How to cope with Worry
Worrying is normal, but sometimes it can become overwhelming. It can be neverending and exhausting. There are many ways we can learn to manage worries so they don't negatively impact our wellbeing.
As someone who seems to have endless worries, a CBT technique called the Worry Tree has come in handy more often than not.
Once you know how it works, the worry tree is a practical strategy that we can use any time, any place.
It brings back some form of control when it feels like we have none.
Let me take you through the steps to disengage from worry:
This may sound obvious but you'd be surprised how often we get so tangled up in our own heads that we don't even notice we're anxious and worried. Start seeing if you can recognise when you're caught up in a cycle of worry.
So, you've recognised that you are worried. Now you need to describe the worry, what are you worrying about in this moment? It can be quite difficult to pin point what you're worried about, so don't beat yourself up if this is difficult. It's not uncommon to have lots of worries going on at once.
See if you're able to pull out individual worries from the confusing bundle of them, maybe writing them down so you don't forget.
3) Ask yourself - Can I do anything about this right now?
This is where we can start to categorise our worries. Before we can effectively choose what worry disengagement strategies may be helpful for us, we need to know what kind of worries we experience. This step allows you to do just that.
If the answer to the above question is yes, you have identified a practical worry. If the answer is no, you have identified a hypothetical worry. Understanding the difference between these two is crucial in deciding what we do next. So what do these types of worries mean?
Practical worry: A worry that you have control over, you are able to use problem-solving skills to move on from this worry. You can take action now or later.
Hypothetical worry: A worry that you have no control over because they are uncertain. These tend to be 'what if?' worries that we can't take action on.
They usually spiral out of control and feel like the end of the world, which is incredibly anxiety provoking when we can't solve it. An example might be, what if the world ends tomorrow? Many of us already know that dwelling on uncertainties don't do us any good right now, yet they can completely rule our lives.
4) PROBLEM SOLVING & LETTING GO
How we categorised our worry (either hypothetical or practical) determines how we deal with it. If our worry is practical, the next step is to decide whether or not we can do something about this now, or later. If you can deal with it now, decide on a course of action, act, and then work on letting the worry go (more on this later).
If you have a practical problem that you can't solve right now, decide what, when and where you are going to solve it. You now have it scheduled in and you know you have made plans to deal with it at an appropriate time.
What about hypothetical worries?
If you have noticed that you can't actually do anything about your worry, here is where the only thing we can do is let it go. But if it was that easy, you would have already right? Of course, it is not easy to just let worries go, but there are techniques out there that are useful in allowing us to move forward.
The worry tree in itself can be powerful enough to lessen anxiety. I put together a visual version here:
For some, it is enough to categorise their worries as practical or hypothetical by imagining the worry tree in their minds. Being able to give it a label can be sufficient. But for many others, some worries insist on holding onto us even after we have identified that we can't do anything about them.
This is where worry disengagement techniques are needed. There are many MANY techniques out there, and different techniques work for different people.
It takes time and perserverance to find what techniques are effective for you to allow yourself to let worries go. I have provided just five of them below, will you give some of them a try?