Worry is a part of life and it wouldn’t be natural not to get anxious at times. However, if worry is ruining your life, it’s time to take action and change this self-destructive habit.
- Signs you’re worrying too much
- Breaking worries down into categories, for solution
WHY WE WORRY
Not so very long ago we had a lot more to make us fret! There were wild animals, warring tribes and life-threatening weather to worry about. In those times the adrenaline released by anxiety was a survival necessity.
Now, for us in the developed world, that has changed, for the most part. We have shelter from cold and stormy weather and we aren’t threatened by animals or aggression on a daily basis. Of course, there are real reasons for concern, and life for some of us may still be scary. But in general, there are many people who worry all the time when there is very little need. Even if you have causes for true concern, worry is very unlikely to help you.
If you are one of life’s worriers – and you aren’t alone – then you need to find ways to change. You might always be a tad more anxious than most, but self-torment must become a thing of the past if you’re to find happiness.
SIGNS THAT YOU’RE WORRYING TOO MUCH
Worry can become a habit and you may accept that you’re a ‘worrier’ – until the bad effects of this become obvious. These include poor sleep, irritability, problems concentrating, tension, exhaustion, difficulty making decisions and physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches, comfort eating leading to weight gain or weight loss from poor appetite.
If your anxiety is really getting you down, then you need to talk to someone. Friends can often be helpful, but that only goes so far. Speaking to a professional is a good idea, and an easy way to start is to contact one of our Readers for their soothing advice and clear perspectives.
GOOD THINGS ABOUT WORRYING
Even though you aren’t having to cope with primitive threats, a certain amount of worry does have its uses. For instance, it’s worry that will push you to prepare for tests and exams, and look after your well-being and the well-being of those you love.
Take the attitude that any worrying must be constructive. When you’re worried, don’t sit around. Turn that worry time into action time – maybe by studying for an exam, planning or taking exercise.
Always remember that when you’re worrying you’re using energy – one good thing is that you have this energy. Remind yourself to redirect that energy and make it count towards reducing reasons for worry.
Maybe you’re in the habit of letting your mind spin off into all sorts of disastrous scenarios. You need to become aware of this and change your mental habits. This you can do by becoming mindful.
Each day set aside a few moments to bring your whole attention into the here and now. Be peaceful and comfortable and observe your breathing, gently inviting it to slow down. Observe your thoughts. They will wander because that’s what thoughts do, but patiently bring them back to the present.
Once you get used to this you will be able to do it in a spare five minutes. Right here, right now is the only reality there is. When that sinks in more you’ll find peace.
Is there a pattern to your worrying? What sets off bouts of anxiety and what specific events preoccupy you? Maybe you worry about your partner’s safety and that could hark back to some disaster in your childhood, when someone you loved didn’t come back.
Maybe you fear poverty because you’ve struggled in the past. Realise that was then. It isn’t now, it isn’t an appropriate response to what’s happening now. Try to recognize your triggers and patterns and forestall them by relaxing and detaching.
When your brain is overloaded with possibilities and challenges, write down what occurs to you on your smartphone or a notepad. When you see things in black and white it helps to order and focus your thoughts and makes everything more manageable.
Don’t sit there chewing your lip and wringing your hands. Make a cuppa or go for a walk. When you do something that takes your mind off it all, solutions and other perspectives come into your mind and make you feel better.
SORT THE ‘CAN’ FROM THE ‘CAN’T’
Worry can spin out from whether you’ve upset your next door neighbor to fearing an asteroid is going to hit the earth! It’s important to distinguish between what you can and can’t control to knock your worries into shape.
Again, get out your notepad and make a list. Divide your worries into three columns – those you can’t control, those you can’t simply solve and those you can solve.
The worries that you can’t control have to be put out of your mind. Tell yourself there really is no point. If you are spiritual then you can convert worry time to prayer time, and move on.
Larger worries, such as those about money and health, have to be broken down. Sort out the actions you’re going to take – apply for a better paid job, get a medical checkup etc. and get busy. As each deed leads to a different perspective on your worry (or eliminates it) you adjust your list.
Smaller worries can and should be immediately sorted. Worried you’ve said the wrong thing? Then apologise. Worried you haven’t got enough food to last the weekend? Then stock up with some cheap staples such as potatoes, bread and eggs, to fill the cupboards.
Once you accept the fact that worries are one of the following – pointless, able to be tackled and able to be eliminated, life will be more manageable.
HOW WE CAN HELP
We’ve examined reasons for worrying, signs that you’re worrying too much and good things about worry. You now have strategies such as mindfulness, note-taking, distracting yourself, observing patterns and categorizing, to deal with worry.
Published: 17 May 2018