Unless you live on a secluded, tropical island (and perhaps even then…) you worry about lots of things.
Generally speaking, there is so much going on these days – sometimes more than we feel we can handle – that it seems impossible not to stress about most (or all) of our responsibilities and roles.
Unfortunately, a little worry often leads to a lot of worry, essentially creating an emotional domino effect that can leave even the most confident of us feeling tense and inadequate.
Dr. Noel Goldberg, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and author of The ABC's of Mental Health: Ten Chapters to Healing, recommends a relatively simple test we can conduct on ourselves to determine if the amount of worry we experience is normal (healthy) or excessive (unhealthy).
“To determine if you are worrying too much, try this basic test is to see if the worry disrupts parts of your life,” he suggests.
“For instance, if you can't sleep because you are worrying, then that may constitute a bigger problem. If your worrying is driving your partner nuts, it is disrupting your life. If you are unable to go out because of your worries that may mean you are struggling with an undiagnosed anxiety problem. Seeking out a professional to assess your situation may be beneficial. Again, if your worries cause you to have issues in relationships, job or social functions, it may be deemed excessive.”
Although worry is a natural part of life and an emotion we experience to prompt action and change in ourselves, it can certainly be overwhelming at times and cause inaction or fear of action.
Goldberg recommends that the management of undue stress begin with taking small steps to feel more in-control of the factors causing the stress.
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“Learn what you can and can't control and take action on the things you are in control of, while letting go of the things you are not in control of,” he recommends. Goldberg goes on to suggest taking the process of establishing control to the next level and putting the things that are worrisome down, on paper. “You can also organize or list your worries to help you stop thinking about them constantly then schedule a time to review the list, and act on the areas you can change or work on. You can also explore your worries to find out if they are rational. For example, do you have to check the stove thirty, forty, fifty times before you leave your home? Is this excessive? If so, and you feel your worrying is more obsessive or compulsive, professional help may be warranted.”
Stressors that prompt worry are entirely unique to the person experiencing the anxiety. Because these prompts are largely subjective, Goldberg emphasizes the importance of one-on-one counseling to treat potential and reoccurring anxiety issues.
“The best treatment for anxiety by most research studies is a combination of medication and therapy. As a clinical psychologist, I would recommend psychotherapy to address either the root cause or teach you other ways to cope with your anxiety.
Physical exercise can also help along with meditation, where one can gain control of their breathing which can lead to relaxation or not focusing on the other areas (that one tends to worry about). Again, seeing a professional (MD, psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker) who can assess your individual situation and provide options or solutions is ideal.”
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Danielle Miller is a freelance writer and editor from the Boston area. She is a project manager and has written articles on health and relationship-related topics for various outlets for several years. She is also a book editor, working mainly on books relating to science, technology, and user experience.