It starts off small, it’s just one, little nagging thought. From that little niggle stems another one or two, and before you know what’s happening your brain is a storm of worry. It’s draining you both physically and mentally. It has created chaos, just like that, from one small thought. It happens to all of us, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with it. It’s easy to get caught up thinking about your bills, those unkind words you said to a colleague, thinking of an excellent comeback hours after the fact… it can go on and on. You feel as though you’re drowning in worry when what you want to be doing is conquering your biggest dreams.
While we all worry from time to time, there’s a point you reach where it is just too much. Too much worry leads to chronic stress which can cause anxiety and depression. So, it’s incredibly important that you determine what is causing your worry, why it bothers you, and figure out how you can control it.
Before you can solve it, you need to know how it works. Have you ever noticed that your brain suggests awful things to you? For example, you’re hiking near a cliff or standing on the balcony of a tall building – suddenly, your brain reminds you that you could fall. Then, you’re imaging that you are falling. This is disturbing, yet it’s considered helpful because ultimately, your brain is reminding you to be careful. Of course, if your anxiety is heightened, then your thought may be more disturbing like I’m going to fall. It’s difficult to discern between what might happen and what’s likely to happen. This is what your brain is doing with every worry. Now, let’s look at how you can control it.
1. Thought Labeling
This step is all about identifying your worries and finding a label for them. Is your worry related to your finances? Perhaps it’s your job, a relationship, your health or even a family issue. Your worries are not facts and because it can be difficult to determine which is which, labeling them is an important part of the process.
2. Lose Control
Perhaps a more accurate way of putting this would be to let go of control. It’s all about slowing down your brain using traditional stress management tools like deep breathing. This helps you calm your stress response. This isn’t going to help you control your worries or anxiety. You can’t overpower it and hope for the best. Instead, you’re trying to disrupt the hold your anxiety has on you. This is where mindfulness comes in handy as it can help you break the cycle of anxiety. Ultimately, you will still experience stressful situations so a key part of beating worry is learning how to manage stress and mitigate it when it appears.
You can’t overlook your worry or look through it, instead, you need to accept it. The purpose of this is looking at worry and separating it from yourself. Those worrying thoughts are not your reality – they aren’t real, they are products of your imagination. When you are worrying, you are conjuring up the worst case scenario. If you are scared of hurricanes and you plan to visit Florida, then you’re probably going to feel worried about the worst case scenario, even though it’s not hurricane season. Just as visitors to California may feel on edge that the big one will occur while they are visiting. You can’t purge these thoughts, but you can put distance between you and them.
Use all of your senses to be aware of what is around you – get out of your head. Be compassionate with yourself and do not judge.
Worry removes us from the present and makes it difficult to focus on how you want to proceed. You’re always focused on what might happen. Make conscious decisions and allow your values to guide you. The only way is forward.
At Citizen Counselling and Coaching a number of our counsellors and coaches can provide support around anxiety. This can include identifying the obstacles to being less anxious, creating practical plans and advice through sharing techniques and models that have worked for others.
Our ‘My Anxiety Coach’ online programme and Coaching was designed for time poor busy people looking to increase their confidence and make a positive change in their lives.
Our Overcoming Anxiety page can explain more