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10 Tips on Managing Worry Without Using Medication

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While a healthy level of worry can help us perform efficiently at work, anticipate dangers, and learn from past errors, excessive worry can make an otherwise sane person seem crazy, devoid of sound judgment, peace of mind and happiness. So how do you curb the anxiety associated with stress and toxic worry?

First, it helps to understand what I call the basic equation of worry. This is a good way to conceptualize where toxic worry comes from:

Heightened Vulnerability + Lack of Control = Toxic Worry

The more vulnerable you feel (regardless of how vulnerable you are) and the less control you feel you have (regardless of how much control you actually have), the more toxic your worrying will become. Therefore, any steps you can take to reduce your feelings of vulnerability and/or increase your feelings of control will serve to reduce your feelings of toxic worry.

But how do you stay out of the paralyzing grip of toxic worry? If you're walking through a minefield, how do you not feel so afraid that you can't take another step? You need a plan. When you have a plan, you can turn to the plan for guidance, which immediately makes you feel as if you are less vulnerable and more in control, whether you are or not. So whether the danger you perceive stems from the poor economy, a concern about your children, or a mole on your forearm that you think might be melanoma, you need a method to keep your fear from running wild so you can systematically dismantle the problem and take control.

The following is a 10-step plan to help you put your toxic worry into perspective:

Managing Worry
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*Adapted from WORRY: Controlling It and using It Wisely, Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., Pantheon Books, 1997

For more by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., click here.

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