Tips to win the war over Worry

We live in an age of anxiety. Thanks to our internet, television, and radio; we have access to all the possible horrors and disasters in the world today.  Did you hear about the earthquake, the tsunami flood, the suicide bombers, the economy?  How many of us can exist in this world without worrying, is more the question?

Every human feels anxiety on occasion; it is a part of life.  All of us know what it is like to feel worry, nervousness, fear, and concern.  We feel nervous when we have to give a speech, go for a job interview, or walk into our boss' office for the annual performance review.  We know it's normal to feel a surge of fear when when we see a snake, visit the dentist or look down from the top of a tall building.  Most of us manage these kinds of anxious feelings fairly well and are able to carry on with our lives without much difficulty.  These feelings don't disrupt our lives.

For approximately 25 millions of Canadians, an estimated 12% of the population, their excessive worrying can become devastating and can severely affect their lives, sometimes resulting in living in highly restricted ways.  These people may experience panic attacks, phobias, extreme shyness, obsessive thoughts, and/or compulsive behaviours.  The feeling of anxiety is a constant and dominating force that disrupts their lives.  Some become prisoners in their own homes, unable to leave to work, drive, or visit the grocery store.  For these people, anxiety is much more than just worrying too much.

When does worry become an Anxiety Disorder?  Individuals with anxiety disorders experience excessive anxiety, fear or worry, causing them either to avoid situations that might precipitate the anxiety or possibly reacting to the anxiety with a panic attack.  Everyone feels anxious in response to specific events – but individuals with an anxiety disorder have excessive and unrealistic feelings that interfere with their lives in their relationships, school, work performance, as well as social interactions.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders have been described as being intense and prolonged feelings of fear and distress that occur out of proportion to the actual threat or danger.  These feelings of fear and distress interfere with normal daily functioning.

The good news is that most things we worry about are not necessarily the precursors to an anxiety attack or being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but nevertheless, worrying does take away our "joie de vivre" and can make us feel quite powerless and overwhelmed. 

It is for this reason, that I have developed a list of 10 things you can do to help lessen your worrying.  Following this list is a quiz which you can take to monitor your level of worrying.

Tips to deal with worry

  1. Some helpful information for you to know, is that it has been estimated that 95% of what we worry about never happens.
  2. Ask yourself, "How important will this be to me in 1 year from now?"
  3. Examine the evidence.  How likely is this problem to really happen?
  4. Do some physical exercise.  It will distract you from worrying and help you to feel better
  5. Learn abdominal breathing techniques.  You can do them in less than 2 minutes and right away it calms down your breathing and helps you to relax.
  6. The average person thinks 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts per day, over 87% of these thoughts are negative.  What are you thinking right now?
  7. Worrying is often just a bad habit we got into in our childhood. Being influenced  by a  critical or anxious parent could easily and unknowingly wire us to see the world as unsafe and think of worrying as a way to stay safe.
  8. Listen to music.  Music that puts a smile on your face or brings back good memories and warms your spirit.
  9. Create an activity; work in the garden, water the plants, change some lightbulbs, put away papers.  These simple activities will help lessen your worry.
  10. Change your negative self-talk.  Try to catch yourself as you are thinking your negative thoughts, and say "Stop".  Replace them with a positive or more empowering thought.  This is only a habit, and habits can be changed; but it takes persistence and determination.  A counselor can help you to change your negative self talk, if you are unable to do it yourself

Some people call anxiety and worrying "a negative fantasy". The problem does not exist in the present moment, only in the future.  Once you are focused on your present and how your life is going now and let the future take care of itself, your worrying will lessen.

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