Stop Worrying And Start Living!
Here's my advice for Natural Born Worriers
Is the same worrying thought whizzing through your mind today as it did yesterday? And the day before that? Do you feel you've stopped living life because you're always worrying about it? You’re definitely not alone.
Some research suggests nearly a third of women get trapped in a "Groundhog Day" scenario where each day is shaped by the same anxious thoughts. And around 6% suffer full-blown anxiety disorder. Things like, "Will we meet the mortgage payment?" or, "Will my teen be safe at that party?" and, “Did I write a good enough report?" shape their mental life.
Everyone worries about something from occasionally but that's very different to what I call "natural born worriers". These are those people who even when something good happens to them, or one of their loved ones, they start to worry that it won't last, it's going to be jeopardised, there's got to be a "catch" to it, etc.
This is different in nature to people who simply have a cup-half-empty rather than a half-full attitude. Such people may have a gloomy outlook to life but they don't actually fret and worry about it. It's the fretfulness and anxious feelings that set natural born worriers apart.
Although research suggests for some worriers there's a genetic basis so it may run in your family for others it’s through life experience that they develop the "worry-habit". For whatever reason, e.g., a traumatic experience, a series of difficult circumstances, etc., you started laying down neural pathways that loop repeatedly in a cycle of anxious thoughts.
But don't worry - there's lots you can do! Follow this worry-busting plan and start living again:
* For one week keep a diary using a very simple system of ticking how often a worrying thought comes to mind. This should be a small pocket-sized note pad/diary preferably with a little pen/pencil attached so you can make a ‘tick’ every time you start worrying.
* Take a look at the pattern of your worrying. Does it increase as the day goes on? Is it worse when you're approaching the office or dropping your children at school?
* Now explore the content of your worries. Make a list of the main areas of worry - money issues, problems with your partner, fears for your children, worrying about being on time, even global-warming!
* Doing this will give you an idea of the times you tend to worry most and what the content of your worries are. It's time to start challenging these worrying thoughts!
* Begin by thinking back over recent weeks of when you've been at your most calm. What circumstances made you feel calmer and relaxed? What were you doing that gave you a worry-free period? Perhaps you were gardening, doing some exercise, or sitting chatting with a friend or family member over glass of wine.
* Having identified what helps calm you down it's time to introduce more of that into your daily life. Maybe you can’t sit around chatting with that friend/family member over glass of wine. But you do have time for regular, quick phone calls with them because they have a calming-vibe about them. Or you need to build more exercise into your schedule.
* But most importantly I now want you to lie back or sit comfortably and create in your mind that feeling you have when you're doing that soothing activity or seeing that calming person. Practice bringing these calming images to mind and with all your senses experience how you feel when you're doing this. Practice this every day when you start fretting.
* It's time to explore where your worrying has got you. Think back and identify when worrying has actually helped you. I bet you can’t think of one instance when sitting there worrying, or worrying at your desk, or worrying in the shower actually helped the situation! The next time you start worrying, remind yourself of this - it's not helpful to the situation. It gets you nowhere! Banish the worrying thought at this moment!
* To reinforce this new "functional" way of thinking I’d like you to think about the last time you faced a crisis. What actually solved it? What coping skills were helpful? Write these out on a post-it note and put it where you'll see it regularly: "In a crisis it helped for me to keep calm and be practical!"
* Another simple technique to use is distraction. When you start fretting about, e.g., how much you have to get done that day use self-comforting actions after banishing the worrying thought. Close your eyes and stroke the inside of your wrist, rub your neck, or stretch your arms.
* You can also enlist loved ones in your quest to stop worrying. Alert them when worrying thoughts enter your mind. Chat about the worries so you talk yourself down from a worried state.
* If you have a persistent area of worry always look to solving it. If you're concerned your boss doesn't think you pull your weight discuss it with them. Find out what you could do better. It's far better to confront worrying things than to ignore them.
* Enjoy some fun! See a movie, go ice-skating, row a boat in the local park, and select a piece of soothing music to play that becomes your personal "no-worry" anthem. Put it on your I-pod or have it ready in your CD player.
If you're still plagued by worry see your doctor about potentially receiving counselling and/or anti-anxiety medication.
Useful contact - www.anxietycare.org.uk 020-8478-3400 (Mon & Wed 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.)
Published in the Express Newspaper