I am a worrier. I wish I wasn’t, but unfortunately I am. Sometimes this is a good thing; it means I have often thought through most scenarios in my head and am often prepared for situations that arise. However worry can easily spill over to being anxiety, which can become debilitating and consuming.
The New Year can be a great time for positivity and excitement for a fresh start. Yet it can also be a time of anxiety and having to face up to the realities of life that Christmas sometimes overshadows.
Learning from my experience of worrying and anxiety, I thought I would share a list of ways to help combat unnecessary worrying.
5 Ways to Stop Worrying Unnecessarily
1) Stop catastrophising
A small worry can easily turn into a frantic panic all because you have (as the saying goes) made a mountain out of a molehill. That small little worry that you might have left your hair straighteners on suddenly becomes a great big fear that you’ve burnt the house down.
Deal with the initial worry only and try to be realistic. Maybe your hair straighteners turn themselves off automatically after 20 minutes? Maybe they will just singe a hole in the carpet. Perhaps someone is at your house and can check you have turned them off. Try not to let your mind go into overdrive and make the worry unnecessarily bigger than it is.
2) Take practical steps to reduce the worry
Sometimes a worry can be reduced by taking action. For example, if you are worrying about an interview - prepare yourself for it. Ask a family member or friend to do a trial interview with you – take it seriously, try and answer the questions to the best of your ability. It may seem silly and it might make you feel very nervous or anxious, but by facing the problem and trying to prepare for it will hopefully in the long term reduce the worry of the actual interview.
Taking practical steps to reducing a worry can be applied in many situations – think about whether there is anything you can do to help alleviate some of the anxiety you are feeling.
An obvious one, but so important. When I begin to really worry about something and can feel the worry turning into anxiety the first thing I notice is that I stop breathing with the same regularity. Take deep breaths and try and keep calm – if you let your worrying take over it can quickly turn to anxiety.
4) Share your worry
Often when we are busy worrying about something we keep the problem internalised, mulling it over in our heads. The problem with this, is that it has free reign to go wherever it wants and cause as much trouble in that little head of yours as possible! If you feel you can, try talking to someone about your issue – as they say ‘A problem shared, is a problem halved’. This might be a friend, family member or even a stranger. You might not think the problem is big enough to warrant talking to someone like The Samaritans, but think about it like this – if you leave that worry to fester, and it turns into something worse and affects your mental health – then it becomes a much bigger problem for you. By sharing your worry you can rationally talk through what is bothering you, what you are worrying about and assess it clearly.
During my time at counselling, I often found myself running through what I would say and what was currently on my mind before my session. In my head it all sounded horrible and awful and like I’d be talking about it forever. Yet often, when I got to my session I would splurge it all out in 10 minutes and then realise that actually talking about it and taking it outside of my head gave me such a sense of relief. Immediately after, I would feel incredibly calm and could then breakdown my concerns and closely look at the real problems I was facing rather than being lulled into the unnecessary state of chaos my mind was imposing on me. If you don’t feel you can talk to anyone, then try writing your worries down. It can have a very similar effect.
5) Don’t give yourself a hard time for worrying
My Dad is forever saying to me ‘Ooh you give yourself such a hard time don’t you?’When it comes to worrying, we are often our own worst enemy. If you are worrying about something, telling yourself to snap out of it or to just ‘stop worrying’ is pointless! It’s like telling yourself not to think of a white bear, as soon as you say it – you do it! By giving yourself a hard time for worrying, you only end up worrying more and exacerbate the problem.
Try and accept that you have a worry or feel anxious. The brain is a funny thing, and often when we are worrying or feeling anxious we haven’t actually admitted to ourselves we are doing it. By accepting you feel a certain way and allowing it to exist won’t make it any worse. If anything, it can help you face up to your worry and reduce its effects.