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When anxiety or stress threatens to throw you off kilter, it's time to come to your own emotional rescue.
Step 1: Accept that stress and anxiety are a natural part of life. If you give yourself permission to experience and accept uncomfortable feelings, you'll be able to tolerate them better, explains Washington, D.C.-based psychotherapist Jerilyn Ross, M.A., president and CEO of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America and author of One Less Thing to Worry About: Uncommon Wisdom for Coping With Common Anxieties.
Step 2: Consider what's really bothering you. When you begin to feel tense or anxious, take a deep breath and ask yourself, "What am I really anxious about?" That's when a journal can really come in handy. "To help you see patterns between your thoughts, your activities and your anxiety, it can help to write down what's making you anxious in a diary," Ross says.
Step 3: Seize control over what you can. Consider what actions you can take to ease your anxiety level. "If you constantly worry about being late to work, get up 15 minutes earlier so you're not rushing so much in the morning," Ross suggests. "Focus on what you can do, rather than on what you can't do."
Step 4: Change your negative thoughts. If you catch yourself thinking, "I can't meet this deadline," Ross recommends removing the "T" and restating the thought more positively: "I can meet this deadline. I just need to organize my time." This makes the task ahead of you seem possible and less daunting.
Step 5: Be present-minded. "Stay rooted in the here and now," says Ross, "and focus on the information you have rather than on the "What-ifs?" that often accompany anxiety." If you have trouble stopping the "What-if" habit, pinch yourself and say "Stop!" or visualize a stop sign, then consciously turn your attention in a more constructive direction.
These strategies may not solve all your problems, but they can help you change the way you interact with anxiety, worry and stress—and they can be remarkably effective at helping to defuse these feelings.
Reviewed By: Steven A. King, M.D.