Everyone has experienced worry at one time or another. We can often shrug off our worries fairly easily. However, some individuals have chronic worry. This distressing condition has a major impact, leaving one to feel like it is nowhere safe to turn. If you find yourself thinking, "every day I worry all day," here is what you need to know and how you can find help.
What Is Worry?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "worry" as "to feel or experience concern or anxiety." But, in reality, we all know what it feels like to worry. Sometimes, our worries are small, like whether the rain might ruin our plans. Other times, our worries are considerable, like whether we will lose a job or if a loved one will overcome an illness.
Worry affects everyone in different ways. A situation that makes one person worry, like taking a test or flying on an airplane, may go completely unnoticed by someone else. Usually, our worries center on things that "might" happen, as opposed to real threats. For example, a person may worry their plane will crash, despite nothing being wrong with the aircraft.
Short-term worry might not cause many external symptoms except for an elevated heart rate or general nervousness. However, chronic worry can produce a range of physical symptoms, including, but not limited to:
Is Worrying Bad?
Worry is a part of our day-to-day lives, and it is not a bad thing. In fact, it is important to try not to think of any of our emotions as "good" or "bad." Some people experience worry more easily or more quickly than others, and it does affect their happiness.
Individuals who find themselves worrying often find it difficult to enjoy their daily lives. Their worries may range from their health, the health of their family members, safety, job security, and much more. They may spend much of their time wondering, "what if?" In many situations, this thought pattern leads 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 concerns 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 individuals who live with excessive worry will develop an anxiety disorder or necessarily meet the qualifications for an anxiety diagnosis. However, they should have their symptoms evaluated by a licensed mental health professional to rule out underlying causes for their feelings.
What You Should Do About Worry
Although worry is a normal response to stressful thoughts or situations, it shouldn't be ignored if it feels overwhelming or impacts your daily life. Individuals who do not seek help for excessive worry often find it difficult to break free of it on their own.
Worrying too much has major health impacts. Not only is it linked to a higher risk for anxiety and depression, but it also increases stress hormones in the body. Studies show that chronically high levels of stress play a role in serious conditions like digestive disorders, suppressed immune system, and heart disease.
Speak With A Licensed Therapist
The first stop for any distressing thoughts is a chat with a licensed counselor. Therapists are experts at helping people address feelings of worry. If you are truly ready to conquer your fears, consider working with an online therapist.
Research shows that online therapy can play a significant role in reducing depression and anxiety symptoms. For example, one study found that online therapy was even more effective than traditional in-person sessions, with 100 percent of participants in the online group showing continued symptom reduction three months after treatment. On the other hand, individuals in the face-to-face group showed “significantly worsened depressive symptoms” over the same period. This study explores how internet-based treatment compares to regular face-to-face therapy.
Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people like you.
Professionals, like those at BetterHelp, offer tools to address constant worry. BetterHelp’s counselors are fully licensed and can teach you calming strategies like deep breathing and grounding techniques, address the cause of your fears, and help you find positive ways to channel stress. And because BetterHelp’s therapists are just a click away, they’re available when you need them most and in the manner you’d prefer to talk, whether it be through video chat, by phone, through text messaging therapy, or via e-mail therapy. 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!”
Talk To Your Doctor
Although worry is typically something addressed by a mental health professional, you should not rule out a trip to your primary physician. Some underlying health disorders have symptoms that cause or mimic nervousness and anxiety, so ruling out more serious medical conditions is important.
If a medical cause is not behind your excess worry, a physician can prescribe medications to help you cope with your symptoms. If a specific health concern lies at the root of your fear, your doctor will also be able to run blood work and other diagnostic tests to rule it out.
When stress and worry hit, one of the best things we can do for our bodies is exercise. During exercise, our body releases endorphins, which promote calm and positivity. Physical activity also helps shift attention from distressing thoughts by forcing you to focus on the task you are doing.
Most people think exercise requires going to the gym or running. However, there are many ways to incorporate movement into your daily routine. Try dancing, gardening, swimming, or doing housework to get your heart pumping. If high impact exercise is not for you, try yoga and walking too.
Meditation has been used for thousands of years to calm the mind and bring clarity to thoughts. Individuals who practice meditation often report better stress management, less worry, and a positive perspective. Unlike exercise, which might be difficult for some depending on age or physical ability, meditation is for anybody. There are many different styles, too, ensuring you can find a practice that best suits you.
Mindfulness meditation, a Buddhist form of meditation, is very popular. Usually done sitting or lying down with eyes closed, the individual focuses solely on their breathing. As soon as they notice distracting thoughts enter their mind, they purposefully quiet the thought and return focus on the breath. Guided Visualization meditation is another great approach to tackle worry. In this tradition, you imagine relaxing situations to generate feelings of positivity. Check out this site to learn more.
Sometimes worries go away simply by getting them out of your mind and putting them someplace else. In these situations, a journal is an ideal resource. Instead of playing with the worry over and over again in your mental space, write out everything about your fear and why it bothers you on the page.
The best thing about telling your journal your worries is there is no judgment. A lot of times, well-meaning friends or family members try to quiet worry with phrases like "there's no reason to worry about that" or "that will never happen."
Unfortunately, this type of advice, even with the best intentions, does not usually get the worry to go away. It is important to learn how to gain perspective on your fears, but this strategy will help you organize your thoughts while you work on confronting them.
Encourage Your Rational Voice
Each of us has a rational voice inside. It is the voice that challenges our worry. If you have ever been in a situation where you are waiting for someone to come over, but the clock keeps ticking, it is our rational voice that says, "they are probably just running late."
Luckily, you can train your rational voice to become louder and more noticeable than the things that bother you. The next time you find yourself thinking about a worst-case scenario, pause and ask yourself the likelihood that your worry is true.
Find as much evidence as you can to challenge your worry until your anxious feelings decrease. Over time, if you do this often, your rational voice will likely get more confident, arrive more quickly, and calm your fears faster. For best results, practice this with a licensed mental health professional, but try it in your own time too.
Another popular strategy to address worry is not to stop it at all. Instead, simply delay it until a later time. This can work in two ways. For the first technique, pause after a worry crosses your mind. 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. Start with an amount of time that is comfortable for you and work your way to an increased delay. The longer you can put off worrying about a situation, the more likely it is the worry will begin to fade on its own.
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.
Focus On What Control You Have
Many times, our worries stem from things we cannot control. After all, we have little say in when we get sick, when we get into an accident, or when something bad happens to someone we love. Instead of focusing on situations where you feel helpless, turn your attention to what you can do to prevent or cope with those situations.
For example, a woman who constantly worries her house will burn down, can take measures to prevent the situation, and develop a plan for if it does occur. She can take safety precautions while cooking or working with flammables, invest in a fire extinguisher, test her fire alarms on a regular schedule, and develop a detailed fire evacuation plan. By doing this, her focus shifts from the fear of the fire to the idea that she is doing everything she can to minimize the risk and get out safely.
Worry affects everyone at some point or another. As difficult as chronic worry is, some techniques help you overcome it. Anytime you experience distressing thought patterns or behaviors, it is important to speak with a licensed mental health professional. They can help you work through these and other effective strategies to manage your thoughts.