By Joanne Rosa
They say to be kind, because you never know what someone is going through. The statement bears truth because we are all going through something that causes us to worry. Worries don’t discriminate from your every day worries, like family, and bills, or worries due to a stressful event. It’s the one piece of baggage we all carry, and it can become a heavy burden to bear.
Anxiety specialist, Donna Fish, M.S., L.C.S.W.-R, shared words of guidance on how to distinguish types of worries, as well as ways to minimize worries altogether.
Before we dive into the drawbacks of worrying, let’s talk about the good news.
Donna reassured us that there are some advantages to worrying. Donna says “people who are highly ambitious, driven, and achievement oriented… find themselves suffering with a lot of anxiety… [there are] things to be proud of, such as having high standards, [and] taking a lot of responsibility for things rather than just blaming other people; if you take a moment you can probably think about some great things your anxiety says about you and that you wouldn’t want to completely get rid of it.”
That being said, there are some problematic behaviors that can take place when excessive worrying (anxiety) occurs. “If you are disturbed by the over preoccupation of your worry, and it is robbing you of joy in your life and/or pushing you into habits and addictions that are yielding less than positive outcomes, it is a good time to realize it might be a problem.”
If there is one thing worriers are good at, it’s thinking of all of the things they can worry about. Donna recommends creating a list of your worries, separating the productive worries, from the non-productive worries. Productive worries involve anything that can be managed. Non-productive worries include everything you have no control over.
Once this is done, pull out a calendar, or notepad, and set up a plan to sort out your productive worries. For example, if you are worrying about your bills, mark your calendar for how much money you should put aside each week, due dates, etc. If you’re worried that your friend is mad at you, aim to address the issue with with them directly, instead of playing out a conversation in your mind.
When it comes to your non-productive worries, Donna suggests giving yourself “worry breaks.”
Sometimes, we can’t help but worry about our future, kids or our relationships, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worry all the time.
Donna says to “hit the anxiety head on rather than try to avoid or “fix it” with worrying. Assure yourself that feeling anxious about anything bad happening to your child is not only normal, but adaptive and says great things about you as a parent.”
Worry breaks let you express these thoughts, and catalog them. When you begin thinking about an unproductive worry during the day, “think of swiping a phone.” Donna says to “swipe the thought aside and give yourself permission to focus on the present.”
Above all, it is crucial to identify any worry triggers, or “raw nerves,” you may have when it comes to worrying. For example, if someone worries every time her significant other goes out with their friends to the point of becoming upset, this might be a raw nerve. “It’s useful to identify what’s upsetting you, when it started, where you were, what was going on, and identify your feelings…separate out the feelings, and ask yourself what your thoughts were that drove the feelings of worry and/or anxiety.”
At the end of the day, maybe even quite literally, we will worry. Some worry is OK, but you should always be able to live your life, despite those worries. Recognize, and accept that you do not have complete control over everything and that’s ok.