Without anxiety the human race would be in big trouble. Since time immemorial we have had, as a survival mechanism, the ability to respond quickly and effectively to danger. Today few of us are being chased by wild animals or weapon-bearing cavemen. For many of us, however, our “fight or flight” response has gone haywire when we react to even the smallest concerns as if they are true emergencies.
If you are a closet worrier you aren’t alone. Worriers are often quite successful, highly organized, dependable, and great in a crisis. They have the ability to appear cool, calm and collected; the model of stability and courage under fire. However it’s often day-to-day life that trips them up.
Chronic worriers tend to give up and give in, concluding that their constant ruminations are an inevitable part of who they are. Fortunately much worrying is a bad habit that can be controlled with hard work, and here’s how:
• Keep a running list of things you need to accomplish and cross items off as you complete them. Worriers do better when their “to do” lists are on paper and not crashing around in their heads.
• Take one task at a time and focus solely on it. Looking ahead, by even one step, makes worriers overly anxious and paralyzes them in their efforts to execute the task at hand.
• When you catch yourself worrying about something ask yourself this question: What is the worst thing that can happen if my fears come true? Usually tackling a problem head-on isn’t as frightening as the often-unidentified horror your subconscious has been conjuring up.
• Whenever a new worry looms, ask yourself the following question: “Is there a step I can take to deal with the issue about which I’m worried”?
• If the answer to this question is “yes” then take the necessary action. Having done so recognize that you’ve done what you can and that further worrying will be of no value.
• If the answer to this question is “no” then recognize the fact that worrying about it will not have any impact on the outcome. Next turn your attention immediately to another activity.
• Put your worry in perspective by remembering the many times you’ve worried in the past, only to learn that your concerns were unfounded.
• Forget your own concerns by thinking of someone else in need and getting in touch with them. Too much time alone to obsess about your fears only feeds the fire.
• Connect with a higher power. Worrying becomes more crippling if we believe that we are handling concerns all by ourselves. On the other hand if we believe that there is a power greater than ourselves guiding our way our concerns become easier to bear.
Sometimes worry gets so out of hand that even with our best efforts it can’t be contained. When this happens we often find ourselves feeling, hopeless, depressed and defeated. If this happens to you the good news is that there is plenty of help and hope. Please see your physician to rule out any medical causes for your persistent worry and ask him or her to refer you to an experienced mental health professional.