manage our worry. So without further ado:
Worrying is a part of being human. Worry is an extension of fear and fear (of appropriate things) keeps us safe. This has been reinforced through evolution. However, often worrying can get the better of us and take up far more of our time that we would like.
1. Be aware of your worrying triggers. What causes you to worry more? Is it work deadlines/presentations, social stressors, dating, being out of control, family issues? Knowing your triggers will allow you to address them more efficiently.
2. Identify in the moment when you are worrying more. Sometimes worrying can be so overwhelming that we don’t even realize we are doing it until we are overcome with worries. Identifying where you are on your “worry ladder” will help you know when to start practicing your coping skills.
3. Take a deep breath. We hear this all the time, but it’s because it works. When we are anxious, we begin to breathe more shallowly. This builds up an oxygen debt, which results in us not thinking through worries in a functional way. Taking time to do some deep breathing also gives you time to determine what you need to do next.
4. Relax your muscles. Usually people who worry a lot get tired of being told to relax, but this is a different way to relax that truly reduces your anxiety. Do a body scan of your muscle tension and actively work to relax those muscles. Anxiety is an overreaction in our brain in which the brain perceives that it is in danger (again with evolution trying to keep us safe). With anxiety comes muscle tension to prepare for fight or flight. If we can work to reduce the tension in our muscles, we can tell our brain that it is not in danger, thereby reducing our anxiety.
5. Do a brain dump. Once your muscles are more relaxed, your brain can work more efficiently to evaluate what is causing those worries and how to address them. Get out a piece of paper or open a new document and write down whatever is on your mind. Read over it and see what truly needs to be addressed now, what can wait and what is just anxious brain just piling on some extra worries that are not significant.
6. Address what seems most significant. Talk to your significant other if it’s relationship issues. Address work issues with your supervisor or get organized to address work flow issues. Taking action often reduces anxiety.
7. Practice relaxation and/or meditation on a regular basis to keep worries low. Do deep breathing and body muscle relaxation on a daily basis. Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique which reduces anxiety and is especially helpful for reducing anxiety prior to sleeping.
Excessive worry does not have to be a part of your daily life. Practice ways to actively reduce your worries and tension can help reduce worries.
Katy Rader, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Private practice in Indianapolis, IN