Dissipate Tension and Unease
As unpleasant emotion go, anxiety is the sketchiest. It’s a vague, pit-of-the-stomach dread that sneaks up on you—that unease you get when your boss says that she needs to talk to you right away, when the phone rings at 4 AM or when your dentist looks into your mouth and says “Hamm” for the third time.
Anxiety is often confused with fear, says Dr Sharon Greenburg, a clinical psychologist in private practice. The difference is that with fear, you know what’s scaring you something specific like an angry dog or some other clear and present danger,
Anxiety is dread of the not-yet-know You don’t know precisely what you’ll face when you show up in the boss’s office, when you pick up the ringing phone or when the dentist finishes probing your gums. But you don’t expect good news.
With fear, you can take action-like staying away from angry dogs. But when anxiety is vague and hasn’t been traced to a particular problem, immediate solutions don’t come to mind, and the anxiety tends to linger, says Dr Susan healer, a clinical psychologist and author of the audiotape Anxiety: Friend or Foer
DITCH THE JITTERS
Anxiety can be harder to shake than an appliance salesman pitching an extended warranty, what’s more, lingering anxiety can keep you up at night, make you irritable, undermine your ability to concentrate and either ruin your appetite or precipitate Olympian eating binges. And the constant state of readiness generated by anxiety-adrenalin pumping, heart racing, palms sweating-may contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease, says Dr healer. Odds are that you can learn to handle anxiety better, says psychologist Dr Irene S Vogel. Here’s how.
Remember to breathe.
When you’re anxious, you tend to hold your breath or breathe too shallowly, says Dr Greenburg. That makes you feel more anxious. Breathing slowly and deeply can have a calming effect. To make sure that you’re breathing correctly, place your hand on your
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
If you feel intense anxiety, consult a therapist. You should also consider counselling if • Anxiety is interfering with your ability to work or establish and maintain relationships. • You are always on edge or expecting the worst. Various combinations of therapy including behavioral, cognitive or supportive or medication, if necessary-can help relieve chronic anxiety.
diaphragm, just below your rib cage. Feel it rise with each inhalation and fall with each exhalation.
Analyze and act.
The antidote to anxiety is analysis and action. To rid yourself of that vague sense of dread, you have to figure out exactly what it is that you dread. Then you can map a plan of action to do something about it, says Dr healer. Usually, the first step in this action plan is to find out more about the problem. Let’s say that you are anxious about your competence at work. Ask yourself, “What, in particular, am I afraid that I’ll muck up?”
Maybe you’re afraid that you’ll get behind and miss your deadlines. Or maybe you’re worried that you’re blowing it whenever you present your ideas in meetings. Are your worries founded? Have you had several near misses? with deadlines? Are your suggestions routinely vetoed? If not, the anxiety is needless, says Dr Vogel. If there is a real problem, work on a solution: Pace yourself to meet deadlines better or join a public speaking course.
Maybe you’re just high-strung. If so, meditation is worth a try. It cultivates a calmness that cases anxious feelings and offers a sense of control. A study at the University of Massachusetts in America found that volunteers who took an eight-week meditation course were considerably less anxious afterwards. “People who are high-strung find that they are dramatically calmer with 20 minutes of meditation in the morning and another 20 minutes after dinner,
” says Dr healer. If you’ve never done meditation, try this technique: Sit quietly in a comfortable position and take a few deep, cleansing breaths to relax your muscles. Then choose a calming word or phrase. (Experts suggest either a word or short phrase with religious significance or the word Silently repeat the word or phrase for 20 minutes.
As you find your thoughts straying, gently return your focus to your repeated word and continue to breathe deeply. Jog, walk, swim or cycle. If you can’t make time for meditation, be sure to make time for regular exercise, says Dr healer. “Exercise can have the same calming effect as meditation, particularly if it’s something repetitive like running or swimming laps.”