Everyone worries sometimes. This is perfectly normal; in some circumstances, worrying can prompt you to take action and step out of your comfort zone. However, suppose you find yourself preoccupied and consumed by worry on a daily basis. In that case, this can affect your state of mind, your weight, your sleep, relationships, confidence, self-esteem and can also increase generalanxiety.
It is essential to consider the origins of your worry, and a great question to ask yourself is, is it real in the world or is it just real to me? Have you actually got lots of life challenges going on right now that the majority of people would worry about, or are you worrying about a situation that doesn’t warrant being upset and anxious over?
If you are over worrying, the question is why? Worry and anxiety are both symptoms with a learned schema behind them. What created the reference that drives your behaviour? There is a number of common origins:
- Copying a parent. If you have a parent who is an over worrier, the likelihood is that you will be too. Ask yourself did worrying enhance your parent’s life? If not, why not? When you catch yourself worrying, remind yourself “I am fine this isn’t my worry it’s my parent’s.”
- Fear of criticism. For some people, worry stems from low self-esteem caused by a past criticism. This could be from a school bully, teacher, ex-boss or ex-partner for example. If this is the case, challenge your belief by asking yourself; “Do I still want to be listening to those people? What skills do they have that gave them the right to judge me in the first place? And if they were kind people, they wouldn’t have judged me so I shouldn’t be listening to them.”
- A turbulent past. If there was a time in your life when a series of things went wrong, you may have created an expectation that things will go wrong in the future, this can cause habitual worry. Look at the evidence and note how many things have actually gone right for you in your life. For example, passing an exam, making a best friend, having a loving family/partner, buying a home, having children, going on holiday, bagging a bargain. Keep a diary and note down one great thing that happened in your day before bed every night. This will start to retrain your thought patterns and create new more positive thought habits. There will probably be too many things in your life that have gone right to remember them all and only a handful of things that have actually gone wrong.
- Having too much time on our hands. Our brain likes to be occupied, and if you don’t give it something constructive or positive to keep it busy, it will invariably find something negative to focus on. This can be worry, anxiety, pain or ailment that then grows because, like a muscle that you exercise, the more you exercise negative thoughts and behaviours, the stronger they get. Avoid cultivating your worries and negativity by maintaining a positive focus.
Here are some exercises you might like to try to help you overcome worrying.
- Find the origin. When you identify what is causing your worry, you need to challenge it.
- Create a worry period. Decide on a specific time slot every day that will be your moment to worry. For example, you may decide you will allocate yourself 15 minutes starting at 3 o’clock. If you catch yourself worrying outside this time, don’t tell yourself not to worry because what you resist persists and you will think about it even more. Instead, make a note to worry about it during your worry time. This helps to deal with a worry in the moment, and also often puts it into perspective if it doesn’t warrant your time when you come to reconsider it.
- Make a list of your worries. This takes the worry out of your mind and puts it firmly on paper. It also offers you a third-party perspective by seeing it externally. Keep the list so that when you look back at it in weeks to come, you realise that a lot of things you worried about never actually happened. This will give you some great positive counter-evidence, which in turn will help you stop worrying in the future. Studies have shown that 85% of things we worry about don’t actually happen and for the 15% that did happen, and 79% of cases people discovered they could handle a problem better than expected.
- Ask yourself, is the problem solvable? If it is, decide on a strategy to solve it and stick to that strategy. You might like to use our Work out your worries PDF to help you with this.
- Consider your environment and the company you keep. The people around you can greatly affect how you feel. If you have a friend who is always anxious, they will make your worrying worse. Try avoiding such people wherever possible.
- Discuss your worries. A problem shared is a problem halved but always talk with a trusted friend or a family member whom you know has a positive outlook on life and will give you constructive advice.
- Find a distraction or activity to fill your time positively. This could be voluntary work, a hobby you have always wanted to try, joining a local group or doing an online course. Just make sure you are using your time well.
- Give yourself three to five small daily tasks that will give you a sense of achievement when you complete them. This could be something as simple as clearing out a cupboard or calling a friend who makes you feel good. We have a FREE To-Do list PDF that you might like to use for this.
- Imagine that you have a button in the centre of your palm. Think of your main worry and press your button. As you press it, breathe into the count of three. As you count 1, visualise the colour red, as you count 2 visualise the colour blue, and as you count 3 visualise the colour green. Then exhale and completely let go of anything in your mind. The section of the brain that handles stress and worry has the common sense of an infant. You can’t stop an infant’s temper tantrum by applying logic, you need a distraction, similarly, this technique works incredibly well to distract you from your worry.
- Consider if what you are worried about is a ‘what if?’ If there is no solution, you will only be creating fear anger and frustration. Pessimistic thoughts and attitudes can be challenged by directing yourself to look at the situation in a more positive and realistic way. Ask yourself, what is the probability that what I am worried about will really happen? If it is low, look at some better outcomes. Also, consider is the thought helpful? How can your worry help you, and conversely, could it hurt you?
- Finally, think about what advice you would give to a friend who came to you with the same worry. Would you even see it as a problem?
Over worrying can be extremely challenging, however, you are not alone. Here at Trauma Research UK, our belief is, ‘it’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you’. With this philosophy, we believe that everyone can turn their lives around and start thinking in a more optimistic way if given the right help and support. Read more…