On Worrying Less
26 September 2020
Hands up if you’re a worrier? And has it intensified as your child’s mental health has declined?
You’e not alone! Most of us find ourselves churning over worries and this post is there to help you try and take some charge of the worries you have.
So what is worry?
According to wikipedia, worry “refers to the thoughts, images, emotions, and actions of a negative nature in a repetitive, uncontrollable manner that results from a proactive cognitive risk analysis made to avoid or solve anticipated potential threats and their potential consequences.”
(No, me either! How to make something simple, complex!)
Basically, worry is a thief of the present moment and of peace. Over time, it stops us believing we are capable of making change or creating solutions. It changes how we anticipate events and how we interact with others. And it keeps us stuck in a place where nothing has happened, but we bear the weight as if it had already come to bear.
Parenting a child with a mental health issue is a study in worrying. The uncertainty of what might come next, or not. The extrapolations our mind creates can cause us to ponder an unlikely kaleidoscope of future what ifs. Worry becomes a part of the fabric of our lives, our minds, and our thought processes. Excessive worry is the basis for anxiety, so a simple concern can lead to our mental health to decline. It can lead us to settle for less than we should, because worry decides what volume we live life at. It can lead us to wrap our life around the things we worry about, in an attempt to control them. Worrying is not good for us.
And it’s not good for our child either. When we display excessive worry about our child we can make them concerned about things that weren’t on their radar, we can show them that the world is challenging and that their own future isn’t the bright and brilliant one, full of potential that it actually is.
Worry can also manifest as tension in our bodies – I get pains in my face when I am particularly under pressure – but you might get a tension headache, stomach ache, or feel out of sorts.
Some worry is good for us, as it shows we are assessing risk and on guard to make changes where we need to. But worrying about your child’s potential for university when they’re 13 or if you’ll be able to pay the gas bill next Christmas take us from the moment, into one we have neither control over, nor the justification to worry about now.
So, how do we stop worrying about the things we shouldn’t worry about?
Here are a few ways:
- Write your worries down and categorise them. Worrying is natural, but overworking isn’t, so if we can get a sense of the shape and scope of our worries it can give us some perspective. Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the centre. Write 2 column headings – things I can change today, things I can’t change today – and see what pops up in your mind. Write them down and then cut the paper in half and tear up the half you can’t change today. Or if you know you’ll worry about what was on that piece of paper, fold it up and put it somewhere where you’ll need it close. Maybe you worry most when you wake in the middle of the night – pop the paper in your bedside drawer so you can calm your mind on the things you can’t change now.
- Schedule time to worry – a study at Penn State University concluded that the test group who had set a time ( and a time limit) for worry had less worry and anxiety than the group that didn’t. Pick a 30 minute slot for worry and see what difference it makes. If you try it for 2 weeks, you should see a difference in your mood, mind, and sleep.
- Unpick the worries – are they realistic? Founded in some truth? Worth worrying about? Can you do something about them? Using problem solving can help you change up how you consider the things that keep you awake at night. If next Christmas’s gas bill looms large in your mind every night, ask yourself how you can make some changes – cut your usage, swop providers, earn more money.
- Personify Worry – remember when we personified our negative self talk – Negative Nancy and Moaning Mavis? Do the same with worry. Worry-wart Wanda needs a talking to some times, so don’t be afraid to challenge her. Ask – is this realistic? Is this helpful?
- Shine a light on them…worry, like shame and mushrooms, grows in dark spaces where there is little light or consideration. Share with us here, call a friend, call a helpline – shine some light on your feelings and things will be less heavy. We are here to listen.
- In his book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie says “one of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon — instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” And to do this, we need to be present. Meditation, mindfulness, and gratitude help with this. So take 10 minutes and close your eyes. Focus on your breath. Imagine beautiful colourful light flooding your body as you inhale. And with each exhale, let the worry and the fear and the anxiety leave you.
And practice gratitude – share 3 things you’re grateful for in this moment. Mine are the radio keeping me company, a hot cup of tea, and still being in my PJs!
Share in the comments what your biggest challenges are – your stealers of joy – and we can help you to do less of them this week.
See you in the comments!