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Relationships: Anxiety Reduction Techniques

By Barton Goldsmith, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

When you are feeling anxious, there are a number of things you can do to decrease the tension and get back to life as you know it. Remember that you can feel panic even if the source of your anxiety is not immediately present, because sometimes stress just floats out there for a little while, trying to get your attention.

Fear can control us, but you have more power over it than you may think. Here are a few exercises you can do to feel better about yourself in anxious situations.

Get your anxiety out on the table: If you are in a relationship, you can do this exercise with your partner. You also can do it with anyone in your life who is a good listener.

Step 1: Look at and talk about the worst-case scenario. Get all your feelings and fears out on the table. Be sure to discuss what you’d do in the worst-case scenario and how serious the consequences would be.

Step 2: Talk about the best-case scenario and revel in all that it brings you. Take a moment to really soak in all of the positive changes that may happen.

Step 3: Look at what’s most likely to happen. While you can’t be certain, it’s reasonable to expect that most of these scenarios will fall somewhere in the middle of the worst- and best-case scenario. Remember that the results are also largely dependent on what you make of what happens.

Going through this process will decrease any anxiety you may be feeling and help you embrace the positives in your life. Taking this tried-and-true action will yield positive results.

Be proactive about your anxiety. Some people take supplements like fish oil, or they drink chamomile tea to help them relax. Daily exercise is also a great anxiety reducer. So is meditation, if you would rather be less physically active.

Avoid the news and watch a comedy instead. Events you see on TV or read in the papers may trigger your anxiety. I’m not suggesting you live in a cave, but if you are having a nervous day, it might be best to do something more pleasant than watching the news. Once you learn what brings on your anxiety, it will help you avoid the unexpected bouts.

Remember the places that make you feel peaceful inside. Being by water or in nature is very calming for many people. Sometimes reading a book by the pool can be as good as reading one in the mountains. The trick is to find and then remember the places that make you feel most peaceful, and the next time anxiety hits you, go to a quiet spot and just imagine yourself back in your peaceful place. I know it sounds too simple, but it works very well.

Get your day going right. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is a brief meditation. Simply visualizing a peaceful day ahead and reminding myself that I am safe are helpful little tools that can make the difference between a nervous day and one of tranquility. I use this meditation technique throughout the day whenever necessary.

You don’t have to be a victim of anxiety. If these exercises don’t give you enough relief, please see a medical professional. Many medications can be helpful, and even if you don’t like the idea of pills, just talking with a doctor can be reassuring.

bottled_void via Flickr

Relationships: Be Careful With Your Words

By Barton Goldsmith, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

In long-term relationships, people can sometimes become used to treating each inappropriately. They may use derogatory terms or talk down to one another. Others may not talk much at all because when they do talk, it becomes a fight. This happens when the relationship devolves into a power struggle.

If this describes your relationship, both of you may be reacting to unmet needs. Understanding this can help you change certain behavior patterns and get back to a loving life. When your communication becomes hurtful, there are deeper issues involved, and you need to become aware of what you are doing. It’s important to the very foundation and survival of your relationship.

If your partner has spoken harshly to you, you need to let him or her know that your feelings have been hurt. Maybe he or she was unaware of it. Or maybe you were the one who spoke harshly. In either case, the best response is an immediate apology.

On the other hand, if your other half is being purposely hurtful, you may be too afraid to say anything for fear of escalating his or her anger. Making a few notes about what was said and bringing it up in a calmer moment is a good technique to help point out and resolve this behavior. Part of healing your relationship may include some communication counseling. If you aren’t ready for that step, there are many books on the subject. Reading one together can help you not only heal this dysfunctional dynamic but also make you closer.

Loving relationships, no matter how good, have their dark moments. That’s normal, and most couples can say a few kind words to each other and kiss and make up. But when you start to hold grudges or think of your partner in a negative way, those feelings will pop out verbally and usually in other hurtful ways as well. Avoiding your partner or the issue isn’t going to fix it or make your life better. You have to look at the behavior and address it.
One tried-and-true method is to make a point of thinking about what you are going to say before you say it, and imagining how he or she will react to your words. It may seem cumbersome, but it only takes a few moments and can save you hours of grief.

Also, if your partner does something that could be taken as offensive, like pretending to ignore you, say something like, “Honey I know you hear me, and I love you.” It can take the fire out of someone’s anger when he or she knows that a hurtful behavior has been forgiven without even an apology.

Most of us are aware of our behaviors, both good and bad. When we are not being the kind of man or woman that we’d like ourselves to be, that does a little damage to our self-esteem. If that keeps growing, it will leak into your relationship. Do your best to catch yourself and change this destructive pattern. All you have to do is talk about it.

Photo: Adam Tinworth via Flickr