I recently heard on the news that anxiety related doctor visits are on the rise.  Specifially, symptoms like upset stomach, insomnia, panic attacks and muscle aches.  They said that worries about the economy and personal financial turmoil are making people physically sick.  Is the economy making you sick?  If so, how can you be healthy when all you want to do is ignore your problems, eat a Whopper and drink yourself into oblivion?

For me, worry manifests itself in racing thoughts or "mind chatter".  It happens at night, mostly, when I'm trying to sleep or early morning when I'm having lucid dreams.  It drives me crazy when I'm having a totally irrational dream and I keep having it over and over again.  It usually means I need to face the problem and deal with it.  But what do you do when you just can't stop thinking about your situation or problem?   Here are a few things that work for me:

1.  Stretch and Breathe.  I know it may sound hokey, but I'm telling you it's changed my life.  Get yourself a DVD - I have several but the one I started with is AM/PM Yoga for Beginners.   You can get this used (1998 VHS)  for under $2 bucks on Amazon.  You'll can also get more updated versions as well as DVDs for stretches for bad backs, weight loss, abs, etc.  Do it every day and you'll start feeling calmer, among other things.  Your mind will be on the exercises and not on your problems.  Many workouts include at least a few minutes of meditation and breathing exercises.  The morning yoga tape only takes 15 minutes and it's a great way to start your day.  Need some gear?  Get a Yoga Starter Kit (my favorite) or see all of Allegro Medical's Yoga Equipment.  Need something more concrete?  See 10 Products to Help you Relax.

2.  Get into nature.  Go outside and walk around.  Plant something or dig around in the dirt.  Go to the park and sit in the grass or swing on the swingset.  Get out of the city if you can.  Reconnecting with the earth does wonders for your psyche.

3.  Focus on things you can control.  Most of our worry is wasted on things we can't control, or things that never come to fruition.  Read Managing Stress: Practical Advice from a Pro.  This article will also help you become a constructive problem solver.   

4.  Find your safe harbor.  I use this type of visualization when I'm having trouble sleeping because of racing thoughts or recurring dreams.  It's all about having a place to visit, in your mind, whenever you want to relax.  It might be a warm beach, a field of flowers (that's mine but I'll share) or a sidewalk cafe in Paris.  Whatever.  Whenever you need to escape you just close your eyes and visualize it. 

5.  Meditate.  Okay, this may actually happen for some people.  You sit down and just be quiet and have a matra or you do breathing exercises, etc.  But unless I have someone making me do it, I don't.  If this is you, I suggest you go to a class or listen to a tape or something while you're doing it.  I'm all for it, I just never can get myself to stick with it.  Let me know how it works for you.

6.  Be nice.  Turning your focus to others ALWAYS makes you feel better and stops the mind chatter.  Go a step further and help out with a local charity.  Just find one that you fancy and call them to see if they need any help!  A few hours of doing nice things for other people can completely change the way you look at your situation.  Even simple acts of kindness or random acts of kindness make you feel better.  Start by saying something nice to the next person you see. 

Bonus:  When I can't get a song out of my head, I break the cycle by singing a foreign tune.  Freres Jacques is a popular one, but anything foreign will do.

Ahhhhh.... Ommmmm....  Hmmmmm....