Tag Archives: Worry

The cycle of anxiety

 

anxiety photo

The cycle of anxiety

We all worry about things that threaten us but often we overestimate the threat and fear it more than we need to. When we feel the fear, we assume we won’t be able to cope with the threat. Many times we are wrong and this is what we need to focus on when we feel anxious.

If we feel anxious, it seems logical to do things to reduce that anxiety. Avoiding a situation is one way that we can avoid anxiety. It will certainly decrease anxiety initially but it only works on the short term and actually makes anxiety worse in the long run as we become more fearful of the world around us. The more we avoid, the more the fear grows and when we avoid situations we fear, we never learn the skills to cope and show ourselves that we cope better than we thought we would. We never get to test out our predictions when we avoid things. Stop avoiding and start approaching.

These things that we do to reduce our anxiety are known as safety behaviours. We do them to feel safe. Again – they only work for  a short while.

Examples of safety behaviours: avoidance, withdrawal, overthinking, over-eating, being excessively tidy, people pleasing, being too busy, etc

Reversing the cycle of anxiety

Gradually begin confronting scary situations.This will lead to improved confidence. Start with small steps and work your way up to situations that create the most anxiety. Keep repeating the behaviour – you need to keep putting yourself into situations that you fear in order to overcome them. Anxiety is a feeling that needs to be managed and unfortunately, it will probably be a constant companion to a certain degree. It’s when anxiety becomes unmanageable and interferes significantly with everyday functioning that it really needs to be addressed professionally – by a therapy or counsellor.

Accept that a certain amount of anxiety is normal for all of us and it is the body’s way of preparing us for action. It can be a good thing so learn to accept and manage your anxiety rather than fear it.

Mandy X

 

 

How to challenge worry

 

worrying

How to challenge worry

Worrying is a waste of time- it expends mental energy but doesn’t solve anything. Solution focused worry is the best type of worry but most worry is made up of random ‘nonsense’ thoughts that destroy the current moment by sucking the happiness out. So we spend our lives worrying about things that might never happen and at the same lose, we lose opportunities to enjoy peace of mind and contentment.

Here are positive beliefs about worry that are irrational:

 

  1. Worry aids with problem solving

Example: If I worry about problems, I am better able to find solutions for them.

Ask yourself: Do you actually solve your problems by worrying or do you end up going over the problem again and again in your head?

Does worry get you to actually solve your problems or do you become so anxious that you delay solving your problems or avoid them altogether?

Are you confusing a thought (worry) with an action (problem solving)?

2. Worry as a motivating force

Example: If I worry about my performance, then I will be motivated to succeed.

Ask yourself: Do you know anyone who is successful and who isn’t a worrier?

Are you confusing worrying with caring? That is, is it possible to want to succeed and not worry about it all the time?

Does your worry really improve your performance? Are there negative repercussions as a result of your excessive worry?

3. Worry protects against negative emotions

Example: If I worry about my child potentially getting a serious disease, I will be better prepared emotionally if it happens.

Ask yourself: Has anything bad ever happened that you had worried about before? How did you feel? Were you buffered from the pain or sadness that it caused?

Does worrying about things that might never happen actually increase your negative emotions in the here and now?

4. Worry, in and of itself, can prevent negative outcomes

Example: When I worry about an upcoming exam at school, I do well; when I don’t worry, I don’t do well.

Ask yourself: Have you ever done poorly on an exam even though you worried?

Is your rule about worry (that is, worry = good outcome; don’t worry = bad outcome) based on real evidence or is it an assumption? For example: is it possible that you only remember the exams you did well on when you worried, and that you forget those you didn’t do well on when you worried?

Were you really not worrying when things didn’t go well on some exams, or are you just remembering it that way to support your assumption?

Could you test this theory? For example: could you track your worry prior to all exams and then look at your performance on each exam?

5. Worry, as a positive trait

Example: The fact that I worry about my children proves that I am a good and caring parent.

Ask yourself: Is there anything else you do that shows you are a good and caring parent? Is it only worrying about your children that shows caring and love?

Do you know any other parents that you would consider “good” and “caring” but who do not worry excessively?

Have you suffered any negative consequences from friends/family because of your excessive worry? Has anyone ever considered your worrying a negative personality trait?

6. The cost of worry: Potential challenges for all worry beliefs

Has excessive worry impacted on your work performance? Do you find that it takes you longer to complete tasks than other people who worry less?

Has your excessive worry led to high levels of stress and fatigue?

How much time and effort do you spend each day worrying about this topic?

Worry isn’t always a good thing and more often than not, it causes more harm than good. Learn to distinguish between REAL worry and HYPOTHETICAL (What if..) worry. A real worry needs attention in the here and now – for example: a broken washing machine…a hypothetical worry is something that may happen but might not.

Worry saps the joy from life and lowers quality of life. Learn to keep it in perspective.

Mandy X

Do you have Generalised Anxiety Disorder? (GAD)

 

worry

Do you have Generalised Anxiety Disorder? (GAD)

Therapists are trained to spot people with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and one of the easiest ways to detect GAD is to look at whether a person worries about a particular situation or whether they tend to worry about a variety of situations. If their pattern of worry persists no matter what is happening to them, this is one sign of GAD. Do you tend to worry about almost everything?

Two common features of Generalised Anxiety Disorder:

1)People with GAD worry about the same things that everyone else worries about but the difference is that their worries are often on minor issues (eg. which toaster to buy or which book to read).

2) People with GAD tend to worry about unlikely or remote future events more than other anxious individuals (eg. dying in a plane crash).

People with GAD tend to report a poorer quality of life as they ‘live in their heads’ and worry about the future a lot. They have great difficulty living in the present moment. Even when doing something pleasant, they often don’t fully enjoy the experience as they are worrying about some future event. In fact, many clients with GAD report that they find it hard to enjoy themselves as they are constantly thinking about what might happen next.

Individuals with generalised anxiety disorder spend a lot of time on “What if…?” possibilities.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is particularly well suited to people with GAD. If you think that you may be someone who suffers with excessive worry, have a chat with a CBT therapist to find out more information.

Mandy X

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

 

generalised anxiety disorder

GAD

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD for short) is a common anxiety disorder where a person worries excessively in most situations. Their fear or anxiety is not limited to one specfic situation but is generalized to many different types of situations. GAD often involves a sense of dread and/or doom and “what if” thinking.

Often, people who have Generalised Anxiety Disorder possess positive beliefs around worrying. These, however are erroneous. They believe that worrying keeps them safe from harm and helps them to be prepared. Investigating this idea further usually demonstrates that there are no guarantees in life and that there will often be times when we worry in order to stay safe and events still occur that are beyond our control. “What if” thinking means that the present moment is ruined by feeling anxious over an occurrence in the future that may never happen.

Having GAD leads a person to imagine worst case scenarios and pretty much torture themselves mentally. They live a fearful life in their minds rather than engaging with reality around them.

Ways to deal with Generalised Anxiety Disorder:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a very good therapy to help counteract GAD.

  1. Challenge your thinking

Where’s the evidence that what you are thinking is true? Always ask yourself is there is another way to look at something…is there another explanation?

2. Gain perspective

Are you likely to feel this way in a week from now? A year? What would you say about this if a friend asked you for advice and was in the same situation? Can you add some logic to the picture?

3. Know the difference between what you can and can’t control

A lot of our “what if” thinking is based upon hypothetical worries/events – in that they may never happen. A real worry would be fixing a dishwasher that has packed up. A hypothetical worry would be worrying that someone might not like you if you don’t act in a certain way. There is no obvious evidence for this so it is best to learn to dismiss this thought and not focus on it.

4. Focus externally rather than internally

GAD sufferers tend to be really caught up in their own heads. Focusing on others and the environment can ease worry by focusing less on our fears and insecurities. Consider what other people may be thinking or focus on their behaviour rather than your own.

5. Allocate ‘worry time”

If you absolutely must spend time worrying, try setting aside an hour a day to write worries down and then try to problem solve them and create an action plan. Worrying that goes over the same thing again and again is wasted energy and will not achieve anything.

I have a fridge magnet with this quote on it: “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere”. So true!

If you cannot control your worries and they are seriously interfering with your life, it might be a good idea to seek professional help and go see your doctor who could recommend counselling/CBT and/or medication.

Mandy X

 

How to cope with anxiety

 

worried photo

 

How to cope with anxiety

Tension and anxiety are very common problems. The symptoms of anxiety are basically the same as fear although anxiety often has a less clear reason behind it. When you are in real danger you can usually do something about it whereas with anxiety it may often feel as if you can’t do something about it then and there.

Our bodies evolved and learned to react rapidly to immediate danger. As hunters and gatherers, a lion would create an immediate fear response. In the modern world we no longer have to deal with lions and other predators but when we feel unsafe, the same reactions still occur-fight/flight or freeze.

Some people who have a sensitive nervous system may be bothered by anxiety more than others. Typical reactions to stress involve a shaky feeling, feeling short of breath, feeling sick and so on. Although anxiety is unpleasant it is important to remember that the feelings associated are not dangerous or harmful.

Your thinking can make you more or less anxious. Our automatic thoughts naturally lead to feelings and these feelings determine our behaviour. Therefore the more anxious our thoughts, more stressed out we feel. Thoughts are not facts and can always be challenged.

How do anxious feelings start and how do they get out of control?

Here is an example:

Mrs Smith was alarmed to find herself feeling dizzy while waiting at a bus stop. Then she noticed her heart was pounding and her legs felt as if they were giving way. Because symptoms came out of the blue, she was terrified that she was about to collapse, or even die, and she went on feeling frightened until safely home. After that, just thinking about going out made her feel nervous and sometimes brought the dizzy feeling back.

How to cope with anxiety

Learn how to relax yourself physically. Taking deep breaths and counting to 10, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth can help reduce anxiety and relax your body. Calming the body physically will make it easier to calm yourself mentally.

Controlling upsetting thoughts

The type of thoughts which make anxiety worse are often difficult to spot, because with repetition they become automatic. Negative automatic thoughts come and go too rapidly for you to realise what is happening. The first thing to do is to pin down those “automatic” thoughts. Write them down somewhere and keep a record of how often they happen and what triggers these thoughts. Once you find out what type of thought makes you feel upset, you will need to spend some time finding out why this idea sets you and whether it is realistic or not. Always look for the evidence you’re thinking.

Often it turns out that these thoughts have little or no truth when they looked at more closely. The next step is to work out a different and more realistic ways of thinking about the same things and to practice using this different way of thinking every time you catch a frightening and/or automatic thought. As with relaxation, this may seem difficult at first but it will gradually become easier and more natural.

Summary:

  • Anxiety is the same as fear but without real danger.
  • Both anxiety and fear have two parts – physical and mental.
  • Anxiety gets out of control when upsetting thoughts increase body tension and vice versa.
  • You can learn to cope with anxiety by using relaxation and by controlling/challenging upsetting thoughts.

Mandy X

 

 

 

 

 

Why you need to stop worrying

 

unhappiness photo

Why you need to stop worrying

Worry seems to be an inherent part of life. When I worked at the probation service, we had a questionnaire that every new client had to complete. One of the questions was “I worry too much” and I never came across one person that did not answer “yes” to this question. So why is it that we worry so much? How does it help us? Worry can be helpful when we are faced with uncertain situations. However, some of us worry more than others about things that may never happen. Worriers tend to have an overriding sense that they cannot cope with problems and situations that are thrown at them-they underestimate their abilities. Excessively worrying can impact upon our ability to function and cause us great distress.

I have found that most of my clients worry over things they cannot control or over the future-the future has yet to arrive and we never know what will happen. People worry to reduce the risk of something bad happening or because they need to achieve certainty for their acts or because they cannot tolerate uncertainty.

Worry is not a predictor of outcome-this is an important fact to remember. Here are a list of unhelpful behaviours that lead from too much worrying:

1) seeking reassurance for decisions

2) trying to push upsetting ideas out of your mind

3) seeking out excessive amounts of information before making a choice

4) avoiding certain types of information that triggers worry

5) putting off making decisions

6) overanalysing problems

7) making lists as a substitute for actions

If you find that your worrying too much it might be worth scheduling in “worried time”. Give yourself 30 minutes during the day to worry and try to come up with solutions. When you catch yourself worrying outside of this worry time, try to keep busy and distract yourself. This enables us to divide worry time to healthy worrying whilst not allowing ourselves to worry about unrealistic things.

Another useful approach is to place a rubber band around your wrist. When you find your worry all thoughts are repetitive and non-productive, ping the rubber band and shout “stop”. Then either note the worry down and use your worry time to think about it or see if it is a worry that you can problem solve.

Problem solving

This involves dealing with real worry. Define the problem and think of as many solutions as possible, no matter how ridiculous they seem. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. She is a solution to implement and plan how you are going to do this. Take action and then review how it went. Were there any problems? Was it the right solution? What did you learn?

My favourite quote on worrying is: “worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Worrying is only effective if you are using the time to problem solve. “What if” worrying is wasted energy as none of us can predict the future. Many falsely believe that worrying will keep them safe and this is not true.

Too much worrying can put the body into a state of anxiety where we experience “fight/flight/freeze” symptoms.

Learn to work manage worry by implementing specific times to focus on your problems (worry time). Worrying takes you away from being present in your life-you are there physically but mentally you have put yourself into a “prison”.

Learn to distract yourself from inane thoughts. There is a theory that we have something like 80,000 thoughts a day and only 5 to 10% of those thoughts are useful and productive. Learn to ignore your thinking never confuse thoughts with facts.

Mandy X

Self pity and wallowing

 

sadness photo

Self pity and wallowing

Self pity is a normal human reaction to negative events and disappointment in life. In fact, I think it is unhealthy not to allow ourselves a little self pity and sympathy at times. Putting a time limit on self pity is essential though so as not to allow it to overwhelm us and possibly push us into a deeper state of sadness.

There are ways to use self pity to our advantage:

Use self pity to help you grow and to teach you

Self pity is a sign of non-alignment. Of being off track where something isn’t quite working. Use the emotional experience to learn and improve self awareness. Inner peace is within your reach when you choose to harness the experience and learn from it rather than letting it topple you.

Attitude, not circumstance is a better predictor of a fortuitous outcome…watch your interpretation of the world around you. You have the power to choose it and/or adapt your perceptions.

Learn to let go and chill out

Self pity sometimes comes from placing too much pressure on ourselves. Instead of relaxing into it, we resist and create chaos internally by imagining all sorts of problems that may never happen. Learning to be more accepting of “what is” and not sweating the small stuff can lead to less self pity and a happier existence.

Choose positive thoughts about yourself

Instead of self pity, remind yourself of why you don’t need to heap self pity upon yourself. Remind yourself of all your strengths and of how far you have come in life. Never compare your journey to that of others – we all have different learning objectives in life. Self pity comes from feeling hard done by – self pity alerts you to the fact that you are thinking “poor me”. As I said before, self pity is fine but it is also useful in that it reminds you to get ‘aligned’ and adapt your thinking to get you back on track. When you choose the right thoughts you will find less reason to feel self pity and hopefully self pride will take its place.

Gratitude

Just as there are negative things in life, thank goodness for the fact that there is an abundance of good stuff too. Make a point of looking for it. The more we ‘prime’ ourselves to look for positives and focus on good will around us, the more likely we will be to feel happier. Thoughts lead to feelings which lead to our focus/behaviour, so watch your thoughts and the rest should follow.

Self pity is fine as long as there’s a time limit. Its serves a purpose especially if we use it as ‘fuel’ to push us further and see it as a sign that we might be going ‘off track’.

Mandy X

 

What to do when you’re worrying too much

 

worrying person photo

What to do when you’re worrying too much

1) Remind yourself that it won’t last forever

Change is inevitable and the wheel of life trundles on. Use this to your advantage when life feels miserable – things will change, new chapters will emerge.

2) Try to look at your situation in another way

Ask yourself if there is another way to look at your situation/your worries. Have you thought of all the different aspects? Where is the evidence for your thinking? Is your thinking accurate or are you basing your thinking on assumptions? Try to focus on the facts and be more rational about what is happening. Take the emotion out of the equation as much as possible.

3) Be aware that you’re experiencing life, like everyone else is

Welcome to the human race. You wouldn’t belong here if you didn’t experience ups and downs. It’s a part of life so keep the ‘downs’ in perspective and give yourself a pat on the back for surviving the lessons of life.

4) Distract yourself

Too much time is never good for a wandering worried mind. If you can do something about your worries, do it and then distract yourself. If there is nothing you can presently do then distract yourself until such time when control is back in your ‘court’.

5) Look at the facts, ignore assumptions and “what ifs”

Often we live our lives in our heads. The reality may be very different to what we FEEL is going on for us. We may feel lonely and scared and feel unloved and from this thinking we may withdraw and listen in to our inner dialogue of how useless and lacking in value we are. The reality may be very different and others may find you incredibly loveable and wonderful, if only they could find you…which they won’t because you are hiding and feeling sorry for yourself. Learn to separate emotional thinking from what the reality is.

Remember this: the map (your thinking and perceptions about the world around you) is NOT the territory (the actual reality of what is going on and how others may perceive you).

6) Be aware of your “triggers”

Triggers ignite emotional responses and that’s when we begin to feel out of control. When you know what your triggers are – for example, feeling insecure, being around a certain person or being in a situation where you feel helpless you can develop strategies to avoid these situations or have a system in place to manage the situation.

We all worry too much…we all subject ourselves to unnecessary mental torture but you can stop this masochistic behaviour and learn to talk to yourself in a kind way, ignore emotional thinking and distract yourself when you feel worry taking over. Learn to enjoy the moment.

Mandy X

Photo by erin leigh mcconnell