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What Snowpocalypse Can Teach Us About Anxiety

"I would be a raving lunatic" declared a family member upon hearing about our recent adventure in Snowpocalypse 2014.  Like many Atlantans, my husband was stuck (literally, at times) on the highway in a snowstorm trying to get home.  His typical 30-mile commute became a 16-hour ordeal.  At one point, sliding backward on ice into traffic, he made the decision to park his car next to the highway barrier and walk to shelter. 

The "lunatic" sentiment, while partly an exaggerated figure of speech, is also a common fear among the clients I see.  One of my specialties is helping people overcome Agoraphobia, the fear of being away from home and unable to access help.  Many of my clients become nervous and tense just thinking about being in the above situation.  One remarked today, "I can't even imagine what I'd do!"   My advice?

Imagine it.

You see, one great way to conquer your fears is a technique known as visualization.  Typically used in the process of desensitization, visualizing is one of the first steps toward preparing your mind to accept, think through, and successfully handle a stressful situation.  Vizualization is a little more complex than can be described here, but here are three tips to get you started:

1. Picture the most likely, rather than the best-case or worst-case scenarios.  No, you will not become a raving lunatic.  Neither will the sun miraculously come out and melt all the snow.  No, the car will not be surrounded by zombies.  Most likely, you will not be involved in a high-speed crash (my husband said he averaged 4 MPH!).  Prepare your mind for what is likely and then imagine yourself handling it.

2.  Watch your language.  I'm not referring to cursing!  I'm referring to exaggerations we all use, but that serve to make us more anxious.  There are some people who suffered real, agonizing, tragic situations in the recent storm.  But for most, the term "Snowpocalypse 2014" is, in itself, an exaggeration.  Combat, losing a child, becoming a hostage - these things are truly horrible.  Telling yourself a situation is "horrible" or "a nightmare" when it is really just an anxiety-provoking, long inconvenience only needlessly increases your stress level.

3. Imagine calming yourself.  Picture how you want to handle a difficulty.  Imagine taking slow deep breaths, focusing on the task at hand, using your good sense to problem-solve.  Imagine being calm enough to offer help, as many good Samaritans did.  Focusing on others is a great way to get out of your own head and increases the likelihood of a positive outcome for everybody.

Once you have used visualization successfully, you will be able to imagine yourself handling a stressful situation in a rational way, without inflammatory language, and with enough calm to access your good sense.  You can focus on being prepared rather than scared, and avoid letting Snowpocalypse 2014 make you into a homebody well into the warm months.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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