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Beyond Blue

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If you are like me, you’re going to need some tips to manage your holiday stress

Here’s my small contribution to your problem … some Holiday stress management.
    

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If your mind were a diesel engine, anxiety would be the leaded gas that was accidentally poured in and responsible for all the burps and stutters. Even more so than depression, I think, anxiety is the big disabler in my life, with a capital D, which is why I try to nip it in its early symptoms. That doesn’t always happen, of course, but here are some techniques I try.

1. Recognize the reptilian brain.

My therapist friend Elvira Aletta gives a brilliant neuro-psychology lesson in one of her posts where she explains the two parts of our brain: the primitive part containing the amygdala–which is responsible for generating and processing our fear and other primal emotions–and our frontal lobes: the neo-cortex or the newest part of our brain, which is sophisticated, educated, and is able to apply a bit of logic to the message of raw fear that our reptilian brain generates.

Why is this helpful? When I feel that knot in my stomach that comes with a message that I am unloved by the world, I try to envision a Harvard professor, or some intellectual creature whacking a reptile on the head with the a book, saying something like “Would you just evolve, you overly dramatic creature?”

2. Exaggerate your greatest fear.

I know this doesn’t seem like a good idea, but truly it works. I learned it from a fellow Beyond Blue reader who explained on a combox: “Tell your fear to someone else and make sure to be as dramatic as possible, with very descriptive words and emotions. Then, when you’ve told every detail you can think of, start over again. Tell the entire, dramatic story, again with very elaborate descriptions. By the third or fourth time, it becomes a bit silly.”

My friend Mike and I do this all the time. He will tell me how he is afraid he has diabetes, and that his leg will have to be amputated, and then he won’t be able to drive a car with one leg, and because of that his wife with leave him, and he will be a single, lonely old man with one leg. Funny stuff, right?

3. Distract yourself.

For the last two months I have been under the very clear direction of my doctor to “distract, don’t think.” My thinking–even though I thought I was doing the right thing by using cognitive-behavioral techniques–was making things worse. So she told me to stay away from the self-help books and to work on a word puzzle or watch a movie instead, and to surround myself with people as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for cognitive-behavioral techniques and mindfulness. But when I reach a point of disabling anxiety, it’s more beneficial for me to try to get out of my head as much as possible.

Click here for Tip Number 4.

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