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Worried About the Future?

3 ways to cope

If you find yourself increasingly anxious, you're not alone. The American Psychological Association, which polls Americans about their stress levels, found that our stress in 2017 was higher than ever.

"Many people are struggling with worries about their future, things like health care, retirement and safety," says Sheila Dowd, PhD, a psychologist at Rush University Medical Center.

Those are justifiable concerns. And worrying about them — or other serious situations — can be useful if it helps us make decisions and prepare for the future.

The key, Dowd says, is to focus on how and when you worry.

1. Reduce media consumption.

Thanks to a 24-hour news cycle, it’s hard to avoid bad news.

"You don't have to tune out news completely — you need to stay informed — but limit your exposure," Dowd says.

Pick one or two times to check the news each day. And have a plan for other, more relaxing activities, such as meditating, working out or reading a book.

2. Carve out a worry time.

Setting aside time to fret — say 15 minutes every day — can actually help you worry less.

"If a concern pops up at another time, tell yourself, 'I'll worry about it later,' " Dowd says. Use your worry time to solve problems you can control and to let go of things you can't.

You don't have to tune out news completely — you need to stay informed — but limit your exposure.

3. Try some TLC.

"Being tense is a cue to take extra care of yourself," Dowd says.

In addition to getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising, be smart about how much caffeine and alcohol you drink — too much of either can make anxiety worse.

If steps like these don't help, tell your doctor. Counseling, and medicine if necessary, can help you feel better.

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