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Charge Up for Good Health

I’m a world-class worrier. How can I stop?

I’m a world-class worrier. How can I stop?

A. Struggling with worry is an all-too-common problem. I teach my patients these three essential anti-anxiety skills so they can stop worrying:

1. Breathe. When worry hits, the first thing you should do is slow your breathing -- taking air into your belly on a count of three, pausing and then exhaling on a count of three -- will help stabilize your oxygen levels and can make you feel calmer on the spot.

2. Make a bet. Next, try what I call "estimating probabilities." In other words, what are the odds that the thing you are worried about will actually happen? Let's say you're afraid your child will get hurt at school. You have to look at the numbers: There are approximately 200 school days in the year, and you have received a call from the emergency room zero times. Focusing on those 200-to-0 odds is extremely helpful.

3. Expect the worst. The last key skill is something called catastrophizing. It may sound counterintuitive, but this involves working through your worst-case scenarios. Let's say you worry about the economy. If your company loses a big client, you could lose your job. If you didn't find another job, you could lose your house. Determining how you would cope at every stage of this issue will turn worry into problem solving -- "I'd need to get my resume together or look into renting a smaller place" -- which helps you feel in control.

Worry will always wax and wane, but it's a process you can learn to manage.