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Understanding Stress

by Martin K. Diner, MD

Stress is ordinarily experienced by a person as discomfort in the body, distress in the mind or emotional upset.

The body may show stress by having muscle tension, back pain, headache, stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, chest pain, palpitations, skin rashes, dizziness, twitches, trembling, fatigue and other physical symptoms.  Some people find that a physical condition or disease that they already have gets worse.

Mental distress may lead to intense worrying, expecting something terrible to happen,
losing confidence, not liking oneself, developing fears of people or places and moving away from people and social activities. (more…)

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Best Techniques for Controlling Your Anxiety – 13

By Martin Seif, Ph.D. ABPP

Learn and Become Comfortable with Diaphragmatic Breathing: Many people feel it is the single most effective tool for managing anxious feelings. Breathing with your diaphragm allows you to take regular and rhythmic breathes, even when experiencing high anxiety. Rhythmic breathing reduces the effects of hyperventilation, stimulates the calming response in your body and gives you a manageable task in the present on which to focus.

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Best Techniques for Controlling Your Anxiety – 12

By Martin Seif, Ph.D. ABPP

Distinguish between Anxiety and Danger: Your task is to break your connection between feeling anxious and feeing that you are in real danger. Your body reacts in exactly the same way to both anxiety and legitimate danger. So, it is sometimes difficult to separate the two. When flying on an airplane, your anxiety especially makes you feel like you are unsafe. This is not true. Remind yourself that feeling anxious does not mean you are in danger. You are safe even when feeling intense anxiety.

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Best Techniques for Controlling Your Anxiety – 11

By Martin Seif, Ph.D. ABPP

Remember to Take Care of Yourself: Define and limit your job. Do not try to manage the whole world. That will only exhaust you, as well as increase your feeling of being overwhelmed. When you are on the plane, your job is to be a passenger. Stop flying the plane. Let the pilot take care of that. Your job is to take care of yourself. Make yourself as comfortable as possible, monitor your anxiety level and focus on doing manageable tasks in the present.

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Best Techniques for Controlling Your Anxiety – 10

By Martin Seif, Ph.D. ABPP

Stay inside Yourself: Your tendency may be to think for others, to imagine how they perceive you. If you find that you are “looking” at yourself through the eyes of others around you, it is a sign that you are getting outside of yourself. Chances are that you are much more critical of yourself than anyone else would be. Pay attention to how others look at you, notice what colors they are wearing, and whether you like the style of clothing they have on. Focus on what you think of others, not what others may be thinking of you.

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Best Techniques for Controlling Your Anxiety – 9

By Martin Seif, Ph.D. ABPP

Find the Triggers to Your Fear Spiral: Despite what you might sometimes feel, your terror does not come “out of the blue.” In truth, it comes from a rapid interplay between thoughts and feared feelings. They may surprise you because you do not become aware of the spiral until your fear level becomes very high. Learn to identify the “triggers” to this spiral so that you can begin to manage your fear when your number is at a one or two and before it increases to a high level. It is much easier to turnoff this fear spiral at low levels than at high levels.

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Best Techniques for Controlling Your Anxiety – 8

By Martin Seif, Ph.D. ABPP

Separate Thoughts from Feelings: Thought is internal speech- what we say to ourselves. Feelings are made up of sensations experienced in some part of the body. “I feel I can’t breathe” is really a thought which may follow the feelings of tension in your neck, throat and chest. The thoughts, “I feel I can’t breathe,” makes the feelings of tension seem dangerous and starts a series of scary future thoughts. Instead, try saying, “Although I feel that I can’t breathe, I know that this is just a thought that seems scary because of the tension in my body. I know that my breathing will take care of itself automatically so I can concentrate on using my skills to help bring my anxiety down.”

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Best Techniques for Controlling Your Anxiety – 7

By Martin Seif, Ph.D. ABPP

Catch Your Disturbing Thoughts As They Occur: “What if this smooth flight starts to get turbulent?” is a thought. This kind of thought will produce fear because you are sensitized. Even though such thoughts may be fleeting and barely noticeable, they can startle and frighten you all the same, thereby initiating an anxiety cycle. Try to identify such thoughts as they occur, before your fears become intense. Once you recognize it as only a thought, you can begin to focus on comforting realities in the presents such as, “the plane seems to be flying quite smoothly right now,” “I know that flying in turbulence is very safe, even though it triggers my anxiety,” or – best of all – “I have the skills now to manage my anxiety levels whether the flight is smooth or bumpy.”

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Best Techniques for Controlling Your Anxiety – 6

By Martin Seif, Ph.D. ABPP

You Can Function Well with High Levels of Anxiety: Try not to be so hard on yourself. Do not ask for perfection. You can function well with high levels of anxiety. You are not likely to scream, faint or do the embarrassing, outrageous or dangerous things you sometimes picture in your mind. Remember that anxiety is disturbing but not dangerous. Take comfort in the fact that while you may be feeling shaky, your inner anxiety is rarely apparent to others.

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Best Techniques for Controlling Your Anxiety – 5

By Martin Seif, Ph.D. ABPP

Don’t Plan Your Escape: Planning your escape tends to intensify anxious thoughts and feelings. It projects you out of the present and into the future where you are most subject to catastrophic thoughts and disturbing feelings. Rather than immediately following your impulse to avoid and flee, try instead to remain in contact with what frightens you while practicing your fear management skills. Over time, you will gain confidence in your ability to stay with anxious feelings without the need to escape.

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