We all have stress, worry and anxiety in our lives. The new school year, your job(s), your relationships and multi-tasking to get it all done can add up to way too much. Managing your reactions is key to coping.

  1. Give Stress a Name It is essential to first recognize and name what one is experiencing. Step one is to recognize when it is the “stress” talking to you. Once you recognize that it is stress trying to trick you, you are better able to accomplish step two, which is “don’t listen to it.” By giving stress a name, it is externalized and separated from the person, making it easier to address.
  2. Distinguishing Productive from Unproductive Worry It is imperative to distinguish between engaging in productive as opposed to unproductive worry. You know that you are in “productive worry” when the problem is acute and solvable and you quickly move from the problem to problem solving. In contrast, you know that you are in “unproductive worry” when the problem is far away, unsolvable and you are spinning.
  3. Understand the Difference between Possibility vs. Probability Distinguish whether your concern is a “possibility” or a “probability.” If the concern is a possibility then it should not be dwelled upon. In contrast, if a concern is a probability then the person should take heed. If we live our lives based on possibility, we might as well live under a box, under a desk or tucked away in a corner of our house, because anything is possible. Instead, it is better to choose to live one’s life based on probability for a fuller and more enjoyable life.
  4. Meditation and the Power of the Breath I often find that adults are reluctant to meditate, finding it boring or hard to do. However, it is because meditation can be boring and hard to do that it is so crucial. People who worry are often not present. Instead, they are living in their “negative what-ifs” about the future. Meditation teaches people to stay present, accept their feelings and be at peace.
  5. Don’t Avoid, Instead Expose When people worry, their natural tendency is to avoid: scared of swimming, you don’t go in the pool; scared of tall buildings, you don’t go to the top. However, we know that the act of avoidance reinforces in the brain that the feared object is scary. Your brain looks at the avoidance and concludes that swimming is scary or that tall buildings are bad for you. The only real way to change is to expose oneself to the feared stimuli, gradually.

To recap, recognize if you are worried, engage in productive worry only, live your life based on probability, meditate and don’t avoid, but rather face challenges head on.

Dr. Caren Baruch-Feldman is the author of “The Grit Guide for Teens.”