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.
Determine if the worry is solvable A solvable worry is one that you can take action on right away. For example, you may be worried about the content of a presentation you have to give next week to a manager. However, by phoning the manager you can take immediate action to clarify the details of the presentation.
An unsolvable worry is one over which you have no control and there is nothing you can do now that will lead to a solution.
For example, thinking “What if I don’t get to sleep?” or “What if I get cancer?”
To help distinguish whether your worry is solvable or unsolvable ask the following questions:
l Is the problem my problem? If not, don’t worry about it.
l Do I have control over the problem? If not, don’t worry about
l Does the problem need solving now? If it does, take action to solve it. If not, don’t worry about it.
If the worry is solvable, work, on a solution
Worrying can be helpful when it spurs you to take action and solve a problem. But if you’re preoccupied with “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios, worry becomes a problem. Unrelenting doubts and fears can be paralysing. They can sap your emotional energy, send your anxiety levels soaring, and interfere with your daily life. But chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more positive viewpoint.
Once you determine that a worry is solvable, brainstorm as many possible solutions as you can think of. Make sure you stay focused on the things you can change and not on circumstances or other people which you can’t change.
Aim at finding a realistic and achievable solution and avoid looking for a perfect solution. After you have evaluated all of your options choose the most reasonable one and then make a plan of action.
If the worry is unsolvable, manage your emotions
Sometimes you can’t solve a problem because either it’s not your problem (you are worried about your daughter’s failing marriage), it’s uncontrollable (you are worried whether it will rain during the picnic), or it can’t be resolved right away (you are worried about your factory closing in two years’ time).
When this happens focus on managing your own emotions using the following techniques:
Mindfulness: Because worrying is usually focused on what might happen in the future mindfulness keeps your attention in the present and thus worry-free.
Social support: Talking to friends about your worry can help as long as you don’t get stuck in shuffle mode where you replay your problem over and over again.
Exercise: This is one of the best ways I know of for burning off pent-up anxious feelings and for gaining perspective about a worry.
Relax: Because brooders tend to be in a constant state of tension, it is important that you regularly try to relax using music, meditation, time outdoors, or leisure activities.
Embrace uncertainty to reduce worrying
Chronic brooders have trouble tolerating uncertainty or unpredictability. “What will I do if I don’t get the promotion?” or “What if my blind date doesn’t like me?” However, thinking about all the things that could go wrong in your life won’t keep bad things or unexpected events from occurring.
The solution is to accept that uncertainty is a part of life and then choose to focus on the parts that you can control and put all of your energies into making the most of them and appreciating them.
Challenge worrying thought
Chronic brooders tend to have two types of thoughts. First, they over-estimate the possibility that bad things will happen, and second, they underestimate their own ability at handling these things. These thoughts aren’t based on reality or fact and are totally irrational.
You can break these bad habits and develop a more balanced and healthier perspective of your
worries by asking the following questions:
The group “Dire Straits” sings very soulfully:
Why worry, there should be laughter after pain
There should be sunshine after rain
These things have always been the same
So why worry now?
So, stop worrying and enjoy this wholesome life. Worry not only poisons your thoughts, it also hampers the life of those close to you. Enjoy the blinking of your eyelids in the morning, the stretching of your limbs, the presence of a loved one close to you, the tight hugs of your spouse and your kids, your family duties and your friends. Each action can inspire you to live life to the fullest. Don’t worry that your life is full of cares, feel positive that you have a LIFE and there is a strong support system and the strength to handle your worries. Worries are but creases in life which need a bit of ironing. So friends, don’t worry, be happy!