you’ve completed those, go on to the next one and add it to the list. This part of the process can give you a feeling of satisfaction; more importantly, it makes you feel less vulnerable, more in control of your life.
  • Just Do It. Get out there and put on those sneakers. Exercise is one of the best self-treatments for anxiety available. It doesn’t matter whether you go for a walk around the block or run a marathon…what does matter is that you get regular exercise, at least every other day. I tell some of my clients that even a simple activity — minor housecleaning, a few minutes of gardening, some simple stretches, even just getting up and walking around for five minutes — can help.
  • Breathe – the right way. A number of breathing techniques can help to counter anxiety. Try to remember to pay attention to HOW you are breathing. When anxious, many people take short, shallow breaths…which can increase heart rate, blood pressure and stress. Make sure you are not holding your breath in completely. Take a few moments and simply notice your breathing patterns. After a few breathing cycles, take a deep breath. Let your belly be soft and relaxed, and breathe from your lower abdomen. Repeat — and use this technique any time you notice that you’re tense or worried.
  • Reframe your thoughts. Free form anxiety often is triggered or accompanied by a litany of negative internal self-talk. The good news is, the brain is an adaptive organ, and it is possible to break out of the negative mode. However, it takes patience and persistence. The first step is to notice when the negative labels start bouncing around in your mind. Take time to think about your thinking…and learn how to talk to yourself in a constructive and rational manner. This process is a hallmark of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
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