The constant flow of horrifying and unsettling news weighs on all of us. Besides fear and anger, we feel one thing on top of all: a deep sense of powerlessness.
Excessive worrying, however, is paralyzing. It weakens our ability to reason and prepare for obstacles; it interferes with our sleep and our ability to focus, and it decreases our overall quality of life. Most importantly, excessive worrying helps no one.
White Paper Summary: Worry Less Report – A White Paper on the Prevalence of Worrying & Coping Mechanisms for Americans at Home or on the Road, by Simon A. Rego and Jennifer L. Taitz, outlines four steps you can take to control worrying through mindfulness and planning.
Everyone worries. Conquer obsession by taking action.
Many factors likely cause you stress these days: bills to pay, the boss on your back, economic recessions, global warming, and more. According to a new white paper from Liberty Mutual Insurance, based on data from the National Survey of Psychiatric Morbidity, if you worry every day, you’re in good company: some 38% of people report feeling worried on a daily basis. Licensed clinical psychologists Simon A. Rego and Jennifer L. Taitz explore how to control worrying through mindfulness and planning. While never providing medical advice, we suggest this useful primer to anyone who feels their worries are beginning to get the better of them.
- According to a survey of 8,000 people between the ages of 16 and 74 living in Great Britain, 38% of people report feeling worried on a daily basis.
- Quell anxiety in four steps: First, create a list of all your worries, sift out “unproductive” fears that you can’t control and then brainstorm solutions for each concern.
- Second, set aside a half-hour “worry appointment” every day. Postpone unproductive thoughts by writing them down and saving them for the scheduled time.
- Third, when worries arise, label them as thoughts – not facts. Learn to notice tension in your body, and practice relaxing.
- Finally, plan time to live in the moment, focus on your senses and feel grateful.
In 2016, excessive worrying is a common complaint for many people. Having an “intolerance of uncertainty” – in other words, a fear that if you try something new, something bad could happen – can make you more susceptible to excessive worrying. It’s easy to overestimate how things can go wrong and to underestimate your ability to cope with challenges. Some people believe worrying protects them from bad things happening. Others fear their worrying will cause other problems – like having a heart attack.
“When we slow down to strategize, we generate empowering alternatives to feeling hopeless.”
Habitual fear and stress weaken your ability to reason and prepare for obstacles. Worrying often makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, which erodes your ability to focus, avoid becoming ill or have an accident. Worrying jeopardizes relationships, decreases overall quality of life and makes you less likely to take risks.
“Life is full of uncertainty. Instead of finding ourselves apprehensively struggling, we can take steps to manage and also relax into this moment.”
To curb worrying, try four strategies:
- Determine which worries are helpful – Worries can fall into one of two categories: “productive” and “unproductive.” Productive concerns help you take action and solve problems. Unproductive fears are obstructive and often start with “what if…?” Make a list of all your worries, discard the unproductive ones, then brainstorm goals and step-by-step solutions for each productive concern. Consult experts or loved ones for feedback, insights and help.
- Schedule time to worry – Set aside a half-hour “worry appointment” every day to avoid stress when you’re feeling relaxed or vulnerable. Postpone unproductive thoughts by writing them down and saving them for the scheduled time.
- Train yourself to accept “uncertainty” – When worries arise, label them as thoughts – not facts. Learn to identify tension in your body. When you feel stressed, concentrate on breathing, relax your forehead, let your shoulders drop and loosen your grip.
- Be mindful – Plan time to live in the moment, notice all your senses and feel grateful. Do this during a routine activity like bathing, going for a walk or having a meal. If your mind wanders, don’t judge yourself. Simply return to the present.
About the Authors
Both licensed clinical psychologists, Simon A. Rego is an Anxiety and Depression Association of America founding fellow and Jennifer L. Taitz is an American Institute for Cognitive Therapy senior psychologist.