Excerpt from Why Worry

by Kathryn Tristan

Chronic worrying can keep you tense, on high alert, and lead to anxiety attacks. When stresses become more challenging, you can help yourself by using the “Stop, Look, and Listen” technique to quickly regain the reins of control.

Step 1: STOP. First, recognize and accept that the feeling is anxiety. Next, take charge of your breathing and immediately begin to breathe slowly and deliberately. Remember the belly breathing? This is the time to do it because it can help reverse your body chemistry and restore calm.

Now, stop the runaway train of emotion. You can consciously veto maintaining the fight-or-flight response. Acknowledge the worry but recognize that, in this case, any fear is merely a False Emotion Appearing Real.

Step 2: LOOK. Don’t try to control or fight your symptoms. Accept them and remain determined that you are going to ride them out. True power over your worries comes from learning to accept the feeling and not letting it move beyond the initial fear response. Remember, “Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered, and no one was there.”

Move around if at all possible, and look around you. Focus on the external, rather than the internal sensations. Ground yourself by focusing on your feet and legs, and gradually move up your body with progressive relaxation. Keep in the now by looking at the details of life around you. What are people wearing? What are the interesting details of your surroundings? Can you speak or joke with someone? Take five full minutes to name things you see. If you find your vision is disturbed, focus on your breathing instead to help restore the normal biochemistry of your body that is thrown off by shallow, anxious breathing.

Step 3: LISTEN. Talk calmly to reassure yourself. Say your power phrases: “Okay, I feel afraid, but that’s all right. I can handle this. Am I in a truly dangerous situation? No, I’m not. I simply refuse to fuel these fires. I’m okay. I’m done with this. I have choices here. I refuse this response. I am totally safe and I am okay. In fact, I am a coping machine. My safety is in my own belly button. I refuse to do this.”

You can also create and carry cards with your power phrases. ey can be phrased as if they were something you would say to a scared child. How would you comfort her or him? You can trust yourself. You really can.

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