The Well

Tag: Fear

Lessening the Worry

by Andrew Shaw on Oct.04, 2009, under Archives

Times are tough right now.  With the state of the world, the economy, the job market, it’s hard not to feel anxious.  In my psychotherapy practice, nearly every one of my clients have expressed concern or reported an increase in anxiety, worry and fear.  If you’re struggling financially, lost your job, facing foreclosure, trying to make ends meet, or simply exposed to an uncertain future, you most likely are feeling overwhelmed and scared.  But, the fear doesn’t have to take over.  There are ways to keep it in check and lessen the worrying.

Practice Acceptance- Life is full of ups and downs, cycles of good and bad.  Troubles are inevitable.  We tend to forget this, and instead think that life is supposed to be perfect all the time.  And then, we’re upset, anxious and unhappy if it isn’t.  When you remind yourself that life has its ups and downs, you’ll worry less and be better able to tolerate the downs.  Accepting this process, accepting what is, can be incredibly helpful.

Turn Down the Negative, Turn Up the Positive- Staying informed is important.  But with the way the news is today, it can quickly overwhelm you.  Try taking a news holiday; don’t watch the news for awhile, or at least try not to obsess over the bad news reports.  Life will be happier and less worrisome if you focus on uplifting rather than depressing things.  It’s also good to know that we do have some control over our sense of well-being.  It depends on our mindset, intention, and daily action.  Even something as small and basic as smiling can lift our spirits.  Staying positive and keeping an optimistic attitude is extremely important.  Rather than worrying about losing something you have or focusing on what you lack, try paying more attention to what you do have now.  Researchers have found that being thankful and cultivating gratitude makes people happier.  Try keeping a gratitude journal, writing down all the things you feel grateful for.  Or at the end of your day, write down three good things that happened that day.

Choose Not to Worry and Dwell- If we do have some control over the amount of our worrying, then we can consciously choose whether to worry or not.  Of course it’s good to be prepared, to have a plan for the “what if…” But continuing to worry on, to dwell, or think about an event over and over, is unhelpful and can keep us stuck.  When you notice that you’re ruminating, or dwelling on something, see if you can distract yourself by bringing your full attention to other things or activities.  Read a book, watch a light-hearted movie, go out with a friend, exercise.  You can also make a worry appointment, a short set time during your day when you’re allowed to do all your worrying.  If you find yourself worrying at other times during the day, put it on hold and save it for your set aside worry time. 

Stay Connected- When things go bad, we have a tendency to isolate, to feel singled out and helpless.  Sometimes we hide and avoid interacting with the rest of the world.  But being alone and isolated from others actually increases our sense of alienation, sadness, hopelessness and fear.  Reaching out to friends or family, or relying on a supportive community during difficult times is a powerful antidote.  By engaging with others, you can find support and compassion, ideas and solutions.

Maintain Perspective- Even during hard times, we can always shift our perspective.  We can remind ourselves that there are others who are going through similar challenges, and many more who are bearing heavier loads.  (Read 9-27-09 Post, Finding Perspective).  We can also remember that during other times in history, like the Great Depression, things were even worse.  And despite the tremendous hardships of that day, people were able to persevere; to fall in love, to laugh and smile, to raise their children, to grow closer with family, to strengthen their hope and faith, and even amidst the darkest hours, to find moments of light and joy.

As always, if you have questions or comments, please post…

Be Well

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