Almost everyone has experienced worry at one time or another. We may worry about missing our train, messing up a big presentation, or having an awkward first date. With occasional worry, we can often shrug off these thoughts or allow them to pass on their own. At their worst they may result in a bad day. However, some individuals experience worry more persistently, which can be distressing and disruptive. This constant worry can leave one feeling frustrated. If you find yourself thinking, "I worry all day, every day," read on to learn what you can do and how you can find help.
What Is Worry?
Worry can be defined as a feeling of concern, nervousness, or angst about something. Sometimes, our worries are small, like whether the rain might ruin our future plans or if our picky aunt and uncle will like the dish we made for Thanksgiving.. Other times, our worries are more considerable, like whether we will lose a job or if a loved one will overcome an illness.
Worry can affect everyone in different ways, and different people may experience different levels of worry over different things. A situation that makes one person worry, like taking a test or flying on an airplane, may go largely unnoticed by someone else.
Worrying Vs. Anxiety
Experiencing occasional worry tends to be a common part of our day-to-day lives, and it is often not a cause for concern. However, individuals who experience worry excessively and persistently may find that it becomes disruptive to their daily lives.
Their worries may include their health, the health of their family, social interactions, safety, job safety, and much more. They may spend much of their time wondering, "What if…?" In some situations, this thought pattern can lead them to avoid places or situations where they perceive risk, or they may resort to certain behaviors or thought processes that make them feel safe.
One of the most serious versions of excessive worry is anxiety. Many people diagnosed with anxiety disorders report excessive worry as one of their most distressing symptoms. Anxiety disorders can manifest in different forms, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias.
This is not to say that all individuals who experience excessive worry will develop an anxiety disorder or necessarily meet the qualifications for an anxiety diagnosis. However, if excessive worry is becoming disruptive, it may be time to consult with a doctor or mental health professional.
What You Can Do About Worry
While worry is often something addressed by a mental health professional, it can also be useful to visit your primary care physician. Some underlying health disorders have symptoms that cause or mimic nervousness and anxiety, so ruling out other medical conditions may be important.
If a medical cause is not behind your excess worry, a physician may refer you to a therapist, and in some cases, they may prescribe medications to help you cope with your symptoms.
While worry can be a natural response to stressful thoughts or situations, if it feels overwhelming or impacts your daily life, it may be helpful to incorporate a few strategies to address and reduce worry. Below are a few strategies to consider:
When stress and worry hit, often one of the best things we can do for our bodies is exercise. During exercise, our bodies release endorphins, which can promote calm and positivity. Physical activity can also help shift attention from distressing thoughts by forcing you to focus on the task you are doing.
Many people think exercise requires going to the gym or running. However, there are many ways to incorporate movement into your daily routine. You might try participating in guided dance workouts, gardening, swimming, or even doing housework to get your heart pumping. If high-impact exercise is not for you, you might try yoga and walking.
Meditation can be an effective way to calm the mind and bring clarity to thoughts. Individuals who practice meditation often report better stress management, less worry, and a positive perspective. Meditation can be done in as little or as much time as you want. There are many different styles, too, so you can try several until you find a practice that best suits you.
Mindfulness meditation is one very popular form. Usually done sitting or lying down with eyes closed, this type of meditation often involves focusing solely on your breathing. When you notice thoughts enter your mind, you can watch them come and go without judgment and then return to focusing on the breath. Guided visualization meditation can be another effective approach to tackle worry. With this meditation type, you can imagine relaxing situations to generate feelings of positivity.
Sometimes, you might get worries to dissipate simply by getting them out of your mind and putting them someplace else. In these situations, a journal can be an excellent resource. Instead of grappling with the worry over and over again in your mind, you can write out everything about your concerns and why they bother you. Putting your thoughts down on paper may help you to release some of the swirling worry and see things from a new perspective.
A helpful aspect of telling your journal your worries is there is no outside judgment, as you express your worries you can keep your journaled thoughts completely to yourself. That said, this practice may not always be enough to reduce worry on its own, as it may be necessary to talk to someone about your concerns at times. However, this strategy may help you organize your thoughts while you work on confronting them.
Encourage Your Rational Voice
When worry arises, you can also try challenging that worry using your rational voice. If you have ever been in a situation where you are waiting to meet someone but they don’t show up on time, your worry might try to tell you that something terrible happened. On the other hand, your rational voice might say, "They are probably just running late."
You can work on making your rational voice louder and more noticeable than the things that bother you. The next time you find yourself thinking about a worst-case scenario, you can pause and ask yourself the likelihood that your worry is true. Tell yourself, “Everyday I worry, but these worries don’t actually come to fruition.” You might try to find as much evidence as you can to challenge your worry until your worried feelings decrease.
Over time, if you do this often, your rational voice may get more confident, arrive more quickly, and calm your fears faster. For best results, you might practice this with a licensed mental health professional, but you can also try it in your own time too.
Another strategy to address worry is not to stop it, but rather to simply face it at a later time. This can work in two ways. For the first technique, you might pause after a worry crosses your mind and tell yourself you will not worry about the situation for one, five, or 10 more minutes. If the thought still concerns you at that time, you can then turn your attention to it.
You might start with an amount of time that is comfortable for you and work your way to an increased delay. As you delay the worry, you may find that it begins to fade.
Others find a second strategy more helpful. Instead of focusing on worries all throughout the day, they dedicate a specific time and place for it. They may set aside some time each day or each week as "worry time” to sit with their thoughts. This approach allows them to address their fears and spend time thinking about them in a safe space without allowing their worries to disrupt their days or weeks at inopportune times.
Speak With A Licensed Therapist
Another strategy for addressing distressing thoughts is connecting with a licensed therapist. Therapists are trained in helping people address difficult feelings, such as worry and fear. If you experience worry consistently, you may have certain concerns that make it feel difficult or intimidating to seek help in person, but with online therapy, you can meet with a therapist from home or wherever you feel most comfortable. With BetterHelp, you can connect with a licensed therapist via audio, video chat, or in-app messaging.
Consider these reviews of BetterHelp counselors helping people in similar situations.
“This is my second time back with BetterHelp, and I chose to go back with Pam. Simply put, Pam grounds me back into reality. I struggle with mild depression, and I tend to overthink and worry a lot, Pam grounds me and gives me tools to navigate my day to day, and I always feel that she truly cares. Also, Pam typically gets back to me quickly, which is also really helpful for ‘crisis’ situations. I highly recommend Pam.”
“Supportive, patient, and with a worldview that includes and appreciates all. I've really felt myself become able to live more presently, and trustful of the world around me since I've begun counseling with Darren. Darren, if you see this, thank you for reminding me to not worry too much!”
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