Everyone worries about matters from time to time. Worry can be defined as a succession of anxiety-laden negative thoughts focused towards problem solving (Wells, 1997). For example, ‘What if I haven’t got enough time to prepare for my upcoming driving test’? One ‘what if’ thought can quickly follow another and before long a person can feel pretty stressed.
Worry is fine if it results in effective problem solving. However, for some people worry is not beneficial but instead can help create a great deal anxiety (a negative emotion). Worry is defined as unhealthy for a person when worry is considered to have become persistent and uncontrollable (Wells, 1997). Worry is a key characteristic of the condition termed ‘generalised anxiety’. Generalised anxiety is said to exist for a person if worry and anxiety are bringing much distress for the sufferer (Wells, 1997). People with generalised anxiety are believed to feel anxious or apprehensive a lot of the time, sometimes struggle to concentrate on tasks or struggle to even feel relaxed. Finding ways to manage worry better helps to reduce levels of anxiety for an individual and will likely improve quality of life and sense of well-being.
First of all you need to get in the habit of ‘catching’ yourself beginning to worry. Several strategies can then help manage your worry (Spada, 2010):
(a) Simply writing down the content of your worrying thoughts may help make them feel less overwhelming. Get your worries out of your mind and on paper.
(b) Engage in practical brainstorming for solutions to worry problems.
This involves 3 stages.
- Ask yourself what you can do to improve the problem? Try to generate multiple solutions without judging them too much at this stage as good or bad.
- Evaluate each solution by weighing up the positives and negatives of each.
- Select the most realistic solution and then break down the smaller steps to achieve this solution.
Note: If no solution can be found then your worry is considered outside your control. Hence, worrying about your problem is pointless! Then you can let your worries go.
(c) Worry postponement exercise.
Again this involves 3 stages.
- First of all select a time during the day when you will be able to let yourself worry uninterrupted about your concerns for 30 minutes.
- Over the course of the day take note of the worrying thoughts which come up but do not engage with them at the time.
- Come the allocated ‘worry-time’ you can then revisit your noted worries and actively try to worry about these concerns freely for 30 minutes.
It is likely come the selected worry-time your noted worries will no longer seem worth worrying about.