Photo Credit: Rifka Schonfeld

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie ten Boom

I’ve been thinking a lot about worrying. Anxiety is an issue close to my heart – not only because more than half of our community is likely to suffer from it at some point in their lives. It’s on my mind, because I’ve been working with more and more children whose anxiety gets in the way of their academic and social success. In November, world-renowned Dr. Paul Foxman will be presenting a workshop on anxiety specifically tailored to our community entitled, “The Worried Child: Recognizing and Treating Anxiety Disorders in Children and Teens.” I asked Dr. Foxman to come because I felt that we could all use his expertise to make our lives and the lives of our children a bit simpler and happier.

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But, we don’t have to wait until the workshop to get advice about anxiety. There are plenty of resources available for those whose worrying gets in the way of their day-to-day lives. In her book, The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques, Margaret Wehrenberg lays out 10 methods to help us overcome anxiety:

  1. Manage the body. People who are stressed don’t take care of their bodies. But this leads to a cycle of stress. In order to manage your emotional and mental state, you need to take care of your physical self.

            Eat right. Get plenty of fruits, vegetables and proteins. These will help your brain feel safe and taken care of.

            Avoid alcohol, sugar, and caffeine. These substances can create dips and spikes in our moods.

            Exercise. Exercise releases stress-reducing hormones that calm the body and the brain.

            Sleep. Sleep gives you the ability to recharge and have energy for the day ahead.

 

  1. Breathe. Deep breathing slows down your stress response. If you practice deep breathing even when you are not anxious, you can more easily use it when you are in a stressful situation.
  2. Mindful awareness. Close your eyes and pay attention to your body. How does it feel to breathe? Do you feel your heart beat? Can you feel your stomach rumble? Now, focus your attention away from your body. What do you smell? Hear? Last, shift your attention back to your body. When you are able to focus both internally and externally, you will feel more in control of your surroundings and your circumstances.
  3. Don’t listen when worry calls your name. Anxiety is an emotional state. As I talk about in my children’s book My Friend, the Worrier, anxiety is a monster. When you feed the monster by giving into the anxiety, you let it grow bigger. Instead, you need to stop listening to it and stop feeding it. You need to say, “That’s just my anxious brain again.” Then, you can begin relaxation breathing.
  4. Knowing, not showing, anger. Sometimes anxiety and anger are coupled. When you feel angry, you begin to feel anxious. If you can separate those emotions and understand that you are feeling anger, rather than anxiety, this may allow you to let go of the anxiety. Ask yourself, “What am I angry about?” rather than “What am I anxious about?”
  5. Have a little fun. When you are in the midst of an anxious moment, it’s hard to laugh. But, if you make an effort to add more laughter and lightness into your life, you might find it easier to navigate the stress-inducing moments.
  6. Turn it off. This one is a tough one; however, once you learn how to do it, it can change your life. The idea is to “turn off” your ever-thinking mind. First, you think about each thing that is bothering you, one at a time. Then, you visually place each worry thought into a mental container and close it shut. Then, you can take out those worries when you have the time and resources to deal with them.
  7. Interrupt those worries. When you feel your brain starting up, say “Stop” or picture a stop sign or hand. Then, say something like, “I can do this” or another self-asserting statement.
  8. Worry well, but only once. If you simply must face your anxiety and you can’t turn it off or stop it, then you should worry. But, you should set aside a prescribed time that you are allowed to worry about it. For instance, “I am going to worry about my son not making friends in school for 20 minutes on Monday.” And, set aside that time to think about solutions or simply to worry. Then, when the worry thoughts pop up on Tuesday, you tell yourself, “Stop! I already worried about that” and divert your thoughts to another activity.
  9. Learn to plan instead of worry. The difference between planning and worrying is that once you create a plan, you don’t need to check it over a million times. If you are worrying, you revisit that plan over and over. So, learn to plan. Learn to:

Identify the problem

Come up with possible solutions

Choose the best solution for you

Create a plan of action

Don’t rethink it and change the plan. Instead, stick with it. You’ll ultimately be happier and less anxious.

 

Can you get rid of anxiety? Probably not, but you can manage it. It takes patience and diligence. The reward for managing anxiety is a life filled with happy moments that you can appreciate without your brain’s nervous energy getting in the way. After all, no one should have to carry tomorrow’s burden today.

 

Register now for an Anxiety workshop by Dr. Paul Foxman on November 17,2015. Please call Mrs. Schonfeld at 718-382-5437 for more information.

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@gmail.com.