How to overcome worries
How to calm yourself down, and when you need a doctor
Meditate 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 one.) 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. Not doing it for you?
Exercise If you can't make time for meditation, be sure to make time for regular exercise, says Susan Heitler, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Denver. "Exercise can have the same calming effect as meditation, particularly if it's something repetitive like running or swimming laps."
Remember to breathe When you're anxious, you tend to hold your breath or breathe too shallowly, says Sharon Greenburg, PhD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Chicago. 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 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. Heitler. Usually the first step in this action plan is to find out more about the problem:
For example, if you are anxious about your competence on the job, ask yourself, "What, in particular, am I afraid that I'll muff?" Maybe you're afraid you'll get further 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 better meet deadlines, or join a public speaking class. Anxiety is often confused with fear, says Dr. Greenburg. The difference is that with fear, you know what's scaring you. It is something specific like an angry dog or some other clear and present danger.
When to See a Doctor: You should consider counseling if anxiety is interfering with your ability to work or establish and maintain relationships, or if you are always on edge or expecting the worst. Various combinations of therapy (including behavioral, cognitive, or supportive) or medication can help relieve chronic anxiety.