“Worry is a component of anxiety symptoms.”
~ Luana Marques, PhD
It’s estimated we have between 12,000-80,000 thoughts per day. A large proportion of these thoughts involve us asking ourselves....
“What could possibly happen?”
... in respect to a whole range of future events, real or imagined. If we perceive that the answer to this question represents a threat to our physical and/or emotional well-being, our Stress Response is activated and we experience some degree of stress or anxiety.
Worrying, is a normal way of processing something that’s important to us. It involves our thinking brain, the prefrontal cortex. With normal worry, there’s usually a specific thing that we are asking "What if?" about. For example: you are about starting a new job or school, and think “What if I hate it?”
With normal worry we feel that the problem or concern is controllable and can be dealt with at a later time. Normal worry causes us to experience low to moderate anxiety but does not produce symptoms (i.e. anxiety) that negatively interferes with our daily functioning.
In fact low to moderate anxiety is healthy and useful, because it improves our attention and problem-solving abilities, motivates us to work harder toward a goal, or warns us about a potential threat to our physical and/or emotional well-being, so we are able to deal with the threat if it occurs. For example, anxiety about an upcoming exam will likely drive a person to prepare fully, and the anxiety a tramper might experience about encountering bad weather, allows him or her to develop a contingency plan should they be caught in a sudden storm. These examples demonstrate how normal levels of worry and anxiety are helpful to us in our everyday life.
Normal worry tends to be finite – we worry about a particular situation for a limited amount of time, rather than spending our entire day worrying or obsessing over one problem, unlike ..... .
The individual engaged in problematic worry spends much of their time worrying, while side-lining everything else. Their worrying feels outside of their control and pervasive. This significantly interferes with their work, personal and social activities. They may feel they are worrying for no reason and may worry about a broad range of topics, like job performance, money, personal safety or the safety of others, etc. The content of their worries may be distressing and an individual may experience moderate to high levels of anxiety. In short, problematic worry and the anxiety related to it, adversely impacts on the individual’s mental and physical performance and, becomes a barrier to their enjoyment of life.
How to worry constructively
Do you spend time worrying?
Think about the following:
• 39% of the things you worry about never happen;
• 32% of things you worry about have already happened;
• 21% of your worries are over trivialities;
• 8% of your worries relate to important issues where you have legitimate cause for concern.
The TOP Principle a way of controlling our worrying
There are so many things that we can worry about. The good news is that no matter how necessary or realistic the worry is, we have the power to control it.
One way is by using the following process - The TOP Principle to categorise your worries.
Write down three of your most common worries.
For each worry, think about how much control you have over it and categorise it as follows (there's an example in each section to help you better understand):
Totally within your control
E.g. I'm becoming unhealthy and my clothes are starting to feel tight. (you have full control over the types of ingredients you buy and cook, no matter what your budget is)
Out of your control
E.g. That you called your boss an "idiot" by accident in today’s team meeting (there are no actions you can take to change the situation)
Partially in your control
E.g. Collaborative processes such as a relationship (you can only control your part of the process, you are unable to completely influence the final outcomes as someone else is also partially in control)
Now that you have categorised each of your worries, you can make action plans and problem solve, to turn the worries that are totally within your control into positive change. Just make sure the action plan is realistic enough for you to stick to.
Worry: I'm becoming unhealthy and my clothes are starting to feel tight.
Make some healthy food swaps, like eating an apple instead of chippies
Start using the stairs instead of the lift
Go for an evening walk after dinner
Let go of worrying about things that are outside of your control
If the worry is "out of your control", then you have to let it go. I know that it's easy to say "let it go" but, we only have a finite amount of time and energy. By letting go of the things that are 'Outside of our control', we can refocus our energies towards the things that we do have an influence over.
So, the next time you are spending time worrying about something, if it is outside of your control, tell yourself there is nothing you can do and move on. It may be difficult to start with, but will become easier with a little practice.
If worry, anxiety or stress are causing ongoing problems in your life, give me a call me on 021 056 8389 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and let's explore how I can help you.
REMEMBER - "When you change your mind you change your life."