Worry is a lasting preoccupation with past or future bad events. Everyone worries from time to time. When you are confronted with problems, your mind goes into action, looking for a way to figure out what to do. Most people will worry if an unpleasant event has just happened and it involves something or someone close or dear to them.

If you just had your GSM phone stolen from you, or you just ended a heated argument with your spouse, or you just got fired, these events will naturally engage your mind as you seek ways to cope with the feelings that are aroused. Similarly, you would worry if you feel something untoward was going to happen to you. An example is if a sudden large expense was to come up or you find yourself needing to make a trip in a foul weather. Now, since worry could pass for a normal activity of the mind, when is worry too much? There may be no absolute answer to this question, but guidelines may be offered.

Thinking about a past bad event shortly after it occurred may be normal. However, constantly thinking about it long afterwards will not be good. The emphasis here is “constantly.” If there is no way to influence the past, it is high time to let go of it and carry on with your life. Worry can also be “worrisome” when your thinking begins to begins to cause great emotional stress, interfering with your daily activities. How do you reduce worrying? There are skills that can be acquired to help controlling worrying. Worry is a habit developed over a long period of practice, reducing the habit, therefore, will require a frequent practice of other courses of action that are incompatible with worry. This is an attempt to neutralize the habit of worrying. It may be important to mention here that what may work for one may not necessarily work for another. Because each person is unique, the way in which he or she worries is also going to be unique. Effective coping skills, therefore, may vary from person to person. What may be effective for one may not be effective for another. After using a certain skill conscientiously for weeks and you do not notice a decline in your worrying, it is sensible to shift to another method. We shall look at some of the skills available to reduce worry:

  • How often and how long do you worry? Keeping a worry diary would be helpful here. You obtain a notebook and pen and try to keep track of how often you worry in a day and how long an episode of worry lasts. This is helpful in monitoring your worry deduction methods and assessing how well you are progressing in your worry reduction programme.
  • Recognize your worry and catch it early. Early awareness of your worrying and nipping it in the bud is quite helpful. The longer an episode of worrying lasts, the more the habit is strengthened. However if the worrying is caught early, you can switch it off before it becomes an obsession. It is a good sign when you get to catching the worry early. It means you are approaching the level of being able to do something effectively about your worrying.
  • Choose a specific place and time to worry. It should be the same place and time each day. The place of worry should be carefully chosen because wherever it will be, will eventually become associated with worry. You don’t want to choose a place you visit regularly like the living room, bedroom, dining, etc. Preferably you should create a unique place by placing a chair every time it is your worry period in the corner of your home. You may wish to avoid a time close to your bedtime. You don’t want to associate bedtime with worry time.
  • Defer worries to the worry time. It is presumed that you have been observing your worries and have begun to catch them early. If the worries come to your mind in the course of the day, it should be postponed to the worry period. As soon as you become aware of them, you can remind yourself of the following points:
    • You probably stand a better chance of proffering better solutions when you spend the time to worry about the issue during your worry period.
    • There are probably more important things requiring your attention at the present moment, more pleasant things. Resolve at such times to push the thoughts away. Learn to focus on the immediate environment and issues of the moment. Make the best of the present moment.
  • Worry period should be focused on problem-solving. This period should not be focused on merely generating tension and anxiety, but it should be made productive by making it a period of resolving issues. You should ask yourself questions such as: “Can I do anything about this matter at hand?” There is no point expending your emotions on things you cannot change. Other questions you may want to ask are: “Are there information you can acquire that can give you a better estimate of the chances of such an event happening?” Remember many worries are unreal and are probably events that may never happen anyhow. You may also need to find out whether you have all the information you need to resolve the situation at hand.
  • Cognitive Restructuring – This essentially implies changing your pattern of thinking. This requires taking your thoughts apart and subjecting them to logical evidence based analysis. At the end of the gruelling session, you would have expunged the anxiety and fear from your thoughts. And your thoughts would be better programmed and would be devoid of the usual anxiety and fears. In essence, the worry period provides a way of postponing worrisome thinking from other times; do what problem-solving you can; create ways of talking to yourself or seeing things that are more adaptive and reasonable and using the newly created thoughts whenever you catch yourself worrying.
  • Because worry could accompany other medical conditions such as chronic anxiety and depression, it may be necessary to seek professional help, which is seeing a psychiatrist, a stress consultant or a qualified general medical practitioner.
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