What Doctors Tell Their Friends About Anxiety
REDBOOK|October 2018
What Doctors Tell Their Friends About Anxiety

Life happens—often bringing with it a whole lot of stress that can do a number on your health. These experts explain how to deal, plus the best ways to Zen out.

Lisa Mulcahy

YOU CAN STOP STRESS FROM SPIRALING

“When you’re anxious, chemicals like epinephrine and cortisol are released into your bloodstream and nervous system. It’s your body’s alert mode, and we’re biologically programmed to take threats to our survival very seriously. That stress response can be truly disabling; a friend’s daughter, for instance, was so anxious, she couldn’t go to school. I tell friends that anxiety is always about the future; you might fear losing someone you love or that you won’t be able to pay a bill. A little worry can be good—it can motivate you to take action! But when you overthink, it can quickly cause anxiety to spiral out of control.”

—Charles L. Raison, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin and CNN’s mental health expert

WHAT YOU CAN DO

When you’re feeling anxious, ask yourself two questions: Am I going to die? and How bad are things, really? “The answer to the first one will almost certainly be no,” Dr. Raison says. And realizing that you are safe and that you will survive can help put things in perspective. In fact, “there’s evidence that asking yourself these questions can lower your cardiac and nervous system’s response to stress,” Dr. Raison says. “Then you can brainstorm solutions.” Let’s say an unexpected bill has revved you up—you can calmly think of ways to bring in cash. “When you learn to control your anxiety, your thoughts work to serve you a whole lot better,” he adds.

LISTEN TO YOUR GUT

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October 2018