Everybody worries: money; the children; Brexit – worrying is something we all do when life feels uncertain. Our thoughts go round in circles, and we ask a stream of ‘what if’ questions that do not ever seem to have answers.
But what happens when we start to worry about how much we are worrying – when the worrying itself starts to become part of the problem? We can get tired, and tense. Headaches, IBS, and other aches and pains become part of our life. It becomes hard to problem solve as we cannot be sure we are working out the right answers, and the problems then pile up. Eventually, we end up exhausted and demoralised, and can even become depressed.
The good news is, whether we ‘have always been a worrier’ or whether we started worrying more recently, we do not have to stay stuck here. Cognitive Behavioural Techniques such as ‘worry time’ (where we learn to spend less time each day worrying) and ‘problem solving’ (where we learn how to find good solutions to issues) can be helpful in changing our worrying habits. We can free up time and focus again on the things that are important to us.
Why not start with this technique: The Worry Tree. First, notice when you are worrying. Second, ask yourself what you are worrying about – writing it down often helps. Third, ask yourself if you can do anything about the worry.
If you can do anything about the worry then this is a practical problem, and it’s worth thinking about. Make an action plan and carry it out. This may mean putting aside a time later to solve your problem if you can’t do it right now.
If you can’t do anything about the worry this means it is a hypothetical worry. Thinking about hypothetical worries wastes our time and increases our anxiety. These are the worries to put aside by focusing back on what we would rather be doing in that moment – whether that is our job, our family, a hobby, or even enjoying a cup of tea.
Of course, learning how to refocus from our hypothetical worries and how to problem solve can be a challenge in themselves! So if you would like more support, check out the Bristol Wellbeing College or Bristol Wellbeing Therapies for their courses on managing worry.