TIPS FOR MANAGING WORRY
• Find Connectedness. When we feel connected to something larger than ourselves (a group of friends, our families, work, a sense of the past, ideas, and religious or transcendent faith), we are less likely to worry.
• Seek Advice and Reassurance. We all need supportive feedback from others from time to time. Other people may have solutions to problems that we haven’t thought about. For reassurance, find people who know how to give it. Many of us spend a lifetime looking in all the wrong places for approval!
• Understand the Difference Between Good Worry and Unproductive Worry. Good worry implies having a sense of control in solving life’s problems. It involves examining alternatives and then coming up with a systematic plan for meeting a challenge. Unproductive worry involves engaging in repetitively hashing over the same ideas time and again, negative thoughts, and no real plan for meeting the challenge.
• Try to Do the Right Thing. Maintain your sense of integrity whenever you do something. Tell the truth. Obey the law. Keep to your promises. Let your conscience be your guide. Granted, we might tell an occasional lie or break a promise, and this is fairly common – but it also can set the stage for worry. We may think sometimes that we can get ahead in the world the easy way – but the price we pay could be excessive worry, among other penalties.
• Sleep and Eat Properly. Lack of sleep and a nutritious diet can make us irritable, distracted, and anxious – all conditions which set the stage for worry. (Try to be mindful of the problem of overeating, however, as a way of making your worries disappear.)
• Exercise. Try to get at least half an hour of aerobic exercise every other day (this could be walking in your neighborhood). Exercise helps us dissipate the anxiety that often accompanies worry.
• Avoid Substance Abuse. Drugs and alcohol may give the illusion of comfort for the time being, but using them has negative long-term consequences. They increase depression, cloud your judgment, and may give you something to really worry about later.
• Add Structure to Your Life. Worry is often related to disorganization. Make a list of things to do each day and cross off tasks once they are completed. Leave early enough to make appointments on time. Put your keys in the same place every time you come home. Keep your house straightened up. When things are under control, there is less to worry about.
• Minimize Catastrophic Thinking. Some people find it difficult to keep perspective when faced with even a minor stressor. Not every mole means cancer and not every bill is going to lead to bankruptcy. Test out the reality of these situations by talking them over with a trusted friend.
• Keep a Pad by Your Bed and Make a Note of a Problem. Rather than tossing and turning all night as you worry about a problem, jot down a note about the problem and resolve to get to sleep – and then consider the problem in the light of the next day.
• Limit Your Exposure to the News. Although there is value in keeping up with the latest news, understand that the media focus on bad news since this tends to sell best. We seldom hear about the good news in the world on TV or newspapers. Constant exposure to negative events increases our tendency to worry. Instead, look for what is good in life.
• Keep Yourself Financially Secure. Live below your means and put money into a savings account. Pay off credit card debts. Consider ways to live more simply as a way of managing your finances.
• Learn the Value of Judicious Complaining. Sometimes it helps to talk your way through a problem by complaining about it. Find a trusted friend and just let it all out. And then have a good laugh about it afterwards. If a friend is not available, write out your complaints.
• Learn how to Let Go of Worries. This is a skill which might require some practice, and each of us will have our way of doing it. Some people do this by allowing themselves perhaps half an hour a day of worry time – and at the end of the allotted time period, they will be free of worrying until the next day. Some people give up their worries by writing them down on a piece of paper and then tearing up the paper. Some people prefer to hand them over to a higher power.
• Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. And, in a sense, if you think about it, it’s almost all small stuff.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT