When I was a child I honestly thought it was funny how much my mum would worry about certain things. I always told myself I was never going to worry like that – it was laughable.
Of course, life had other ideas and these days I’m pretty much twice as bad as her. Living with mental health issues sometimes makes it feel like my anxiety and worry team up and work together against me. So recently I’ve been trying to identify how to cope with these daily worries a little bit better.
I have always been aware of the physical symptoms that come with anxiety. However, I didn’t realise that I experience a similar set of physical symptoms when I worry. Sweating, headaches, tiredness, sleeplessness and pins and needles can all make an appearance.
Generally, I just feel more irritable.
Having learnt more about worry this does make sense. After all, worrying is a symptom of anxiety. If you’re anxious, it’s highly likely you will be worrying about something. The trouble is that it can feel like a never-ending cycle. You have thoughts which bring on worry, which can lead to feelings of anxiety, which can in turn cause worry about the anxiety symptoms… and around we go again.
So how can you deal with the worry part of anxiety specifically?
Top tips to deal with worry
Here are my tried-and-tested tips that help tamp down on worry and might help manage your worries too.
Create a 'worry list’
One thing that may help you to deal with worry is to create a ‘worry list’. This is a place where you can write down worries as they form. The idea is that they then stay there, until you feel ready to deal with them.
As worry and anxiety often occur at night, it can be helpful to keep a notebook by your bedside to write these feelings down. This will allow you to close your worries off until the next day, which hopefully will allow you to get a better night’s sleep.
This is something that my dad likes to remind me of. I’ll often send him messages about the things I’m worrying about late at night. This includes anything from wondering when my eyes will get better after an eye operation, to when the builders will finally get round to fixing that leak in the roof.
Each time I send him a message containing one of these worries, he reminds me to put it on the list and to deal with it the next day.
Distinguish between practical and hypothetical worries
Alongside writing down your worries, it can also be useful to categorise the worry into one of two groups - practical or hypothetical.
Practical worries are worries that you can feasibly deal with at some point. Some examples of my own seemingly never-ending worries are:
“Can I pay the bills this month?”
“Did I lock the front door?”
“Have I added milk to the shopping list?”
Some of these things can be sorted out straight away, depending on the time or where you are. Others may require more preparation.
Hypothetical worries are worries you have no control over. For me they are things like:
“What if my friends don’t really like me?”
“Should I have said that to my family member?”
“What if I get stuck in a traffic jam?”
These are usually things out of your control as they might be real or imagined. Whether my worry is practical or hypothetical, once I have added a worry to my list, I try and refocus. Sometimes I go back to what I was doing before I began worrying. Or I try to find something that will distract me from focusing on the worry.
Playing a board game that requires concentration is something I choose to do if I have someone to play with. Blogging also gives me something else to focus on when all my brain wants to do is worry.
This can be hard at first, but over time it will hopefully become easier to refocus yourself as you bring this technique into your everyday life.
Set aside worry time
One of the things about these type of thoughts is that it’s hard to just switch them off. If you’re a worrier like me, it’s likely that you always will be.
So, what about setting some time aside in which you allow yourself to worry? During this time you can choose to deal with a single worry or perhaps multiple ones, depending on how you feel. I also try to set myself a limit on how much time I spend on each worry.
Some days you may choose to deal with a practical worry, allowing yourself to cross that one off your list. You can also keep track of those hypothetical worries. Did you get to your destination without encountering heavy traffic? Well, cross it off your list then!
This time is about allowing yourself to sit and deal with your worries, and (hopefully!) letting you to get on with your day.
I often set aside time to deal with worries when I wake up. I use this time to make phone calls (which in itself makes me worry as I hate talking on the phone) and to send emails.
Dealing with these worries early on gives me the chance to get on with other things that need doing throughout the day, without having thoughts niggling away at the back of mind.
Identify your triggers
I often try to identify what may have caused a worry to help rationalise it. Was there a certain situation that triggered it? This might help to give you an idea of how to deal with, and resolve that particular worry.
If your worry was about a situation which has already taken place, perhaps you could think about how you managed to deal with it. Adding some notes to your worry list about how you coped may help you to remember that you can deal with potentially worrying scenarios. This might also help you to remember some coping techniques that you can put into place for next time.
Hopefully by bringing the ‘worry list’ and worry time into your life, you will be able to have some time where you aren’t completely overwhelmed by the worries of what could happen.
However, if you ever feel like your worries or thoughts are out of control, then make sure to speak to a mental health professional.
I really hope these tips help you within your life, like they did for me.
UK/MED/19/0294 November 2019