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Reduce Anxiety? At ACFW Conference?

The American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference is coming up in Indianapolis this year, from September 17-20. With the advent of such an amazing conference, there can be a lot of anxiety–especially as you wait your turn to pitch to an agent or editor! So read on for anxiety-reduction techniques to use while either attending the conference or not.

I selected a few techniques that can be done at any time or place.

Square Breathing

You can do this technique standing or sitting, although I prefer clients to sit. If you were in my office, I’d say close your eyes, but if people are milling about, just leave them open. The instructions are simple:

a) Slowly count to 3 as you take a deep breath in through your nose
b) Hold your breath for 3 counts
c) Let the breath out through your mouth for 3 counts
d) Hold for 3 counts
e) Repeat a few times/as needed

You can increase the count to 4 if this suits your lung capacity better.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is bringing yourself into the present moment. It’s making yourself relax and become aware of your breath, thoughts, feelings, surroundings and sensations. You give your self-critical, controlling mind a rest and accept the moment with peace and non-resistance. (Yes, sounds a little new-agey, but it works and you won’t need to go to church afterward to repent.)

Since anxiety lives in the body as chronic tension, just breathing can help undo that tension, which restores balance to the body and mind. It’s hard to remember your breath, so setting aside time to do so amidst the hustle and bustle of conference will help you relax. (Breath is key!)

a) Sit as relaxed and still as possible
b) Don’t try to control your thoughts – just observe your breath and other sensations/sounds. Don’t engage your thoughts, just let them come and go
c) Focus on breathing or heart beat or the rise/fall of your belly/chest

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

PMR is when you tense and relax various muscle groups in your body in a progression. You hold the tension for about 10 seconds and then relax, noticing the difference between relaxed and tense. You usually work bottom to top, right to left.

a) Right foot, calf, thigh, entire leg
b) Left foot, calf, thigh, entire leg
c) Right hand, forearm, bicep, entire arm
d) Left hand, forearm, bicep, entire arm
e) Buttocks
f) Abdomen
g) Chest (fill and hold lungs)
h) Shoulders
i) Neck
j) Face (stretch out forehead and cheeks by exaggeratedly mouthing the vowel sounds – you might want some privacy for this part, or leave it out)

While you’re waiting for the Carol Awards or Genesis Awards to be revealed, or waiting in line to see the agent or editor of your dreams, use one or all of these techniques to bring you back to a more relaxed state of mind. Remember, God is master of your anxiety.

Hope to see many of you at the conference this year!!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT
the character therapist

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