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Kevlar for the Mind: 4 tips to fight back when anxiety attacks

July 15, 2017 (Photo Credit: Staff)
Anxiety is as commonplace in our daily lives as cellphones, reality television and fast-food restaurants. If you're like most people, you worry about paying your bills, the health of your loved ones ... and maybe even passing your physical fitness test. 

Some degree of anxiety is healthy. Without it, we'd have a tough time getting motivated to do things we don't like. It also helps us find solutions to difficult problems by forcing us to consider the outcomes of multiple courses of action.

Unfortunately, many people associate anxiety with psychiatric illness and believe that professional help is the answer. The reality is that you don't need to see a shrink and be put on medication or endure months of talk therapy to manage your anxiety. Unless your anxiety keeps you from going to work or enjoying life, all you need to do is use some basic and straightforward techniques.

The most successful techniques often are based in common sense, not some abstract psychological theory. Here are four sure-fire techniques for beating back the annoying anxiety that hides in every nook and cranny of your psyche.  

1. Stay in the present.  A popular movement in the professional and secular areas of psychological wellness is mindfulness, or the intentional direction of one's focus to the present moment. If you are able stay in the here-and-now and avoid labeling and judging what's going on around you — allow yourself to just "be" — then your mind will be unable to create anxiety.    

2. Think of pleasant childhood memories.  No, this technique is not the same as connecting with your inner child. All it requires of you is to conjure up some positive moments from your past.

Your mind is really bad at deciding whether what's going on in your head is in the past or is happening now.  As a result, you can trick your brain and body into reliving the positive emotions and thoughts that come from reconnecting with your younger self.

3. Practice acceptance. There is age-old wisdom that directs us to change the things we can and accept the things we can't. This is perfect guidance when it comes to dealing with day-to-day anxiety.  

For many people, the inability to let go of things that are out of their control fuels chronic and disruptive anxiety. If you are one of those people, then it's time to let it go.  

4. Practice avoidance.
Generally speaking, avoidance is not a healthy strategy for dealing with anxiety. But in some instances, staying away from people, places and things that make you anxious can be the best medicine.

Bret A. Moore, Psy.D., is a board-certified clinical psychologist who served two tours in Iraq. He is the co-author of "The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook." This column is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey specific psychological or medical guidance.

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