Lee: Wrap your head around these health tips

Emanuel Lee

Henry Ward Beecher once said, “Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.”
One of the single most important keys to longevity is avoiding chronic worry, stress and tension. Easier said than done, of course, but don’t let excessive worrying control your life. Worry in and of itself is actually not a bad thing, because it can drive us into positive action. However, too much of it can lead to anxiety, which has all sorts of consequences.
Research has shown that anxiety affects quality of sleep, weakens the immune system and affects relationships with those closest to us. The bottom line is this: While we can’t control the things that happen to us, we can control how we react to them. Research has shown that the way we think about our circumstances influences how well we cope with them.
Here are some ways to stop the perpetual cycle of worry.
Keep a journal
Putting things down in writing allows you to pinpoint what triggers your anxiety or causes you stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. By pinpointing these triggers, you can develop a plan—with the help of a mental health provider, of course—to better deal with these situations whenever they arise.
An October 2013 Huffington Post story referred to a 2011 study in Science on how letting emotions out on paper before a big exam could calm pre-test jitters. This approach could work for people facing anxiety for other things.
The story quoted Sian Beilock, who is an associate professor in psychology at the University of Chicago: “It might be counterintuitive, but it’s almost as if you empty the fears out of your mind. You reassess that situation so that you’re not as likely to worry about those situations because you’ve slain that beast.”
Analyze the journal
Robert L. Leahy, PhD, the author of The Worry Cure: 7 Steps to Stop Worry From Stopping You and the director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York City, said in a WebMd.com story: “Look at whether your worry is productive or unproductive. A productive worry is one you can do something about right now.”
Leahy gave an example that anyone can relate to—going on vacation. If you’re worried about accommodations and plane tickets, it’s a productive worry because you can go online and book tickets and a motel room. On the other hand, an unproductive worry is something you can’t do anything about, such as whether or not a close friend will get cancer or be involved in a terrible accident.
Compartmentalize
Accept the worry and move on. While this may be a difficult thing to do, the alternative is much worse. Why worry about things we can’t change? Live in the present moment. So you have a dozen things to do by week’s end? Make a list and prioritize each one, from most important to least. Then get going on them.
By accepting the fact that you’re not always going to have an immediate solution, you can move on to making the present that much less worrisome. Take a deep breath, relax, go for a walk or listen to your favorite song. The world is not going to end. Anxiety or worry is rooted in anticipation.
“The what ifs are always way worse than how you feel when something actually happens,” Leahy said in the WebMd.com story. “Worriers tend to worry about things that even if they happen, they can handle it. Worriers are actually good at handling real problems.”
Being uncomfortable
Get in the situations that make you uncomfortable. Many of us are not comfortable with public speaking, but if you force yourself to do it, you will rely less on worry as a coping strategy, Leahy said. Leahy added: “The goal is to be able to do what you don’t want to do or things that make you uncomfortable. Worriers feel that they can’t tolerate discomfort, but if you practice discomfort, you will accomplish a lot more.”

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