Strategies that can help.
By Swetha Sundar
Worry is a total waste of time. It doesn’t change anything. All it does is steal your joy and keep you very busy doing nothing.”
Dev Anand, the evergreen star croons, “Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya..har fikr ko dhuen mein udaata chala gaya..”

Worry, tension, care, stress – whatever you call it has become an integral part of our lives and we find ourselves getting panicky and fidgety over trivial issues. Recently a WhatsApp forward had a religious guru advising on worry.

Do you have a worry?
Ans: No.
Then why worry?
Ans: Yes
Can you do something about it?
Ans: No.
Then why worry?
Ans Yes.
Then why worry?

Hilarious though it sounds, the solution given is very practical. We find ourselves worrying excessively about our health, our finances, our job security, what people think of us, or if we will be able to get to sleep?

Worrying excessively can lead to a host of physical and mental problems such as hypochondria, muscle tension, chronic indigestion, poor sleep, irrational fears, panic, self-consciousness, stage fright, compulsive behaviours, and perfectionism. We may think that worrying will help us avoid bad things from happening, lessen the impact of bad things, or help us come up with solutions. But worrying is actually the problem, not the solution.

No one likes the way constant worrying makes you feel, so why is it so difficult to stop? The answer lies in the beliefs – both negative and positive – you have about worrying.

On the negative side, you may believe that your constant worrying is going to spiral completely out of control, drive you crazy, or damage your health. On the positive side, you may believe that your worrying helps you avoid bad things, prepare for the worst, or come up with solutions. You may even believe that worrying shows you’re a caring and conscientious person.

Negative beliefs, or worrying about worrying, add to your anxiety and keep it going (much in the same way worrying about getting to sleep often keeps you awake). But positive beliefs about worrying can be even more damaging. It’s tough to break the worry habit if you believe that your worrying protects you. In order to stop worry and anxiety for good, you must give up your belief that worrying serves a positive purpose. Once you realise that worrying is the problem, not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind.

Is worrying in your genes?

Unlike some personal traits like eye colour and facial features, anxiety in the family isn’t always easy to see through the generations. Anxiety disorders include a variety of conditions, such as panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and generalised anxiety disorder.

As it stands now, experts believe the genes involved may modify your emotional responses in a way that might lead to anxiety. If two people have a similar mix of genes, whether they develop anxiety or not, could depend on their experiences or environmental risk factors.

Some of the environmental risk factors that can trigger anxiety include abuse of all kinds, traumatic events, stressful life events and difficult family relationships, lack of a strong social support system, low-income status, and poor overall health. The following strategies have been found to help brooders break the cycle and eliminate unhelpful thoughts.

Set aside a worry period

Rather than be held hostage to disruptive worrying thoughts throughout the day, give yourself permission to postpone worrying until later.

During the day (or night) jot down any worries or anxious thoughts that arise and then at a prearranged time, preferably when you’re in a good mood, as this will promote realistic and creative problem-solving thinking, sit down for 15 minutes and address each worry.

By the time you return to thinking about the worry you’ll probably discover that it’s not such a problem after all.