Who Me, Worry? Seven Ways to Take the 'I' Out of Anxiety

Energy Express

EnergyExpress 0323

December 2023 Issue
Energy Express by Marilynn Preston


The world is worrying about Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Hamas, school shootings and crooked politicians, and the deep, relentless anxiety plays havoc with our imagination.

What if you're sipping a coffee at an outdoor cafe and terrorists start firing machine guns at your table?

What if you're on a plane that explodes in midair because a maniac snuck a bomb into the baggage hold?

What if a suicidal jihadist decides to blow up your kid's school?

Uncontrolled, even irrational, anxiety is a giant obstacle to personal happiness. Worry causes stress, and stress saps our energy, disturbs our sleep, and destroys the calm and peaceful state we seek.

That's why I found myself seeking the advice of psychologist Robert L. Leahy, director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, an expert's expert on how to handle anxiety. Even if your worries are a bit more mundane than being a victim of international terrorism -- does my boss hate me? Will I get hit by a car riding my bike? -- these strategies are helpful. Granted, some sound a bit weird. Don't worry. If they've worked for Leahy's clients, they can work for you.

1. Turn Your Anxiety Into a Movie.
One creative way to let go of worry, Leahy says, is to disconnect from it. Imagine your fear presented to you as a film, or a piece of theater. You're in the audience. You're watching a guy pull the pin on a hand grenade and toss it onto a crowded bus. He's acting out your worst fears all right, but you're detached from the drama. You're witnessing the action and remain calm.

2. Breathe It Out.
You don't have to be a yogi to practice this one. Next time you feel tense, notice your breath. You're probably holding it. Ask yourself: Where is my breath now? Where is my mind? Link them by listening to your inhalations and your exhalations, an easy and ancient strategy for calming your nerves. Breath in, breathe out, moment by moment. When your mind wanders to Worryville, bring your attention back to your breath. You can do this 100 times a day if you need to.

3. Repeat Your Worry Until Bored.
Leahy calls this the Boredom Cure. Take the worry that's nagging you and say it over and over, silently, slowly. For example: "I'm worried a terrorist will blow up my flight." Repeat and repeat. Leahy believes that the boredom that comes from repetition will eventually replace your anxiety, and you'll no longer feel overwhelmed.

4. Don't Fight the Craziness.
It's normal to have crazy thoughts, says Leahy. One of his clients, a lawyer, kept imaging she'd lose control and start screaming in court. Our minds are creative, he told her. Sometimes our little synapses make wacky connections and a crazy thought pops up. It happens. Don't judge yourself. See your anxiety as though it were a curious object on a shelf. And then move on.

5. Take Your Hand Off the Horn.
Worriers constantly check the weather before a big event. If they make a stupid comment, they play it back to themselves, over and over. And yes, in traffic, they honk their horn. Leahy teaches, what is, is. Some things can't be controlled, like rush hour. Or a plane delayed by a sudden storm. Leahy advises his clients to let go and surrender to the moment. It's a paradox, he says. The more you surrender to the moment, the more in control you actually feel.

6. Set Aside Worry Time.
Worries show up, constantly and unannounced. You're in the midst of washing your car, and bam! you begin to panic about missing your anniversary. Healy suggests you set aside a specific time everyday to worry about your worries. Let's say 5 p.m. Postpone all worries till then. By the time 5 p.m. rolls around, most of your worries will seem too silly to deal with, or you'll have forgotten them, and you'll have spent most of the day worry-free.

7. Make Peace With Time.
When you're a worrier, everything can feel like an emergency. And yet, every feeling of panic comes to an end. Next time you feel the anxiety building, ask yourself: "How will I feel about this tomorrow? In a week? A month?" Chances are your anxiety will pass in a poof!

Suicide & Crisis Lifeline — Dial or Text 988!
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the 988 Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. We can all help prevent suicide. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides free and confidential support for people in distress. They also help with suicide prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. Please reach out. You are important and deserve to live. People love you and care about you.


“Anxiety's like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do,
but it doesn't get you very far.”
— Jodi Picoult —

Marilynn Preston is the author of Energy Express, America's longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her book All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being is available on Amazon and elsewhere. For more on personal well-being, visit www.MarilynnPreston.com. 
© 2023 Energy Express, Ltd.

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