April 11th, 2017
Worry & its impact on your mental health
Worrying is one of those inevitable aspects of life that we just sometimes cannot avoid. In fact, a certain amount of worrying can be helpful by acting as a catalyst for us to make a decision or take appropriate action. For example, if worrying about your college exams causes you to study and prepare more, then it has helped you to achieve your goal of passing your exams. Worrying is essentially spending time thinking about potential problems which may or may not happen in the future and is something that everybody does. Worrying is typical “what if” thinking – “What if the test results come back positive” or “ What if I fail my exams” etc.
Worry can become a problem, however if you spend a significant proportion of your time worrying about things that you have no power to do anything about. This can cause you to get caught in a vicious cycle of anxiety especially when you have no control over the issue. The more you worry, the more anxious you become and the more time you spend worrying, thus the perpetual cycle begins.
Tips for managing your worries
We often spend a lot of time-fighting against our worries or telling ourselves to stop worrying. This is unhelpful and often has the opposite effect. It’s like telling yourself to not think about a white bear and you, in fact, end up thinking about nothing else but that. However, we can stop ourselves worrying excessively by learning how to manage our worries.
Worries tend to be either real or hypothetical in nature.
- Hypothetical worries tend to include “what If” questions about things which may or may not happen. You may waste time and energy trying to understand how you will manage and deal with this worry when it may never become a reality. For this reason, it is usually best to let hypothetical worries go. Mindfulness can be helpful with this.
- Real worries are usually around things which are an issue for us right now and normally we need to take action with these worries.
So next time you are worrying about something take a second to reflect and check if you are:
- Worrying too much about something
- Worrying about things which you have no control over
- Worrying about something so frequently that it takes over a large part of your day
(a) For real and hypothetical worries – Practice ‘Worry Time’
While this may seem counter-intuitive, allocating time to just worry can be very helpful to contain your worrying and free up the rest of your day from it. The following steps of practising worry time can help you do that:
Schedule a short period of time e.g. 10 minutes, once or twice a day during a period when you are least likely to be disturbed and allow yourself to focus solely on the issues that are causing you worry
During this time categorise your worries into hypothetical and real worries
For real worries that you have some control over try brainstorming different solutions that you might put into action to deal with these
For hypothetical worries think about how you can learn to live with and accept the worries that you have no control over
Make a plan you can take forward, for both the real and hypothetical worries
Finish worry time - Once you have made your plan, make sure to end “worry time”
(b) For real worries – ‘Problem Solving’
This technique is useful for addressing real issues you are facing that are causing you to worry. The best way to address these types of worries is to move into problem-solving to find a solution for them. The following steps of problem solving can help you do that:
Define exactly what the problem is
Think of as many solutions as possible
Weigh up pros and cons of possible solutions
Choose a solution
Make a plan as to how you will implement the solution
Carry out solution
Review how it went e.g. Were there any problems? Was it the right solution to choose? What did you learn?
When it comes to managing your worries it is always best to nip the issue in the bud before it becomes excessive and starts getting in your way. If you find worry is an ongoing issue for you CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) can also help. Our online CBT programmes include a module on managing your worries and also modules for managing anxiety. If you would like to find out more about our online CBT programmes please do contact us.