Worry is a state of being anxious and troubled over actual or potential problems. But, how much is too much? Worry is a normal part of everyday life, it can however become excessive when it is persistent and uncontrollable. Constant worry can take its toll on both physical and mental health as well as negatively impacting on relationships. So, why is it so hard to stop worrying? There are 2 attitudes to worry, negative and positive:
Negative is where we worry that we worry too much.
Positive is our belief that worrying helps us avoid bad things.
Thought processes & worry:
- All or nothing thinking- the inability to see the alternatives in a situation or solutions to problems. For people with anxiety and depression, this can often mean only seeing the downside to any given situation.
- Overgeneralisation- It is a way of thinking where you apply one experience to all other experiences. For example, if you gave a poor speech you mat think you always do and will give poor speeches.
- Negative mental filter- is a common cognitive distortion. It is filtering out all the positive information about a specific situation, and only allowing in the negative information.
- Disqualifying the positives- refers to rejecting positive experiences by insisting they ‘don’t count’ for a one reason or another.
- Jumping to conclusions- where people draw negative conclusions with little or no evidence of their assumptions.
- Catastrophising- where someone assumes that the worst will happen.
- Emotional reasoning- where an individual concludes that their emotional reaction proves something is true, no matter if the evidence proves otherwise.
- ‘Should’ statement- people sometimes have set ideas about how they should act, but you may cause yourself anxiety by worrying about things that you cannot control.
- Labelling- where a person labels themselves based on their mistakes and perceived shortcomings. For example, ‘I’m a failure, I am boring, I deserve to be alone’.
- Personalising and blaming- is a cognitive distortion whereby a person entirely blames themselves, or someone else, for a situation that involved many factors and was out of their control.
Below are a number of useful tips, tools & advice, which can be used to help reduce worry and the negative physical and mental health impacts it can have on a person.
Circle of Control
- It’s a practical tool that can be used to understand your worries and help focus your attention on what you can control.
- Circle of concern includes all worries or concerns you have in your life which you have no control over e.g., health, the pandemic, other people’s opinions and actions.
- Circle of control includes everything that is in your control e.g., attitudes, words and behaviour.
- When faced with a challenge or worry you can do one of 3 things (control, influence, accept).
- The circles can get bigger or smaller depending on where you put your focus.
- The circle of control can act as a visual to remind you what is in your control.
- It can help to reframe worries in uncertain times.
- Remember one thing you always have control over is your personal response and reactions to any situation.
Tip 1 Creating a daily worry period
- Choose a time and place every day which you will think about the things that are worrying you (this should be the same time and place each day).
- Declare the rest of the day a ‘worry-free’ zone (write down worries to save for worry time).
- Observe which worries have lost their power by delaying them.
Tip 2 Challenging anxious thoughts
During your worry period, challenge your negative thoughts by asking yourself:
- What is the evidence that the thoughts are true? What is the evidence that it is not true? (It is common that our perspective of the truth is not always the truth).
- Is there a more positive realistic way of looking at the situation?
- What is the probability that what you are scared of will actually happen? If low, what are some likely outcomes?
- Is the thought helpful? How will worrying about it help you and how will it hurt you?
- What would you say to a friend who has this worry?
Tip 3 Solvable and unsolvable worries
- Productive, solvable worries are those you can act on right away.
- If the worry is solvable, start brainstorming- make a list of all the possible solutions you can think of.
- If the worry is not solvable, try and accept the uncertainty. No matter how much time you spend dwelling on worst-case scenarios, you are no more prepared to deal with them should they actually happen. Think about how others cope with uncertainty or when you may have done so in the past.
Tip 4 Interrupt the worry cycle
- Distraction techs.
- Exercises and other activities.
- Meditation/mindfulness- guided meditation Apps for your phone such as Headspace and Calm.
- Relaxation techniques and deep breathing.
Tip 5 Talking about worries
- Can make them seem less threatening, whereas keeping them to yourself can allow them to build.
- Sharing worries can expose those that are needless and allow you to seek help for those that are not.
- A strong system need not be vast network of people, but we are social animals.
- It is helpful to identify who to avoid in times of worry.