Excessive Worrying Reduction Tips
By: Bill Farrand, LCPC
Worrying has become a primary coping mechanism for anxiety for many people in our country. This makes sense when you consider the mounting pressures so many people face as they try to carve out a life for themselves. There are bills to pay, children to feed, family obligations to attend to and of course the day in and day out demands of the job. We certainly see our fair share of people who struggle with this problem here at 2nd Story Counseling in Chicago.
>The research suggests that anxiety disorders are among the most common of mental health challenges in the United States. Believe it or not, it has been estimated that our national mental health bill is around 148 billion dollars annually with the treatment of anxiety disorders making up a third of the costs. The estimates point to something like 18% of the population suffers from some type of anxiety disorder.
Anxiety and Worry
We’ve written about anxiety on our blog before and examined its different forms (See our GAD post). We’ve also looked at the unique relationship between anxiety and depression. In an effort to help with the entire matter of excessive worry, many therapists commonly suggest that clients somehow release their toxic thoughts and simply find ways to relax.
This is certainly good advice for coping with excessive worrying but it misses the main point – we are essentially wired neurologically to worry. If you have a chance, be sure to check out this interesting article appearing on the Mind Body Green website that includes an infographic that speaks to this issue.
Going on the premise that the act of worrying is part of our biological makeup and that much of its causal roots are based in neurobiology, we’re going to offer 7 concrete strategies to reduce excessive worrying for you to think about.
Bear in mind that by engaging in any of the 7 activities listed here, you will be training your brain to respond to worrying in new and different ways. Translation – it takes time for change to happen. While we wish instant results were possible, it just doesn’t happen that way for most people.
OK – check these out.
1) Start deep breathing exercises
When you take full, meaningful breaths, you begin the process of bringing greater oxygen supplies to your body organs. This helps to remove toxins while also returning your cardiovascular system to a normal, healthy place of homeostasis. You will want to take many deep breaths in order to experience the full effect. See our post on deep breathing to learn more.
2) Avoid perfectionism
Many people who struggle with excessive worrying describe themselves as “perfectionists”. This is particularly true of people who struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. If you are a perfectionist, make sure you check your expectations and search for potential cognitive distortions which could be fueling irrational thinking. Doing a good enough job is often just “good enough”. Not everything has to be perfect.
3) Focus on the here and now
This point may be difficult but it is an important one so pay attention. Focusing on the here and now means being mindful of the moment –as in this very moment in time. If you are obsessing about the past or the future, you are not living in the present. The end result equals worrying. A meaningful way to focus on the here and now is through mindful meditation. Check out our many posts on mindfulness for ideas on how you can incorporate meditation in your daily wellness ritual. Don’t forget to stop by our Zen Meditation room!
4) Avoid procrastination
The worry warts best friend is procrastination – particularly when it comes to decision making. If you can relate, you are not alone. When you put off making decisions about future events, you end up feeding a growing title wave of worry. You can do a lot to stop that wave from building by making informed decisions … even when you don’t feel like doing it. The more comfortable you get with this process the better you will feel. FYI – this activity also has the additional benefit of increasing your self-esteem!
5) Stop Awfulizing
Awfulizing is a term used in cognitive behavioral therapy to describe a situation where a person always focuses on the worst possible outcome of a given event or situation. Example: You forget to pay your credit card bill so the penalty will be your bank will immediately close your account. See how that worked? The key to not awfulizing is finding a healthy balance between the worst possible outcome, the best outcome and the middle outcome. Nine times out of ten, it’s the middle scenario that usually occurs.
6) Know when you are worrying
Sometimes, we can get so caught up in worrying that we are not aware that we are engaging in obsessive thoughts. This is why it is important to take a moment and recognize what we are actually feeling. When properly accomplished, we can then step back from the activity and separate the worry from the emotions – and thoughts. Many people find keeping some type of journal helpful for this very purpose.
7) Channel worrying into physical activity
One thing can be said about worrying and that this – it contains a lot of energy! If find yourself excessively worrying about a given issue (or issues), why not channel some of that energy into something positive? Research has shown time and again that physical activity is an effective coping strategy for anxiety. There are plenty of options to consider. Want to know more about incorporating exercise into your wellness plans? Be sure to read our exercise post!
Anxiety and Worry Resource
If you are interested in learning more about how your brain reacts to anxiety and worry, we encourage you to think about picking up a copy of the book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by neuro-psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Amen. The nice this about this read is that the author provides insightful information about the neurological causes for worry and moves about the business of presenting effective strategies for coping.
If you struggle with excessive worrying, you might benefit from working with a helping professional that can assist you with finding meaningful and healthy ways of coping. If you are in Chicago, please send us a confidential note through our contact form or simply give us a call at 773-528-1777.