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SmartHealthToday: What? Me worry? Of course you do, so here’s what to do about it


By Shelly Reese
SmartHealthToday

Nearly four out of every 10 of us worry every single day most frequently in the early morning or late evening, according to a new report.

You name it, we worry about it. Our homes, our relationships, our jobs, the weather. We worry most late in the evening and early in the morning. What we worry about varies at different stages in our lives – finances and housing are big worries for those in the 25-to- 44-year-old bracket and older people actually tend to worry less than younger ones. 

And while some of that worrying is productive because it helps us focus on and solve problems, an awful lot of it is simply futile “what ifing” about situations we can’t control or that are unlikely to occur.

While some of that worrying is productive because it helps us focus on and solve problems, an awful lot of it is simply futile “what ifing” about situations we can’t control or that are unlikely to occur

While some of that worrying is productive because it helps us focus on and solve problems, an awful lot of it is simply futile “what ifing” about situations we can’t control or that are unlikely to occur

While worry is normal and even beneficial in some circumstances, it becomes a problem when it morphs into fear it because it can inhibit action or problem solving.

“Let’s say you’re worried that you will perform poorly on an upcoming exam,” says Robert D. Wells, Ph.D., a psychologist with St. Elizabeth Physicians Outpatient Behavioral Health. “Instead of the exam motivating you to study harder, your worry consumes your mind. You struggle to concentrate on the task at hand, and you feel unable to prepare properly for the test. Your fear of failure often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Here are some tips for coping with worry from the Liberty Mutual Insurance Worry Less Report, a summary of peer-reviewed research from the past 20 years that sheds light on the science of worrying and how to break the worry cycle:
 
• Hone problem solving. Is your worry productive? Is it driving you to solve a problem? If so, replace obsessing with a conscientious plan: define the problem, clarify your goals and devise a solution and experiment with solutions. If, on the other hand, your worry is merely tormenting you with “what ifs” that you can’t do anything about, acknowledge it as an unproductive worry.

• Limit worry to certain times of the day. Don’t let worry crowd your day and spoil your mood. Incorporate a “worry time” into your day. Learning to let go of worries until a later time is a great way to train your mind to deal with worries, particularly unproductive ones. Often, people forget their worry appointments, which is an added perk to this strategy.

• Worry makes you want to tense and panic. An alternative is to notice your thoughts (“There is the thought that I can’t manage.”), take a step back and relax. Soften your forehead, drop your shoulders, and relax your grip. Letting go of physical tension makes it easier for the mind to relax and practice accepting uncertainty.

• Practice mindfulness. Be present in the moment. Choose a routine activity, such as walking, taking a bath or eating and try to experience it fully.

• Seek help. While many of us are frequent worriers, a far smaller group of people suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, which is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable worrying. If you find you aren’t able to address your worries on your own, seek help from abehavioral health professional.
 
“These coping strategies can be effective in managing worries and distress, but problems require professional help when they persistently interfere with important areas of your life,” says Wells.

“For example, if a person’s distress stretches over weeks or months or if it seems out of proportion with the problems or if it is causing them to withdraw from loved ones or resort to alcohol or drugs, it’s time to seek professional help.  Most importantly, he notes, “If you are having suicidal thoughts call 911 or get to the nearest emergency room.”

More information: St. Elizabeth’s Behavioral Health Center.

SmartHealthToday is a service of St. Elizabeth Healthcare.


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