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Erase anxiety with simple strategies

Whether you have stage fright or a big work presentation, anxiety can invade at inopportune times. Evelyn Lifsey, Ph.D., Kaiser Permanente licensed clinical psychologist, outlines five steps to help you reduce anxiety.

Deep breaths. Breathe slowly and deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth. “Focus on how your body feels and the breath going in and out,” says Dr. Lifsey, noting that in addition to calming your mind, deep breathing oxygenates the blood and muscles, and thereby the brain.

Visualization. Recall the five senses of a relaxing place, such as the beach or mountains. “What does it look like? How does it feel on your skin? What does it sound like, taste like? How does it smell? Activate all your senses around that place. This will crowd out anxiety,” Dr. Lifsey says.

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Distract yourself. Anxious thoughts elevate your heart rate. A racing heart then signals the brain that you should panic. “There absolutely is a mind-body connection,” Dr. Lifsey says. Do something physical to interrupt the cycle. Drop and do push-ups or a few yoga poses. Excuse yourself and take a quick walk if you can.

Pack a customized ‘fi rstaid’ kit. Write down positive statements on index cards. Download soothing music to your mobile phone or MP3 player. Pack an inspirational book. You know what calms you, so assemble an on-the-go survival kit.

Don’t worry about your worry. Some anxiety can actually help us perform better. “It’s a normal part of our makeup,” she says. “The right amount of anxiety—a little bit of stimulant— can help you concentrate on the thing you need to concentrate on most,” Dr. Lifsey says.

If you need more help it’s OK to seek help dealing with stress. In fact, meeting with a mental health professional can help you fine-tune deep breathing, visualization, or other strategies to reduce everyday anxiety. Licensed Clinical Psychologist Evelyn Lifsey, Ph.D., recommends meeting with a mental health professional if anxiety leads to:

  • Needless worry that you have difficulty controlling
  • Racing thoughts that interfere with concentration
  • Difficulty focusing at home, school or work
  • Panic or depression


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