Are You a World-Class Worrier?
Have you ever found yourself laying in bed and worrying: “Did I set my alarm? What all do I need to get done tomorrow? Agh, I forgot I have a meeting! I hope my boss won’t say anything about that project. How will I have time to stop by the grocery store and get to the gym!? Maybe I should cut the gym out?”
Well you get the picture, the worries, to-do lists, and questions can go on and on. If this scenario sounds familiar to you, you may be a pro-worrier. You may notice worrying is impacting your relationships and your overall happiness. So, put your to-do lists aside and take a deep breath! We’re going to talk about
dealing with worry and stress.
Let's start with a little background about why stress can have such a big impact. Stress is a “normal,” biological, bodily response. It helps to trigger our “fight or flight” response, which protects us in potentially dangerous situations. This is great! It means your body is functioning effectively! What’s not great is when we experience this response over an extended period of time. This can negatively impact our nervous and immune systems.
When we practice strategies to reduce our stress and worry levels, it can also have a positive impact on how our bodies are functioning from a physiological perspective, improving overall wellness. Now let’s get to the good stuff. I'm reaching into my cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques tool bag to bring you Seven Skills for Stress. I use these with my therapy and life coaching clients all the time, and I know they work. Try using these to help mitigate some of that worry!
Seven Skills to Manage Stress
- Prioritize:Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done and worrying about how you will accomplish all of it? Taking a look at what needs to get done versus what we would like to get done can be helpful. For example, picking your kids up from school likely needs to get done, but do you NEED to vacuum the floors, or can it wait?
- Delegate:You might be thinking, “I’m uncomfortable with asking for help.” However, try to remember you are one part of a greater system, and in order for that system to run smoothly, all pieces need to be up and running. You can prioritize high-stress or high-need tasks and delegate! If they are necessary tasks of daily living for your household, you can ask for some support. This can be talking to a friend or asking your partner to make dinner. Remember, bids for attention connect!
- “This or That” Thinking: Often worry can be rooted in dichotomous thinking (sometimes called “black and white” thinking). This means we may say to ourselves, “This has to happen, or that will happen.” When we think in this way we eliminate the opportunity for flexibility. You essentially have sent the message to your body, if this does not get done now, there is danger! Take a moment and ask yourself is there another option? What’s the middle ground? [Learn more about helpful vs. unhelpful thinking styles in our online Happiness Class.]
- What’s the Worst that Could Happen?: Let’s face it- it can be incredibly easy to catastrophize. How many of us play out “the worst case scenario,” just so we’re prepared…”just in case.” Take a moment and first practice noticing when you’re jumping to the worst-case scenario, then ask yourself, “Is this really a likely outcome?” Are there other more positive outcomes that are equally as likely?
- What’s the Evidence?: Ask yourself is there any past evidence to support that I cannot handle or manage the tasks at hand? Chances are, there will not be much evidence to support that in times of intense worry you won’t be able to formulate a plan of action. Remember: You got this!
- Explore Activities That Work For You: Oftentimes when you’re stressed, the activities that give you a sense of relaxation fall to the wayside. Try to remember that taking care of you allows you to be present for others in your life. Try integrating activities into your daily schedule that give you some relief; this could range from taking five minutes to just breathe to going for a run outside.
- What Can I Control?: Oftentimes we worry about things we do not have control over. Take the pressure off of yourself to control the uncontrollable! All you can control is yourself. When you notice your thoughts pushing you to analyze all of the external circumstances, bring yourself back to the simple (or not so simple) question of “What is within my control?”
Managing worry and stress is all about finding what works for you! Everyone experiences and deals with stress differently. Remember we can’t control that stress is a biological response but you do have control over how you’d like to manage it. If you've been struggling with stress and worry lately, and would like some personal support in managing it just get in touch with me: I'm always here to talk.
All the best,
Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFTC