It’s normal to have the occasional worry, everyone does: Will I do well in my Exam? Am I going to be late? Is my family home, safe and sound?
However, if worrying is affecting you day-to-day and taking the joy out of life, it’s likely time to deal with the issue. So, how do you know when it has become prolonged and/or damaging, and you are worrying more than is appropriate?
Excessive worry can become habitual. Check out these key indicators that worry may be affecting you more than it should be:
- There’s not a day you DON’T have worries filling your mind, and you feel powerless against them.
- Anxiety inducing thoughts pop into your head often, despite your attempts to elude them.
- Uncertainty brings feelings of fear and trepidation; you obsess about future events, and feel a need to know what will happen.
- Relaxation is a near impossible task; you struggle to focus; often feeling overwhelmed, you use avoidance strategies to put off or get out of tasks.
- You may have trouble falling or staying asleep; muscles may be tense, stiff, and sore; you suffer stomach pain & upset.
Further, these are the kind of phrases commonly heard from chronic worriers: “Worrying will stop bad things happening” (worrying on its own doesn’t stop negative things occurring; this requires action), or, “I was born to worry”, (worriers are not born).
If any of these things apply to you, it will be a relief to know there are ways of relieving symptoms. If worry is having a substantial and negative affect on your functioning day-to-day, seeking professional help is recommended; in the interim these activities may provide you with some relief.
- You’ve heard this before, but it does work! Take some deep breaths, as this can disrupt the thought processes which heighten anxiety.
- Get all your worrying done at once! Set aside 15-20 minutes a couple of times a day for a scheduled ‘worry’ slot, record your worries on paper and do nothing else. Don’t go over time! And when ‘worry time’ is up, commit to putting off all worries until the next slot.
- Don’t let your worries go unchallenged? How likely are they to occur? Can you get an unbiased opinion from a trusted friend?
- Look after yourself. Ensure adequate sleep; eat plenty of healthy wholefoods; cut down on alcohol and caffeine. Feeling tired or physically out of sorts can magnify anxiety.
- Exercise daily and use up energy that would otherwise be spent on worrying. When we exercise we produce ‘feel good’ hormones, and reduce those that cause stress. Exercise actually alters our brains, increasing resilience and making them less susceptible to anxiety.
These suggestions are also often incorporated in specific programs. Commit to practicing one of these things, for only one week, you may be surprised at the relief this brings you.
Is Perfectionism Setting You Up for failure?
We’re often told to be the best we can be, whether it’s our job, what we do for the family, our level of fitness, or all of these things, aiming high is seen positively. We hold high-achievers in esteem, and commonly see perfectionism as pre-requisite to their success.
In actual fact, perfectionism can be a negative and damaging influence in our lives, and a person who looks as though they’re holding it all together, may in fact feel as though it’s all falling apart. It’s good to have goals, but having unrealistic and unobtainable goals is certain to cause upset when they are not achieved, and a fear of failure may result.
Perfectionists are often self-deprecating, their outlook all-or-nothing, and are often suffering from an intense fear of failure. Perfectionists tie their own personal value to their achievements, and may feel they lose value when something doesn’t come off the way they’d planned. Sadly, it is more common for perfectionists to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety; they have a higher rate of eating disorders; fatigue; and tragically, suicide and early mortality.
Believing it may be seen as a sign of weakness, perfectionists may avoid asking for help, but there are activities that can aid you in learning to calm yourself, on your own, and in your own home.
- Focus on your strengths – rather than focus on what didn’t go right, focus on what did, and identify three things that went well for you today. You can still be a perfectionist, but try to be the ‘glass half full’ variety.
- Failing is never easy, but if we learn from it, failure can be a success. Things can’t always go your way, try to see these occasions as lessons to be learnt from. Nothing was ever achieved by not trying; so much has been achieved through failure.
- ‘Breath from the Belly’, is a specific exercise which soothes and calms the nervous system: With one hand on your stomach and the other on your ribcage, inhale slowly, pushing out your stomach. Your ribcage should not move at all, unlike what happens with our ‘regular’ breathing when we fill our lungs first. In your mind think ‘relax’ and do so, as you exhale. Repeat this six times when you experience the first signs of anxiety or of being overwhelmed.
- When was the last time you decluttered at home or at work and got rid of the things that never have or never will be used? Clearing and organising a room has been shown to clear and organise our mind, as well. Remember, our environment affects how we feel.
- Surround yourself with naturally positive people, who are neither stressed nor stressful, and take a leaf out of their laid-back book. Being exposed to their abundant optimism and ‘glass half full’ outlook can be a great way to learn how to grow and maintain your own positive outlook, and to live with appreciation, happiness, and joyfulness.
If all else fails, or you’re feeling overwhelmed and are unsure where to turn, a sure fire way to lift your mood is helping other people. Be it volunteering, assisting a stranger or friend in need, or performing random acts of kindness, focusing on the needs of another is scientifically proven to improve your own mood.