Ways to Deal with Chronic Worrying
Everybody worries sometimes. Worry is a natural, cognitive warning process. When a perceived danger is realistic (a lump in your breast), and worry prompts you to take action (call the doctor!), worry is not only natural, it's productive – even lifesaving. This is probably why our brains have a "worry circuit." But, for some of us, the circuit never shuts off.
Does Your "Worry Circuit" Shut Off? Learn How to Tell
- Do you worry about events that are unlikely to happen?
- Do you exaggerate possible negative consequences?
- Do you equate worrying with caring?
- Can't remember a time you weren't worried?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you're likely a chronic worrier. For you and many others, worry is not a coping mechanism, but it's destructive.
The Problem with Chronic Worrying
The repercussions of chronic worry are unpleasant, and even unhealthy:
- Chronic worriers can suffer from headaches, digestive problems, insomnia, and depression.
- Some doctors believe chronic worry and its accompanying stress decrease resistance to infections and increase susceptibility to immune disorders, like some cancers.
- Constant worry certainly reduces the worrier's quality of life, making it impossible to enjoy each day.
Why do I Worry so Much?
- Some people are predisposed to worrying.
- Perfectionists, for example, expect the impossible of themselves and then worry that they can't achieve their expectations.
- People who feel vulnerable or insecure often worry because they don't feel empowered to do anything else.
- If a parent or other close adult models chronic worry, a child may emulate the behavior into adulthood, without learning more productive ways to cope.
- A dreaded situation that turns out all right may reinforce worrying behavior. Worry becomes the lucky charm that guarantees a good outcome.
- A candidate for chronic worry is someone who wants an event, or life, to turn out in a very specific way.
The more limits you place on what will make you happy, the bigger the chance you'll be disappointed, which is a perfect setup for worry.
- Chronic worry is a habit. Once you've begun relying on worry to get you through difficult situations, it becomes automatic, like driving a car along a familiar route. You may be so comfortable with the discomfort of worry that you forget what it feels like to be carefree!
5 Ways to Deal with Chronic Worrying
The good news is, because chronic worry is a habit, you can unlearn it and replace it with more helpful and healthful habits. Here are some suggestions:
- Listen to and change your "self-talk." Worriers bombard themselves with negative thoughts. Be conscious of your self-talk. When it's negative, consciously say, "Stop!" Then think, or, better yet, do something positive.
- Envision positive, realistic outcomes. Imagery is as powerful as self-talk.
- Put your worries in perspective. Ask yourself, "Will it matter in a year?"
- Remind yourself that there is no single right outcome. The adage, "When one door closes, another opens" is a worthwhile philosophy for chasing away unnecessary worries.
- Talk to a counselor. Don't let worries get in the way of your health, happiness and success.
Last Updated: September 03, 2013