To Worry or Not to Worry?
Do you think you’re a worrier? Sometimes it’s the small things in life rather than the big challenges that can be stressful. Perhaps you feel anxious about what has already happened that day or that week, or you are imagining what might go wrong in the future. Don’t worry - you’re not alone. Research has shown that women worry more often and more intensely than men. They also tend to see more risks in a situation, and as a result anxiety increases. (Kristen Lagatutta, University of California)
Susie, 31. “Sometimes I thought: what have I got to worry about? I had a good work life/family balance. My husband and I had enough money to pay the bills and go on holiday. Still, I worried about all kinds of random things and it began to affect my health and my relationships. I had a few big worries: how my son was coping with his exams, what would my boss say in my next appraisal, and my mother’s ill health. But I also constantly worried about trivial things. Did I forget to say thank you to a friend (will she judge me), will my daughter be safe walking home from school (even though she did it everyday), had I forgotten to pay that bill (my husband would be cross). My list of worries seemed to constantly grow and I became very stressed and exhausted. I knew it wasn’t right to feel this way but I didn’t know what to do about it.”
Life doesn’t have to be like this. Managing our stress levels is essential to our happiness and emotional health. Our brains are designed to cope with a certain amount of worry and stress to ensure we take positive actions to protect ourselves. But we also need to learn to let go of certain worries and keep life in perspective.
So, how can you manage worrying? Firstly, identify the cause of that worry.
- Is this worry about a lack of control?
- Is it a rational worry?
- Am I just worried what others might think?
- Am I basing the worry on past events?
- Am I imagining what could happen?
- Is there any truth in this worry?
When you have answered these questions, decide if the worry is justified. If so, take action to resolve it, or decide to put the worry aside.
Tips to help with worrying:
- Live in today, appreciate the here and now and don’t get concerned about the future.
- Empathise with other peoples problems but don’t take them on board.
- Avoid negative self-talk and surround yourself with positive people.
- Don’t use worrying as an alternative to doing something about a problem.
- Don’t think that worrying in advance will prevent something bad happening or make it easier if it does happen.
As for Susie, after a couple of coaching sessions, she broke that pattern of constant worrying. She became more positive and could enjoy her life more.
In the words of Dan Gardner (Risk – The Science and Politics of Fear):
“Whatever challenges we face, it remains indisputably true that those living in the developed world are the safest, healthiest and richest humans who ever lived. We are still mortal. Sometimes we should worry… even be afraid. But we should always remember how lucky we are to be alive now.”