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Best Ways to Kick Anxiety to the Curb

Know how to calm yourself when you feel an anxiety attack coming.

It may help to know you’re not alone—everybody has anxiety to some degree. But it can be more severe for some people. And that’s when you need a plan to ensure you not only escape anxiety’s grip, but also learn to control its symptoms on a daily basis.

Sharecare caught up with stress and anxiety expert, Tamar Chansky, PhD, author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety to discuss self-care techniques you can use to reduce anxiety and many of its crushing symptoms.

Good Strategies Make All the Difference
When it comes to proven strategies that can help anxiety sufferers gain more control over their condition, Dr. Chansky says there are a few ways to cope. And the key to all of them is learning to outsmart irrational thoughts, a major part of anxiety disorders.

"Rather than let worry run round and round through your mind, take control and fact-check it," says Dr. Chansky. She recommends writing your thoughts down on a piece of paper. This simple act can help you find out what your worry is trying to tell you. Next, turn the paper over. On the back side, take each point of your thought and turn it into a question about whether you think it's truly going to happen. For example, if you're worrying you'll flop at an interview, ask yourself, "Have I done everything I can to prepare?" and "Will I really forget everything I know?"

Add a "yes / no" column next to your questions, and check off your answer for each. "Since anxiety tends to be unreliable, this process helps your mind be more honest with you," says Dr. Chansky. It helps you pinpoint why your anxiety started in the first place. By fact-checking your worry, you become more rational in the short-term, which impacts how rational you are in the long-term.

A Matter of Perspective
Another way to fight irrational thoughts is to get the opinion of people you trust. Says Dr. Chansky, "Get perspective on your worry from other people, like a friend or colleague. Think of two to four people you really trust. Then think about how they would advise you in that situation. Both of these strategies help you rely less on the emotional part of your brain, and more on the thinking part of your brain."

If your anxiety causes you to feel like a situation is “terrible” or that everything is "awful," try looking at it from a new perspective. "A great way to replace that emotion is through re-labeling, or looking at an event in a completely different way to help you understand the source of your worry," says Dr. Chansky. For example, could getting a traffic ticket be a much-needed warning that you really do need to slow down—not the end of the world? Or could an unwieldy project at work be re-labeled as a chance to show off your organizational skills?

If you have panic attacks, you may need other strategies to get through them. Dr. Chansky says the best way to deal with panic is to talk to a therapist to discuss what has happened. During an attack, say calming things to yourself instead of asking questions. Tell yourself things like “This is a panic attack. I’m fine. I’m not going to die.”

Talk to Your Doctor About What's Right for You
For many people, these strategies offer proven ways to cope. "It's always a good idea to discuss treatment options with your doctor first so you have a better understanding of what works and what doesn't work for your specific disorder," says Dr. Chansky. 

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