Am I Anxious … Or Do I Just Worry A Lot?

by Sally R. Connolly, LMFT and John E. Turner, LMFT

Sandy worries about her marriage and that her husband may find someone else more interesting or attractive, even though there is absolutely no reason to think that. Tina worries about her daughter and all of the possible problems that she might, and many that she might never, experience. John constantly expects to be fired by his boss.

Anxiety Interferes In People's Lives

While these might be normal concerns for some people, for Sandy, Tina and John they are worries that often keep them awake at night or cloud their thinking during the day.

Anxiety, in its simplest form, is useful because it helps people prepare for real or imagined fears, losses or difficult times ahead. When it becomes overwhelming, then it is time to think about doing something about it. Consider the possibility of talking with your doctor, especially if you have any physiological symptoms.

Medication may be the first thing that many people think about; however, if the anxiety is not crippling (losing work, school or a lot of sleep) then learning some anxiety management techniques might make a big difference and provide the opportunity to manage the worry on your own.

Here are some suggestions for things that you can try yourself.

  • Educate yourself about anxiety. There are quite a few good websites that have a lot of good information about anxiety, is one. Recognizing that some of what you experience is normal is a step towards finding ways to caring for yourself.
  • Put your fears down on paper and identify any that are irrational. Write replacement thoughts that are more realistic. Any time that you notice the irrational thought, change it to a more realistic one.
  • Shift your thinking from your body and your worry to other things. Take a walk, read a book, watch a movie, call a friend.

  • Slow down on any caffeine through coffee, tea, chocolate, etc. These substances increase your heart rate and affect ability to remain calm.
  • Find a way to incorporate 30 minutes of aerobic exercise into your daily routine 5-6 days a week. Research has shown many psychological benefits to raising and maintaining an elevated heart rate.
  • Practice deep breathing. Take slow, deep breaths and slowly let them out. Notice the relaxation in your body as you do so.
  • Develop some coping thoughts that you can use when these thoughts intrude into your mind like “I have made it through tough times before and I can make it through this.”
  • Stay in the present as much as possible. Pay attention to what you are seeing, hearing and smelling in the present.
  • Write in your Gratitude Journal every day. Put down three things that you like and really appreciate about your life just that day … and what you did to make a difference.
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