By: Lisa Philippart
In my last article, we looked at the differences with our symptoms and thoughts when we experience worry, stress, and anxiety. Today, let’s take a look at ways to manage each of these feelings so that you can recognize what is happening to you and what you can do about it.
Everyone worries. Some worrying can be helpful when it spurs you on to take action or solve a problem. But unrelenting worry can be paralyzing when you become preoccupied with the “what ifs” and the worst case scenarios. I even used to be under the delusion that worrying meant that I was being responsible and caring; that if I worried enough, I could change the outcome. And you may have already figured out that you can’t just tell yourself to stop worrying. Fortunately, I have some tips that you can try to get that worry pattern under control.
Tip #1: Take a time out from worry through movement. I know you have heard this a million times, so here’s a million and one. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that naturally reduce tension and boost energy.
Tip #2: Talk about your worries. When you keep your worries to yourself, they can build up in your mind until they seem overwhelming. Expressing your worries verbally can help you to make sense of what you are feeling and put things into perspective.
Tip #3: Learn to postpone worrying. To do this, you will need to pick a time and place to worry. Write down your worries throughout the day to review during “worry time.” Then, examine your worry list during the scheduled time (usually a 20-minute period.) This allows for the rest of your day to be worry-free and for you to still address the concerns that need your attention.
Tip #4: Distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries. Productive solvable worries are those you can take action on right away. Unsolvable worries are those for which there is no solvable action, such as, “What if I get cancer?” Worrying is often our way of trying to predict and control the future.
As we discussed in my last article, stress is the body’s natural defense against predators and danger. Short-term stress can be helpful as it prepares systems in our bodies to take action. Learning some stress management techniques can help to remove or change the source of stress, alter the way you view a stressful event, and lower the impact that stress might have on your body. This is a short list of lifestyle choices to help manage your feelings of being overwhelmed:
1. Nutrition. A healthy balanced diet of fruits and vegetables helps to maintain the immune system during times of stress.
2. Reduce intake of drugs, alcohol, and caffeine. Contrary to what you may have heard, these substances do not help to decrease your stress levels.
3. Acknowledging the signs. Noticing your symptoms of stress is the first step toward taking action.
4. Establishing support networks. Talking to friends or family whom you trust can provide encouragement and relief in knowing that “you aren’t the only one.”
5. Prioritizing. Spend a little time organizing your daily to-do list and then focus on what you have completed at the end of the day.
6. Find your own de-stressor. Discover something that helps you to relax (reading, walking, listening to music) and then take a few minutes for yourself each day to do it.
Managing anxiety is a bit more challenging. In my previous article, anxiety was described as an excessive and persistent sense of apprehension accompanied by physical symptoms. This extreme feeling of fear can impair daily functioning and reduce quality of life. It is possible to self-treat your anxiety, but please keep in mind that these management practices apply to shorter and less severe periods of anxiety. You can begin with exploring relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, long baths, meditation, yoga, and tapping. Alter your diet by decreasing alcohol and caffeine and increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and berries. Learn to replace negative thinking patterns with positive ones by taking time to write down your negative thoughts throughout the day. Then, make another list of positive ones to replace them. Imagine yourself successfully facing and conquering a specific fear. Learn to live in the moment. A mental health professional can help you develop strategies through cognitive behavior therapy and other therapies to help you rewire your thought patterns, modify your behaviors, and alter your lifestyle. Most importantly, keep in mind, you do not have to battle your worries, stresses, and anxiety alone.
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor