How to remain calm in the age of anxiety

Washington: In times where we face numerous pressures – of love, work, family and money, it has become increasingly important not to be held hostage by our anxiety and remain calm.

Now, a Northwestern Medicine psychologist Mark Reinecke’s book ‘Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On: Twenty Lessons for Managing Worry, Anxiety and Fear,’ offers an easy to understand strategy, based on recent psychological research and cognitive behavioural therapy, to reduce anxiety and live a happier, less fretful life.

"We live in an age of anxiety, whether it`s economic worries, love affairs or potential terrorist threats, or how you are going to care for your aging mother," said Reinecke.

“There are a whole range of things that come at us as a society that make us feel more anxious than at any time in our recent history,” he added.

One chapter in his book discusses the realistic assessment of whether a bad thing will happen.

"You should prepare for the most likely scenario, not the worst case, because it is statistically very unlikely," advised Reinecke.

"You should ask what is the probability of a bad event happening, how will you cope, are you able to protect yourself?"

He suggests whitewater rafting as a metaphor for effective coping.

"When you are thrown from the boat, you cover your head, protect what``s important and go with the flow. You let the current take you to a calm eddy on the side of the river,” Reinecke said.

We tend to overestimate the likelihood of bad things happening and underestimate our ability to cope.

Reinecke discusses productive versus unproductive worrying, how to cope with recurring intrusive negative thoughts (which he likens to the flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz”), how to control your anxiety, accepting an uncertain future, changing dysfunctional thoughts and strategies to relax. All of these skills can be learned, he noted.

"You don`t want to avoid the things you fear; you want to think about how to effectively manage them. "The more you effectively cope with a situation, the more confidence you have. Then, when a threat arises in the future, you know you can manage it,” he said.

"No matter the problem life brings us, we know we can manage and cope."


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