Saturday, September 19, 2020
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Paul Abraham: Are you worried about worrying?

By Paul Abraham of www.headingonwards.com

We all have times of worry concerning various issues like, your job, money, children and especially now with the coronavirus putting the country in “Lockdown”.  Detailed below are some practical and simple steps to show you how to stop worrying and start living.

Make a list of your worries.  Identifying what is causing you to be worried is the first step to moving on and eliminating that worry.

Analyse the list. Look at whether your worry is productive or unproductive.  A productive worry is one that you can do something about straight away.  For example, “When coronavirus is over I want to go to the Yorkshire Dales for a week’s walking holiday, so I am worried about booking a hotel which will be suitable”.  This is a productive worry because you can take action now by going online to find suitable hotels and compiling contact details.  By contrast, an unproductive worry is one which you can’t do anything about, it’s more of a proliferation of “what ifs,” For example, losing sleep and worrying if you may lose your job is unproductive.

Embrace uncertainty.  Once you have isolated your unproductive worries, it’s time to identify what you need to accept in order to get over them.  You may need to accept your own limitations or it may be a degree of uncertainty that you need to accept.  For example, you may get a serious disease someday as nobody knows what the future holds.  Many worried people equate uncertainty with a bad outcome, but uncertainty is really neutral.  When you accept uncertainty, you don’t have to worry anymore.  Acceptance means noticing that uncertainty exists and letting go and focusing on the things that you can control, enjoy, or appreciate.

Make yourself uncomfortable.  Worriers feel that they can’t tolerate discomfort, but if you practice discomfort, you will accomplish a lot more.  The aim is to be able to do what you don’t want to do or things that make you feel uncomfortable.  Worries tend to avoid new things and situations that make them uncomfortable, such as parties or public speaking engagements.  The pre-emptive worry helps them avoid discomfort, but if you force yourself to do the very things that make you un comfortable, you will rely less on worry as a coping strategy.

Stop the clock.  Worried people often have a sense of urgency.  They think, “I need the answer right now and if I don’t get it then something terrible will happen”.  Look at the advantages and disadvantages of demanding such urgency.  Rather than focus on te sense of urgency, instead focus on what you observe right now.  Ask yourself, “what can I do in the present moment to make my life more pleasant or meaningful”.  You can either focus your mind on getting an answer right now or focus on improving the moment.  The latter is the best strategy.  Take a deep breath, read, or listen to music or the birds outside to stop the clock and curtail your anxiety.

Remember that it’s never as bad as you think it will be.  Anxiety or worry is all about anticipation.  The “What ifs” are always far worse than how you feel when something actually happens.  Worriers tend to worry about things that even if they happen, they can handle it and in fact worriers are actually good at handling real problems.

Cry out loud.  The emotional part of the brain – the amygdala – is suppressed when you worry.  The emotion kicks in later with gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue or rapid heart rate.  You need to use your emotions, don’t try to get rid of them because when you are crying or angry, you are not worried.

Talk about it.  Beside the cognitive therapy techniques mentioned above, which can help change troublesome behaviours, talk therapy can also help chronic worriers worry less by getting to the root cause of their issues.  Often talk therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy can work together.  Each individual needs to understand what causes their anxiety or what it is related to.  If you dig deep enough and go back to the early bases, it goes away because you have gotten to its roots.

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