By Racheal Chapman
Worrying is something that many of us are very good at, but depending on how much you worry, it may not be good for you. Being fearful, anxious, stressed and worried by things 24/7 can really impact our health and wellbeing. Many sayings, such as 'worrying is like a rocking horse, it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere' help to depict the unproductive nature of worry. But what can we do when consistent worries flood our daily life?
Firstly it's important to be able to distinguish between two types of worry - practical and hypothetical. Most hypothetical scenarios start off with 'what if' and involve a very unlikely scenario, whereas practical worries are things that you are likely to encounter in everyday life. So for example 'what if my bus gets hijacked?' (hypothetical) versus 'what if I cannot afford the food shopping this week?' (practical).
Secondly, it's important to know what to do with those types of worries once they enter your head. It is helpful in all cases, to note them down and come back to them at a designated point in the day, instead of mulling them over in your head ALL day. If the worry is practical and can be solved immediately - do so. If not, store it in your diary, logbook or phone for later.
When you return to your worries during your designated time (perhaps in the evening before you relax), there are two approaches depending on the type of worry:
If the worry is hypothetical, you need to find a way of letting it go. It may suit your personality to jot down key information such as:
What is the likelihood/percentage chance of it ever happening?
What evidence is there that it will actually happen?
Has it ever happened before?
If in the extreme case that it did happen, what could I do?
Letting it go may involve something physical such as writing it on a piece of paper and ripping it up. It may involve thinking of the above questions, then decide it has used enough head space up so you then go off and immerse yourself in an activity that you enjoy to enable you to forget about it.
With regards to the practical worries, it's necessary to use that time to sit down and problem solve a solution. Think of available options to help solve that problem, from sensible to the ridiculous. Then work your way through (perhaps via pros and cons) until the best solution is reached. Implement that solution as soon as is physically possible.
In terms of your daily 'worry time', it is imperative that you only spend 15-20 minutes each day on the above, and then move on.
Thirdly, do something that you enjoy. You need to switch off from thinking about the worries (the previous 15 minutes of 'worry time' may have been intense). Do an activity that engages several of your senses and allows little time for old worries to pop into your head. Perhaps cook, play a musical instrument, listen to a podcast.
And remember, that worrying is natural, everyone worries to some degree. Worrying can even kickstart our body into necessary fight or flight modes when a dangerous situation occurs. BUT, worrying endlessly about lots of different things (especially hypothetical things) really can impact on our lives. Don't let worry dictate your life, you can take control.