Ahead of the next ‘Writing for wellbeing‘ workshop, The Joy Club member and wonderful host Susanna Lewis shares her top tips for handling worry…
Worry – we all do it and we all know we shouldn’t, but yet it seems the modern world is afflicted with a population of worriers. According to the English dictionary, the definition of worry is ‘to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts.’ Generally, we worry about the future, the ‘what if’s of life. ‘What if I lose my job? What if I become ill? What if I lose financial independence? What if I can’t cope with …..? And so, the list goes on. Our worries are usually catastrophic in which we imagine the worst that can happen. It is easy for these thoughts to spiral unless we call a halt to them, which is easier said than done. Most worrying thoughts never actually materialize into reality. Yes, they feel big and scary while they take residence in our head but generally the fear is always worse than the reality. Many of us spend so much wasted time worrying and preparing for something that may never happen. How sad is that?
Although it is perfectly natural to worry, it can have negative affects on our physical and mental health. Most importantly, worry lowers our mood and we lose the ability to think clearly and logically. At its worst, excessive worry can trigger serious mental health issues such as depression and chronic anxiety. It is important to realise that worrying is normal and not always a cause for concern unless the worrying impacts daily life. Life can throw difficult circumstances at us, often without warning, causing us to feel unsettled and unsure about life. Mostly these difficult times can be handled well and we generally find a way through to a calmer situation. The problem with worrying is that it can affect our judgement and ability to work through our problems. Our mind is so focused on worrying and catastrophising that we lack the clarity to work through the situation calmly.
So, what can we do when worry starts to impact our life? Here are my top tips for handling worry.
- Concentrate on slowing your breathing down. We often breathe fast and shallow when we are anxious and worrying. Practice breathing slow and deep and this will have the effect of diverting your attention from worrying as well as putting your body into a calm and peaceful state.
- Share your worries. Sharing your problems with friends or family can really help alleviate worry. Gaining a new perspective on the issue you are worried about can help you look differently at the situation and can reduce the level of worry.
- Practice gratitude. Being grateful for all you have in your life can help you forget about the negative aspects of your life, even if it’s just for a short time.
- Try and maintain a strict bedtime schedule. Insomnia often comes hand in hand with excessive worrying and lack of sleep can affect our ability to reduce our worries.
- Regular exercise can help shift your attention from worrying to a more positive frame of mind. Exercise increases feel good chemicals in our body and even a simple walk can clear our mind and give us a new perspective on life.
- Be creative. Why not try a new hobby where you can use your creativity, such as art, writing, knitting or even flower arranging. When we are creative it inspires us and we feel positive when we create something. While indulging in a form of creativity we are taken out of our current worrying situation into another world and this can be enough to reduce the stress we feel.
- Journaling is a proven way to stop worrying. By writing down our fears, we can lessen the impact they have on our life and health. By exploring our emotions through the written word, we can look at our worries with greater clarity and can even work out a plan going forward that will help the difficult situation we may find ourselves in.
- Finally, why not create a ‘worry period’ of say an hour each day when you allow yourself to worry but only for that set, designated time. After the time has elapsed, then tell yourself that your worry time is over and you are no longer ‘allowed’ to worry, however tempting it is.
It is important to remember that worrying is completely normal and everyone worries at some time or other in their life. Life can be unpredictable and can throw challenges at us which can trigger worries and we are only human. It is important not to let worry become overwhelming as it can negatively impact our health.
Why not join me on Monday 12th February at 11am here at the Joy Club when we will explore how to manage our worries through journaling at my ‘Writing for Wellbeing’ class. I look forward to seeing you then.