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It’s the night before an important event: a big exam, a major presentation, your wedding. How do you calm your nerves in preparation for the big day?

We just returned from a trip abroad and I had tension galore the few days before we left — which was just plain silly and unnecessary. We were only going away for a week — so that’s one thing I kept telling myself: a week passes quickly. It’s different when we go away for 3-4 weeks in the summer; there are a lot of things to think about when you’re away that long, but a week is nothing.

Self-talk is one of my favorite ways of getting through tension or indecision. Sometimes I have to speak out loud so that I really hear myself and focus. I have to root out those things that may be causing the anxiety and explain to myself why some worries are so inconsequential and others need attention. My tensions may be alleviated by taking care of something immediately (like stopping the newspaper and mail) so that it’s not taking up space in my head.

Anxiety is something I live with all the time and have to work away at it to keep in under control (medication helps). Fortunately I have developed ways to beating back the thought bombarding my mind by selection one thing and working on that, ignoring intrusive thoughts that maybe I really ought to be doing something else. That’s the hardest part — sorting out the thoughts — what’s important, what’s useful, what needs to go in the “trash”. Other people with anxiety will know what I’m talking about; people without anxiety have trouble “getting it”.

When I’m really anxious, I do deep breathing to center myself and lower my heart and breathing rate. Getting down on the floor and doing some yoga moves helps, too. I think anxiety builds and breaking the spiral with some physical action is useful.