Feeling Anxious? Take Action. / by Anne Kreamer

It's the new year and we should be feeling energized, the whole marketed "new year, new you" phenomenon, but if you're like me, it's becoming increasingly hard to shed feelings of chronic anxiety. Working Women recently interviewed me on effective strategies for dealing with anxiety. "Many of us have experienced anxiety in one way or another. Perhaps you couldn’t sleep prior to a presentation or your stomach dropped whenever your boss mentioned layoffs. But while anxiety may be fed by real, external factors – the economy is bad, your industry is in trouble – it is how we process it internally that keeps it under control. The next time you feel a wave of panic coming on, adopt these strategies to minimize your worry.

Get moving. You likely know that meditation is recommended for calming the mind. But if that just isn’t for you, there are other ways to ease stress through physical exertion. Try going for a power walk on your break to detach from the challenge of the moment. Observing other people going about their business can help you decompress. If you can, sign up for a fitness class. Whether it’s kickboxing or yoga, moving in unison with a group of like-minded people for a sustained period of time can prove more supportive than working out alone. Relish the comforts of home. If your anxiety spikes at the office, incorporate a memento from your personal life into your workspace. Find a desk drawer where you can keep a meaningful object that lifts your spirits and draws you outside the feedback loop in your head, such as a drawing your child made, a shell you found on vacation, or a photo of a loved one. When your worry begins to gain the upper-hand, take a moment to plant your feet firmly on the ground, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Then open your eyes and gaze at the object. This practice should change your perspective and lift your mood. Take action. When you feel that tightened sensation in your chest, don’t just crawl into bed and wait for it to pass. Instead, channel your stress into something productive. Don’t just worry about an upcoming meeting, sit down and write out your presentation. Then get up and rehearse it. You can transform your anxiety by accomplishing simple tasks, reaffirming your sense of control. Put it in perspective. When the inner-dialogue won’t cease, how often do you locate the root of the problem? You might be upset because your team missed a deadline, and now you’re envisioning a personal Armageddon. But perhaps that’s not the real source of your anxiety. For example, you could be thinking about starting a business of your own, and it’s not the fear of losing your job, but rather the fear of embarking on a new venture. Of course, this transition will probably be difficult at first, but worst case scenario, this could be a blessing in disguise."