3. Take a deep breath. Breathing may be something you take for granted, but concentrating on it and taking it slow can help bring your body back into balance and calm you down. “When your body is anxious, the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is off,” says Smith. He suggests breathing in through your nose for four counts, then out through your mouth for six. “That balances the gaps in your bloodstream to help you relax.” For other anxiety breathing exercises, visit calmclinic.com.
4. Try some mind control. It may sound new-agey, but to break out of a debilitating, mind-churning cycle, “You need a new discipline for your thoughts,” says Smith. “For me, it’s mindfulness meditation or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is tailor-made for anxiety.” A review of CBT studies from Boston University found the severity of anxiety symptoms lessened for people who tried over placebo, and the effect was most dramatic for those with obsessive-compulsive disorder and acute stress disorder. To sign up for CBT webinars, visit the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists’ site at nacbt.org.
5. Have a sense of humor. Smith’s book—while tackling a serious subject—is lighthearted at its core. You could employ some of the same strategies with your own anxiety issues. (Woody Allen made a successful career out of it, after all.) “Anxiety needs to be treated with some humor,” he says. “Humor helps to declaw the experience and reveal the disorder’s pettiness and arbitrary nature. There is no question that anxiety can be a painful, pernicious force. It can destroy relationships; it has destroyed some of mine. But it can do so only when the sufferer treats it with blind seriousness.” So the next time someone calls you on it when your wheels are spinning, laugh it off rather than acting defensive. You’ll ease anxiety and are more likely to help defuse the situation in the long run.