Mend your mind
Most stress-reduction techniques can help relieve anxiety, says psychologist Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D., coauthor of Natural Relief for Anxiety: Complementary Strategies for Easing Fear, Panic, and Worry (New Harbinger Publications). These include abdominal breathing, guided visualizations or simply taking breaks two or three times every day to relax, do moderate exercise or imagine yourself in a peaceful place. Mindfulness meditation, which has proven especially helpful in reducing anxiety, is now being taught in many hospitals and health centers across the country. Studies have found that, among other benefits, it can lower breathing rates, reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase activity in the left frontal area of the brain, which is associated with a positive mental state and lowered anxiety levels. The basics of the meditation (listening to your breath or paying specific attention to various parts of your body) are simple and can be learned from books such as Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life (Hyperion) by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. “The important thing is to make practicing mindfulness a part of your daily life so you’ll be prepared when a stressful situation arises,” Brantley says.