Worry is useful when it calls us to action. But it’s a problem when it becomes an ongoing state of mind. It can become a habit, bringing tension and stress.
If you’re a worrier, you may have mixed feelings. It may seem that worry
- keeps you on your toes, yet it
- makes you edgy and distracted, interfering with your sleep and peace of mind.
Relieving the stress of worry doesn’t mean you have to stop worrying. Here are some strategies to harness the positives of worry and keep the rest in balance:
- Don’t try to give it up. Instead, do it consciously and take notes! Schedule a 45-minute “worry time” for yourself every day. If a worry pops up at another time, write it down for review during your next worry period.
- Clarify what is fact and what is emotion. Hint: Facts are in the present tense. (“Dad seems tired and is coughing a lot.”) Emotional concerns often have a “future” component involving a problem that might happen (“What if it’s lung cancer?”).
- Create a strategy for action. Unproductive fears are usually based in uncertainty. Create a list of action steps to answer the unknowns. (“Look up the symptoms of lung cancer. Find out how many risk factors he has. Make an appointment with the doctor.”)
- Write out a balanced perspective. While completing the action steps, your mind is unlikely to just “let go” of the worries. For each worry, write down evidence in its support and evidence against it. For instance, “Dad spent the afternoon in bed today. Then again, just last week he played a full round of golf with his buddies, and no coughing.” When the worry reappears, you can respond to it with this alternative, fact-based thought.
Seek professional help if your worrying feels unmanageable.