Take a breath

Last month, we talked about finding the courage within to pursue our dreams. But what happens when it’s not a question of “are you brave enough?” but “can you manage your fear?” When you’re in the grips of, say, a full-blown anxiety attack?

Fear is a healthy response to an actual, immediate danger. Your body revs up in preparation for fight or flight while your mind focuses intently on the threat and, in a split second, decides how to react.

Anxiety is your response to an anticipated threat, something that hasn’t even happened yet—an exam, a presentation, a meeting with your accountant, the unknown. Your heart races, your muscles tense and you prepare for…what exactly?

Worry comes from the Old English word for “strangle” and when you live in a chronic state of high anxiety, you may feel the fear literally gripping you by the throat. You can’t breathe much less deal with the here and now. Fear steals your present and wears you down.

So next time you feel the panic stirring, do this:

STOP: Become mindful of your thoughts. Ask yourself if they’re real or possible or if they’re simply the result of your fevered imagination and self-doubt.

LOOK: Drop into your body and take note of your physical reactions. Consciously slow your breathing and unclench your body.

LISTEN: Hear what your body and mind are telling you and give yourself some care and reassurance. Sometimes it helps to just place your hand on your heart and say out loud: “It’s ok. You’re ok. It’s going to be alright.” (For some reason, talking to yourself in the second person helps.)

Accept your vulnerability. Take a breath. Find strength and comfort in your best { self }.