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Health and Wellbeing

04 Jun 2019

Worrying? Here’s why and what to do about it

Worries, doubts, and anxieties are a normal part of life.

It’s natural to worry about an upcoming job interview, a big performance or a first date. It can in fact be helpful when it spurs you to take action or to solve a problem.

“Normal” worry, however, becomes a problem when you’re preoccupied with “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios persistently and uncontrollably. In this case, unrelenting anxious thoughts and fears can be paralysing, affecting your daily life by sapping your emotional energy and the way you function from day to day.

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 balanced, less fearful perspective.

Why do I worry so much?

If you suffer from chronic anxiety and worries, chances are you look at the world in ways that make it seem more threatening than it really is. You may struggle with what psychologists call cognitive distortions.

Here are some examples of cognitive distortions that might be getting in the way for you (there are many and this is just a snippet):

Black and white thinking: is a cognitive distortion where we tend to see things as all-or-nothing and only see the extremes of the situation. In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, you must get into the habit of challenging yourself to take into account other viewpoints and interpretations of the situation.

Catastrophising: is a cognitive distortion where we tend to blow circumstances out of proportion. Once a problem seems larger than life, it makes it incredibly difficult to overcome. In order to successfully work through this cognitive distortion, question whether things are truly as bad as you make them out to be.

Should-ing and must-ing: This is a cognitive distortion where we tend to make unrealistic and unreasonable demands on ourselves, and on others. You might for instance say, “I/you must… I/you should…” .These statements put undue pressure on you, and on other people to meet your high personal standards and expectations in specific situations. 

Some tips to let go of worrying

Postpone worrying and create “worry time.” Instead of worrying thoughts distracting you and dominating your brain space all day, choose a set time and place for worrying. It should be the same every day (preferably long before bed time). During this time you’re allowed to worry about whatever’s on your mind. The rest of the day, however, is a worry-free zone.

Write down your worries. If an anxious thought or worry comes into your head during the day, make a brief note of it and then continue about your day. Go over your “worry list” during the worry period.  As you examine your worries in this way, you’ll often find it easier to develop a more balanced perspective.

Talk about your worries. Saying your worries out loud can help you to make sense of what you’re feeling and put things into perspective. If your fears are unwarranted, verbalising them can expose them for what they are-needless worries. And if your fears are justified, sharing them with someone else can produce solutions that you may not have thought of alone.

Ask yourself: “Can I control this situation or not?” If you can control the situation which is causing you to worry, use your above mentioned “worry time” to find some solutions for what is causing you to worry. If you have no control over it, simply acknowledge the thought and let it pass like a leaf on a stream.

Do you have a question or comments for Rajna? Feel free to contact her on boganovicrajna@gmail.com

Rajna Bogdanovic - Clinical Psychologist

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