Do you consider yourself to be a “worry wart”, do you spend a lot of time thinking “what if?” or maybe you’ve noticed that you worry about things that may not ever happen?
This blog, on what to do when you worry too much, has a few key strategies which may assist you in decreasing your worries.
What is too much worry?
Some amount of worry or anxiety can be a good thing, it helps us become motivated to complete tasks, and respond to real threats to our safety. However, worry becomes a problem when it begins to have an impact on your life, limit you, and cause any level of distress.
Research has shown that excessive worry and anxiety, can have a negative effect on both physical and mental health. Worrying too much also takes up a lot of your time and attention, which could be better spent on other things (completing tasks at home or work, engaging in social activities, and enjoying the current moment), and it may also stop you from doing things that you want to.
What to do when you worry too much
- Make a list of your worries. Look at each of these worries and decide if it needs to be addressed in the immediate future (e.g., completing an assignment on time; getting lost on the way to a new place) and take action to address the worry.
- Decide if your worry is unproductive. These are worries that we have no control over, and can do nothing about (e.g., What if my friend cancels dinner; what if I get cancer). Try to put these worries to the side when they come up, and label them as “time wasters”.
No amount of worrying about a situation can ever change what is going to happen.
- Accept uncertainty. It is normal to experience some level of discomfort and anxiety in your daily life, and learning to accept that this will occur, that not all situations can be controlled, and not to try and worry away your feelings, might assist you.
- Take some time out from being caught up in your worries. Mindfulness activities are designed to help keep us in the present moment, and not get caught up in the worries in our mind.
When you notice you are starting to worry too much, try some basic strategies like tuning in to your 5 senses (sight, smell, taste, sound, feel) and notice what you are experiencing through each of these.
It may also be helpful to download some app’s on your phone which can help you practice this skill, such as Smiling Mind (suitable for adults and children) or Headspace.
- Test out the worry. Instead of avoiding situations or tasks that you worry about, test out your worry by setting up an “experiment”. For example, if you worry that you will have no one to talk to at a party, then your “experiment” is to attend the party, and test out your worry. Afterwards, decide if the worry was realistic and to what extent it came true.
- Talk about it. Try expressing your worries to other people, whether it be a friend or professional, sometimes the act of expressing or sharing a worry can be enough to get it off your mind and move on. Or, sharing it with someone else might help you to look at it from another point of view, and help you to decide if it is realistic and helpful to continue to worry about.
- Seek Professional Help. If, after trying some of the strategies above, you find that you continue to worry too much, or worries are starting to interfere with your life, then it may be time to seek help from a professional. A psychologist can assist you to understand more about why you worry too much, what is keeping the worries going, addressing your worries, and getting on with your life.If you would like to know more about what is involved in seeing a psychologist, we have prepared a free eBook that answers all your questions about visiting a psychologist from referrals, costs, your first visit, and how to find a great psychologist.