Anjela N. Minter had always been the anxious type, but after giving birth to her first child, Christopher, her paranoia skyrocketed. “I worried as often as I breathed,” admits Minter, CEO of SAVVY Special Events Marketing Group. Minter says she worried that Christopher would somehow become seriously injured, stricken with a disease, or perhaps kidnapped.
“Worrying is a self-imposed purgatory of negative thinking that causes stress and can diminish your quality of life,” writes Beverly Potter in her book The Worrywart’s Companion: Twenty-one Ways to Soothe Yourself and Worry Smart (Wildcat Canyon Press; $12.95).
Minter says she experienced frequent headaches, irritability, and insomnia. And she acknowledges that her constant fretting frustrated her husband and annoyed family.
“Chronic worrying can become a debilitating way of living in which the worrier is overwhelmed by irrational fear and paranoia,” explains Karen S. Waugh, a licensed, independent social worker who works with adults struggling with anxiety and depression. She says chronic worriers can sometimes think themselves into a mood disorder or other mental illness. Waugh offers the following steps to wane worry:
Assess the impact. Ask yourself, “How does my worrying hinder me and others?” Minter realized how detrimental her worrying was when her son began acting overly cautious performing safe, age-appropriate activities.
Confront your worries. List your worries and concerns. Decide what you can do to alleviate them. Today, Minter reflects on possible solutions but accepts when there are aspects outside of her control.
Talk worry-free. Eliminate the word “worry” from your vocabulary. Minter replaced “worry” with “concern.”
Think you’re worry-free? Think again. Aurelia Williams, a Washington, D.C.-based personal life coach points out four ways we might unknowingly worry and a solution for each:
Expecting the worst: You live in constant fear of something bad happening.
Solution: Create a plan of action to prevent these worst-case scenarios as well as a second plan should they occur.
Procrastinating: You put off completing tasks.
Solution: Break the activity up into smaller, more manageable steps with reasonable deadlines that afford you time to make adjustments.
Thinking in extremes: You overreact to seemingly minor situations.
Solution: Ask yourself, “Do I have evidence to support or refute my thoughts? Am I paying attention to the entire situation or just the negative?”
Complaining: You constantly gripe about your circumstances.
Solution: List your complaints, then brainstorm ways to correct or eliminate the unsatisfactory predicaments.