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The Psychologist's Guide for Managing Worry

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

Worry is a form of thinking about future events in a way that leaves you feeling anxious or apprehensive. It's normal to feel worried or anxious about certain situations, but when worry becomes excessive and uncontrollable (a primary symptom of generalized anxiety disorder), it can negatively impact your mental health and overall well-being. As a psychologist, I've seen firsthand the effects that chronic worry can have on people, and I'm here to share some expert strategies for managing worry more effectively.

1. Identify Your Triggers:

Worry often stems from specific triggers. Identifying them can help you anticipate and manage your worry more effectively. Start by reflecting on situations or events that are causing you to worry. Write them down and analyze any patterns that may emerge. Awareness is the first step to gaining control over your worry.

2. Practice Mindfulness:

Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help you stay present and focused on the here and now, instead of worrying about the future. Practice mindfulness by paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations without judgment. You can do this through meditation, deep breathing, or simply noticing your surroundings using your five natural senses. The more you practice mindfulness, the easier it will become to let go of worrisome thoughts.

3. Cognitive Restructuring:

Our thoughts have a significant impact on how we feel. Cognitive restructuring is a technique that involves identifying and challenging irrational or unhelpful thoughts. When you notice yourself worrying, stop and ask yourself if your thoughts are based on facts or assumptions. Challenge your thoughts by considering alternative explanations and outcomes. This process can help you develop a more balanced perspective.

4. Set Aside Worry Time:

Designating a specific time each day for worrying can help prevent worry from consuming your entire day. Schedule 15-30 minutes of "worry time" and stick to it. During this time, allow yourself to worry freely about any concerns you may have. Once the time is up, refocus your attention on other tasks or activities. You may find that your worries feel more manageable when they're contained within a specific timeframe.

5. Accept your limitations:

You may need to accept uncertainty, imperfection, the possibility of a bad outcome, and lack of some control. Practice letting go. Accept that you will never have certainty, never have complete control, and never be perfect. And that's OK. As much as you may want it, you don't actually need certainty or complete control.

6. Focus on what you can control:

For example, you can't control how people will respond to your talk next week. But you can control if you work on something now, or take your dog for a walk, or listen to some music, or read an article, or talk to someone you care about.

7. Cultivate Gratitude:

Gratitude is a powerful antidote to worry. By focusing on what you're thankful for, you can shift your perspective away from worry and towards appreciation. Keep a gratitude journal, and each day, write down three things you're grateful for. Make it a habit to remind yourself of these things whenever you begin to feel worried.

8. Seek Social Support:

Talking to friends, family members, or a mental health professional can help you gain new insights into your worries and receive valuable support. Sometimes, just discussing your concerns with someone else can help alleviate your worry and provide you with new coping strategies.

9. Engage in Physical Activity:

Regular physical activity can help reduce worry by releasing endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. Choose an activity that you enjoy, such as walking, jogging, swimming, or yoga, and aim to engage in it for at least 30 minutes a day.

Managing worry is a lifelong skill that takes practice and patience. In time, you can gain control over your worry and improve your mental well-being. But if your worry feels overwhelming or unmanageable, don't hesitate to seek professional help from a psychologist or therapist.

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