Handling Stress and Anxiety: Conquering Anxiety

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus

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Carlos tended to dwell on all the things that could possibly go wrong. His wife commented that Carlos would spot danger where none existed, and had taken to calling him, “Don Quixote.” His imagination would often conjure up perils that most people would never even begin to consider. Carlos said of himself, “I think I must be crazy.”

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Carlos suffered from a treatable anxiety disorder. There is a lot of diversity among anxiety disorders, but most appear to be rooted in a common soil of unrealistic or excessive worry about various events, situations, or circumstances.

Most anxiety-producing concerns involve a particular style of thinking that usually starts with “what if…” thoughts that trigger or increase anxiety, especially when the imagined concern ~ the “what if…” involves a significant threat, misfortune, or catastrophe.

Related to these “what ifs” are often equally catastrophic mental pictures or images. Since the mind and the body are different sides of the same coin, thinking calamitous “what if s,” while simultaneously visualizing similar misfortunes, is one sure-fire way to rev up the emotional machinery of high anxiety.

Indeed, most people can induce anxiety by thinking of and picturing threatening, unfortunate, or catastrophic events. But, that also means we have the power to reduce or even prevent excessive anxiety by tuming around our thoughts and mental pictures.

• One of the best ways to tum the tables on anxiety-creating “what ifs” is to either add the word “so” to the beginning of the thought or to counter the “what if” idea with a calming “well then” response.

Thus, “What if X,Y, or Z happens” becomes “So what if X, Y, or Z happens.” Or, “What if A, B, or C happens” is immediately followed by “Well then, 1, 2, or 3.”

For example, “what if I fail the test” becomes “so what if I fail the test,” or “well then, I’ll study harder next time.” And “hat if I say something foolish” becomes “so what if I say something foolish” or “well then, I’ll feel a moment of embarrassment,” and so on.

• By thinking calming thoughts and visualizing positive events, you can rapidly ratchet down the intensity of just about any anxiety reaction.

But keep in mind that anxiety management skills, like all skills, take learning and practice to master.

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Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on friendlysuggestions.com.

 

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus and Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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