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Escape from the Worry Trap

Soothe Your Soul

Focusing on the here and now can go a long way toward soothing the soul.

To get started, give yourself five minutes to absorb the details of your surroundings: the dishes on the table, the flow of light through the window.

"If I just sit here and look intently at the rose on my table for a couple of minutes, it really helps pull me into a different state," notes Mary Ellen Copeland, M.S., M.A., author of The Worry Control Handbook.

Fill Your Mind
When middle-of-the-night worries loom, challenge yourself to recite the alphabet in random order, without repeating any of the letters.

This task is just tricky enough so that there's no room in your consciousness to think about anything else.

Derailing the Worry Train
For some, an act as simple as snapping a rubber band worn around the wrist or taking a warm, soothing shower can derail the worry train.

"It's about using tactile stimuli to tweak yourself to another place. It's taking action instead of letting the worry act on you," says Dr. Hallowell.

Lighten Up
Many worriers are only at ease with certainty, an impossible proposition in life.

Lynn Simon's mother died of cancer when Simon was 11 years old. "Because of her death I worry all the time that I'll get sick, that I'll have to leave my two kids," she explains. Simon's worries are not unreasonable — but they are futile.

Reid Wilson, Ph.D., associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, offers this advice: "Tell yourself that overcoming worry requires finding ways to tolerate uncertainty."

As any worrier knows, that's not easy — but it's a goal worth striving for.

Worry or Anger?
In some cases, worry is actually just a cover for anger that's simmering below the surface.

Consider that possibility next time you're brooding over a call from your mother or a child who's having trouble in school.

Actually, anger can be a productive emotion: "Unlike worry, it's outwardly focused and has some energy; it can at least motivate you to action," notes Emery. "You don't even have to express the anger. Just admit it to yourself, then take some action."

Relaxation Techniques

Short-circuit worry by taking a walk, petting your dog, reading a chapter in a juicy mystery or doing any other activity that you know will divert your attention and relax you.

Yoga, meditation, a music tape or a few minutes of deep breathing — which lowers the heart rate and, in turn, reduces anxiety — can also help.

Sing!
Sure, listening to soft, soothing music can lighten your worry load. But another approach, says Reid Wilson, Ph.D., associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, is to sing away your woes.

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