Mental Health

Cultivate your inner calmness

Are you a worrywart? Here’s how to manage your anxieties

 

Are you a worrywart? Here’s how to manage your anxieties

 

So, you’re a worrier. You even worry that you worry too much. But at least that’s a start, says Holly Hazlett-Stevens, Ph.D., author of Women Who Worry Too Much: How to Stop Worry and Anxiety From Ruining Relationships, Work & Fun (New Harbinger Publications, .95).

“As you catch yourself worrying throughout the day,” says Dr. Hazlett-Stevens, “remind yourself that your worry is only a thought, not fact. Take a moment and ask yourself if there is any specific action you can take right in that moment to resolve your situation.”Worriers may be endearingly dismissed by family members as “worrywarts,” but constant worrying can become an exhausting torment. Chronic worriers tend to fret about anything and everything, from work to relationships to little things, says Deann Ware, Ph.D., a Dallas psychologist. “Did I leave the stove on? Is my co-worker mad at me? Will my son get into college? Is this headache something serious?”

And while some worry can be good, such as a little reminder to use common sense (you DID leave that stove on), other times, it can make you paralyzed and literally worried sick about things you can’t control. (Was that just turbulence or are we going to crash?!)

“Anxiety, or worry, is useful when it motivates a person to confront a challenge and move forward with a plan,” says Dr. Ware. “Anxiety becomes clinically significant when it is prolonged, difficult to control, and is not generating a useful problem-solving approach. Clinically significant anxiety depletes coping resources and cognitive energy, which interferes with everyday functioning.”
 
And yes, ladies, worrying does tend to happen to us more, but it’s not really our fault.

Dr. Hazlett-Stevens says that both social and biological factors play a role. As children, boys are often rewarded for assertive behavior, while girls are more often rewarded for avoidant, shy and anxious behavior.

“Girls also tend to learn to be more empathic,” says Dr. Hazlett-Stevens. “While this can be an advantage, it also make women more sensitive to others’ facial expressions.”

On the biological side, Dr. Hazlett-Stevens says that women’s “fight or flight” response is slightly blunted because of certain hormones. “As a result, they’re more inclined to protect others and seek group support. This is why they are more likely than men to avoid threats rather than to face them.”

Where we worry-

RELATIONSHIPS: Worries about relationships and social interactions, be they with your family, friends or co-workers, often surround a fear of others’ disapproval or rejection. According to Dr. Hazlett-Stevens, this could lead to avoidance of certain situations and not asserting yourself.

WORK AND ACHIEVEMENT: According to Dr. Hazlett-Stevens, work worries include fears of failing, not getting work done, your work not being good enough, not working hard enough, or suffering the consequences of working too hard. Ouch. Sound familiar?

Dr. Hazlett-Stevens adds that the workplace can add another layer of complication if it’s discriminatory, whether in regards to gender, race or religion. This can make employees feel like they can never get ahead no matter how hard they work, she says.

HEALTH AND PERSONAL SAFETY: Humans have the ability to imagine wonderful fantasies as well as horrible tragedies. According to Dr. Hazlett-Stevens, safety worries involve predicting physical harm or injury to you or your family and are usually followed by powerful emotions of fear and sadness.

Worry strategies

Dr. Hazlett-Stevens outlines a few strategies in her book, which can apply to almost any situation.

GET SPECIFIC. Take a vague worry and narrow it down. If you’re predicting that someone will “be mean” to you, try to picture his or her exact behavior. And if you think your work isn’t “good enough,” what exactly does that mean? If you’re worried your child might poison himself, then childproof your home.

GENERATE ALTERNATIVES. Free up your thinking and remember that nothing is ever fixed forever. Think of alternative outcomes, including different ways you might respond to an interpersonal situation. If you’re frustrated at work, think of different situations that involve a job change. If you’re worried your son may fall and severely injure his head, imagine him only skinning his knee.

STICK TO THE FACTS. You might find you don’t have much evidence to back up your worry, says Dr. Hazlett-Stevens. If you’re worried about failing a test, how many tests have you actually failed in your lifetime? A plane crash makes the news because it’s unusual. Imagine a news report for every plane that safely lands.

FOCUS ON THE PRESENT MOMENT. When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the conversation or situation, and enjoy the process instead of thinking about the outcome. You’ll also be able to better react in a tragic situation when paying full attention to the present.

FACE YOUR FEARS. Approach social situations that make you uncomfortable and look at behavior patterns at work, such as procrastination and over committing.

RELAX! Take mini-breaks at work or find everyday events, like waiting for your computer to boot or watching a commercial, to remind you to relax at a certain moment. “Even five minutes � a few times a day to scan your body for muscle tension and relax it away, to shift from shallow chest breathing to slow and deep stomach breathing, or to close your eyes and imagine a relaxing scene � can keep your worry and anxiety from spiraling out of control,” says Dr. Hazlett-Stevens.

Source: By ERIN WADE / The Dallas Morning News
E-mail [email protected]

THE PHYSICAL SIDE

According to Dallas psychologist Deann Ware, a worry is the thought, and anxiety is the emotional and physiological reaction. “Anxiety places physiological stress on our bodies in the form of muscle tension, headaches, increased heart rate, sleep disturbance and fatigue.” Benefits of minimizing unproductive worrying include:

 Improved energy and motivation

 Decreased irritability

 Improved concentration

 Increased sense of well-being

 Improved sleep

She says worry can compromise the immune system, so reducing worrying might actually keep you from getting sick as often.

WHEN YOU NEED HELP

“Worry might be a serious problem for you if it has begun to interfere with your life in some significant way,” says Holly Hazlett-Stevens, Ph.D., author of Women Who Worry Too Much.
Ask yourself these questions to find out:

Do you worry about minor things, such as being late, housework or small repairs to your home or car?

Does your worry often contain themes of failure, personal ineffectiveness or inadequacy?

When you worry, are other anxiety symptoms present, such as an upset stomach, muscle tension, irritability or trouble sleeping?

Does your worry often lead to procrastination?

Does worry interfere with your concentration when you need to focus on the present moment?

Does worry keep you from being yourself with others?

RESOURCES:

Anxiety Disorders Association of America: www.adaa.org

Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy: www.aabt.org
 Reviewed by Forum Admin on 02-12-2010

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