Worries affect us all, at some point in time. Here's how to fight back. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
COPING WITH WORRIES
It is a normal and understandable part of being human to worry. According to the Oxford dictionary to worry is to “feel or cause to feel anxious or troubled about actual or potential problems.”
The first consideration prompted by this definition is that how we cope or deal with worries depends upon whether they are real, or if they're potential.
An example of an actual problem would be the bushfire crisis currently facing Australia. Other examples of actual worries would be
significant health concerns of your own or someone else, including a pet. These can be serious like cancer or heart disease, or any physical or mental health concern that affects quality of life and needs treatment. Other actual problems include:
-significant financial loss
-fears of job loss and redundancy
and many others
They are real and valid . If they are valid to you, they are valid. Don't let another person define your reality .
When you have an actual worry, it is important to address it in the healthiest way possible so that you can do what you can, but don't become even more distressed.
1. Write down your worries , with the most important one taking priority.
Some people may ignore their worries, give up, or turn to maladaptive ways of coping. This is likely to worsen the situation. Writing down just the first major worry is not to alarm a person but to get them to address just one thing at a time, so it doesn't seem so distressing.
The Serenity Prayer is “God, grant me the ability to serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”.
You don't actually have to believe in God to use the Serenity Prayer. It was actually developed for NA/AA (Narcotics Anonymous/Alcoholics). However, it can be used for life, in general!
Some people may want to deny or use maladaptive behaviours or give up. However if you can accept what is then you can have the courage to do the best you can with it.
3. Write down what you can do, one step at a time.
When you have a worry or a numerous number of them, it is very easy to become depressed and dejected. Write down your options, your supports (family, friends, social services). Talk to someone who is there for you. Make an appointment. One step at a time. This can be more empowering and allow you to move on to the next step to face your worry.
Now you have taken that first step to addressing your worry, follow through, with all the support you can acquire.
4. A day at a time
It is very important to just take a day at a time, continuing to follow through on what step you need to take after the first. Never ever let yourself be alone. Whatever the crisis have numbers you can have on hand to talk to for emotional support and to know what to do next.
5. Next step. Keep on keeping on. Don't give up!
Potential worries are things that might happen but haven't yet actually occurred. These are totally natural to have. The degree to which we experience levels of anxiety concerning them can depend on individual variation and may depend on genetics and temperament for example. They usually are a lot of “What ifs?”
-What if I lose my job?
-What if I lose my partner?
-What if I get sick?
-Any many others
Of course these may well seem like real or actual worries. The classification of whether they are actual or potential problems depends on “Where is the evidence that this might happen?” With a job, have you been given concrete reason to believe this is a real impending possibility? With a partner, “Have you evidence they are cheating? How much have you been fighting?” With a sickness, “Have you got risk factors?” There are obviously numerous gradations and varying considerations to be taken into account. But the thing to look for is real, concrete evidence.
If you feel your concern could be an actual problem, but isn't one yet, you can handles these potential problems by
-devoting yourself so much 'worry time'. 'Worry time' may seem like a bad idea, but if you tend to be an anxious person who knows in the past they have a pattern of worrying about things that don't eventuate, you may find you can't help it. This is valid. Some people are naturally anxious. But is it doing you any good? If you use your worry time to go through the steps above of what you would do about it should it occur, at least you may feel more empowered you have a course of action of what you might do. But worry time should only be 15 minutes to a maximum of 45 minutes. Any more than this than you are probably causing yourself more mental anguish (with physical repercussions too).
Unfortunately, worries are a part of life. However if we adopt the philosophy behind the serenity prayer by basically accepting what you can't fix, and changing what you can, you can achieve a much more positive outcome.
Great article, Jussie, very helpful and full of practical advice. I think the terrible bushfires here in Australia are causing many people who haven't been directly effected by them to worry about what they would do if their home and loved ones were threatened by bush fire in the future. 'Worry time' could be devoted to getting an emergency plan set up.
I agree, we hear so much on the news and through others what could happen, and sometimes the possibility is real and always valid, if it concerns you. Worry time can help to set up a practical plan. It will by no means solve everything, but at least one can say they've done what they can with resources available to them. Thank you for your feedback. xx