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Coping With Anxiety

Tip: Change What You Can, Accept the Rest
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How Do You Cope?

To cope with plain-vanilla anxiety, "get real," as they say. "Separate out the real risks and dangers that a situation presents and those your imagination is making worse," advises Ross. It's a twist on the old adage: "Take control of the things you can, and accept those you can't change."

"Ask yourself: Where can you take control of a situation? Where can you make changes? Then do what needs to be done," she says. "What things do you simply have to accept? That's very important."

Very often, it's possible to get past an anxiety cycle with the help of friends or family -- someone who can help you sort out your problems. But when anxiety becomes overwhelming, it's time for a therapist, or perhaps medication.

Here are two strategies that therapists use to help us conquer anxiety:

Challenge negative thoughts.

Ask yourself: Is this a productive thought? Is it helping me get closer to my goal? If it's just a negative thought you're rehashing, then you must be able to say to that thought: 'Stop.' "That's difficult to do, but it's very important," Ross says.

Rather than becoming paralyzed with anxiety, here's another message you can send yourself: "I may have to take a job I don't like as much, may have to travel further than I want, but I'll do what I have to do now. At least I will have the security of income in the short term. Then I can look for something better later."

The most important thing: "to realize when you've done everything you can, that you need to move forward," Ross says.

Learn to relax.

You may even need "breathing retraining," Ross adds. "When people get anxious, they tend to hold their breath. We teach people a special diaphragmatic breathing -- it calms your system. Do yoga, meditation, or get some exercise. Exercise is a terrific outlet for anxiety."

Most of all, try not to compound your problems, adds Andrews. "When things are bad, there is a legitimate reason to feel bad," she says. "But if you don't deal with it, you're going to lose more than just a job -- you'll lose relationships, your self confidence, you could even lose technical abilities if you stay dormant in your profession. Try not to compound one stress by adding another."

Often your ability to work through anxiety -- get past it -- varies depending on the type of crisis you faced. "The more severe, the more surprising it was, the longer it's going to take to get over it," says Andrews. "You may be on autopilot for several weeks. If you're depressed, that can complicate things. In the case of divorce, it may take months to years to really get back to yourself."

But take heart. "If you're doing well in one aspect of your life -- in your work or your relationships -- you're probably on your way," she says. "Fear and anxiety are no longer running your life."

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