Don't let the anxiety get to you

Virginia Ironside explains how to turn a stressful situation into a positive one
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Indy Lifestyle Online
1 You are sacked from your job.

Stress victim: a feeling that this is the end of the world, that you and your family will soon be living in a cardboard box in the street, a feeling of anxiety, hurt and terror about the future.

Stress-buster: regard the sacking as a release and an opportunity. With very few exceptions all the old cliches are true. "No pain, no gain", "When one door closes another door opens". But it's important to turn the anxiety you feel about losing the job into energy and creativity to find a new and better way to live your life.

2 Your normally reliable partner is late, or hasn't called.

Stress victim: panic that he or she has been killed, has run off with a sailor or a dancing girl, no longer cares. Build-up of fury for when they return.

Stress-buster: Realisation that the reaction of rage and panic is bred of victim-like behaviour and that you are more responsible for your own reactions than other people are for provoking them. Consider other reactions, and convince yourself that the decision to wait quietly and calmly is not only a positive but also less self-destructive option than getting into a state. If you achieve this, congratulate yourself on having taken a huge step towards general stress-beating.

3 You are stuck in a traffic jam, shunting along at a couple of yards a minute. From the queue ahead it looks as if it will be an extra hour before you get home.

Stress victim: you sit fuming and hyperventilating, muttering furiously about the fool in front, constantly looking at your watch and the petrol gauge, panicking about what will happen if you run out of fuel.

Stress-buster: You would have prepared for a traffic jam in advance by bringing your "Learn Italian on tape" course. This way the time you have in the traffic jam is bonus time, a treat rather than a penance. If you're not in an educational mood, you would play music very loudly and work off your stress and rage very pleasurably by singing along in the car, shouting and pounding the steering wheel like a drum. With the windows shut no one will be able to hear.

4 You see a fight in the street or a woman hitting her child, or some unpleasant incident.

Stress victim: You think about doing something, then do nothing and return home feeling anxious. You sit paralysed by fear realising that the city streets are becoming war zones.

Stress-buster: This is not the tactic the police would recommend as it is enormously risky, but rather than turn your anger into fear, turn your fear into anger. Go up to the fighting couple, yelling, urging other bystanders to help you tear them apart. Or go up to the mother hitting her child and confront her. Without stress remember, there would never be any heroes.

5 Before leaving for a long business trip your boss yells at you at work and makes a fool of you in front of other people. You are too stunned to assert yourself there and then.

Stress victim: You feel quaky and vulnerable, fearful that he is planning to get rid of you, humiliated in from of work colleagues. You are unable to sleep with worry.

Stress-buster: You feel a quiet and vengeful satisfaction that your boss was so anxious about his business trip that he totally lost his cool. You realise that his lapse has actually put you in a stronger, rather than weaker position. You refuse to accept the anxiety he has dumped on you. If you can't sleep, you spend time in meditation and visualisation, sending his panic on an aeroplane to follow him. You go to the office the following day filled with smug confidence knowing that, on a psychic level, you have come out of top.

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