These are difficult & unusual times & we need practical tips to handle worry.
If you find that you’re continually fighting with your worries you are not alone but chronic worrying is often driven by a need to worry to “make sure things will all be OK.”
It will affect your mood, your sleep patterns & also your long-term mental health & wellbeing & it can also have a detrimental effect on your relationships & your children as they may grow up to become anxious people too.
Try not to water the weeds of worry – as they just grow. Water the flowers of hope and watch them blossom and bloom instead.
Here are some suggestions to help.
The underlying intention of worrying is an inefficient attempt to problem solve.
But I bet you often find that you are just going round & round in circles getting tied up in knots.
To help you ‘Problem-Solve’ consider what you need to do now to deal with the problem.
Write the problem down & write down all the ideas you can think of to solve it – silly as well as sensible. Brainstorm & get your ideas out of your head and on to paper. It really helps to give you clarity & confidence.
Don’t waste time on “What if..?” questions:
Don’t waste time thinking up situations that “might” happen, but in reality are quite unlikely to happen – that is just a misuse of a more productive, problem solving approach.
Try to spot when you start asking yourself “What if…?” type questions. Is it at bedtime, when you’re walking the dog, just after speaking to a particular friend?
Then change that pattern or habit.
Listen to a meditation at bedtime, listen to music when you’re dog walking, chat less to that friend or remind yourself she does like to exaggerate!
The vast majority of the scenarios you create using this approach are never likely to happen – so train yourself not to waste time thinking about them.
Don’t kid yourself that worry is always helpful.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that your worry will always be the best way to cope.
If you are a persistent worrier you’ve probably become used to worrying – it’s become a bad habit that tricks you into thinking that you’re doing something about a problem.
We all worry at times but persistent worrying can be exhausting so deciding to do something different is brave & courageous & will feel more empowering.
Learn to accept uncertainty:
Yes, these are really different (notice I deliberately chose the word different instead of difficult – as words influence your thoughts and then your moods -so try using different words to describe your worries) times but uncertainty is always a fact of life, so try to accept that you will always have to live with and tolerate some uncertainty.
Unexpected things happen, and accepting this in the longer term will make your life easier and reduce your anxieties. Tell yourself that you are capable & competent. That you have worked out solutions to problems before & can again, with a little bit of thought. Things don’t always go wrong – so remind yourself of a time when things have gone right when you didn’t expect them to. It will bring you back into balance.
Always try to lift your mood:
Negative moods fuel worrying. Negative moods include anxiety, sadness, anger, overwhelm, guilt & shame & even physical states like tiredness and pain can wear you down.
So, check in on yourself to notice what things affect your mood – tiredness, hunger, being by yourself too long? Then make a conscious decision to do something different to lift your mood. Try to make it healthy & simple.
Don’t try to suppress unwanted worries:
When you do start to worry – don’t try and fight or control those thoughts. It is helpful to notice them rather than try to suppress them, because actively trying to suppress thoughts simply makes them bounce back even higher!
So, acknowledge your negative thoughts – it’s ok to feel angry, frustrated, worried but then move on to doing something more useful & positive. Say to yourself ‘Right! That’s enough of that – I’m going to do …. now !’
Manage the times when you worry:
Become a “smart” worrier. If you find that worrying can be useful but it has become a bad habit & quickly gets out of control, then try to manage your worry by setting aside specific times in your day to engage in worrying (e.g. 15 mins when you’re washing up)
But also take the time to nurture yourself when that period is over, just to get yourself back into balance.
Change “What if…?” worries to “How can I…?” worries:
To be able to manage your worries, you need to understand exactly what they are. Try keeping a worry diary for a week or so. Write down each worry when it happens – and add just a sentence to describe it.
Then later, try and see how many of your worries are “What if…?” type questions.
As I mentioned earlier, “What if..?” worries are not helpful so try to turn these worries into “How can I…? worries, which is more likely to lead you on to practical solutions which is far more empowering.
Not losing sleep by worrying.
One solution to worries that keep you awake at night is to keep a pen and paper next to your bed.
When you wake up worrying, simply write a list of things you need to do tomorrow (including dealing with the worry). You’ll probably find that once the worry has been transferred out of your head and onto the paper, you can feel more at ease. It means that it won’t be forgotten & can be dealt with tomorrow.
Stay in the moment:
Spending most of your time worrying about things that might happen in the future means that you’ll spend less time enjoying the present and staying in the moment.
Acknowledge the worries that enter your head, but don’t engage with them.
Learn to detach from the worries.
Try to refocus on what you are doing in that moment – playing with your children, working online from home, watching a box set on Netflix, reading a good book, sitting in the garden under some beautiful blossom. There are lots of super mindfulness apps to download and listen to – you may even find my Parenting Podcast helpful too!