Given the current state of the nation, worry has become a national pastime. Emotional stress often accompanies physical symptoms treated by health professionals.
This article can be used as a resource for worried patients and may help prevent more serious anxiety.

Help for the Worried

Worry is to anxiety what food is to a puppy; fuel. Cope with worry before it becomes anxiety driven by the fight or flight response. By coping, you can worry without triggering the flight or fight response. Often worry gives us a false sense of control. Being aware of our need to control the what-ifs is the first step to real control of our response to the unknowns life brings. So here are suggestions for mastering worry by learning to respond rather than react.

Breathe. Worry sets the fight or flight response into action. The first muscle to respond is the diaphragm. Slow deep breathing that makes your belly rise signals your brain to turn off the fight or flight response and brings you into your body and the present moment so you can think through whatever real problems present themselves.

Exercise. Exercise is calming. Exercise will regulate your breathing and heart rate and release calming endorphins. Additionally, exercise, like a walk or bike ride, can shift your focus to your surroundings and provide perspective.

Get Enough Sleep. Negative emotions like fear and worry thrive when you’re sleep deprived and keep the cycle of worry and sleep deprivation going. Progressive muscle relaxation or prayer for others, or both, can replace worry during the night. You decide what you are going to focus on. Give yourself enough hours in bed to get adequate rest. Most people need an average of 8 hours of sleep for optimal brain function.

Take Time to Worry. Chose a 10 or 15 time slot during the day, but not at bedtime, just for worry. This helps you realize worry is a choice and you can decide what to do with your time. When a worrisome thought comes into your mind tell yourself you’ll give it attention during Worry Time. Then release it and focus on the present. When Worry Time arrives, write down your worries. Sometimes the worry has resolved itself by the time you sit down to deal with it.

Find the Root. As you face your worries during Worry Time and write them down you will begin to see a pattern or theme to your worries. These are core issues that you can address with problem solving skills. This is good information and gives you something to work with.

Create a Plan. For each worry devise an action plan. Decide what you can do about it and what you can’t. Use the Serenity Prayer here and let go of or accept what you can’t change. It helps to write down what you would do if the worst happened and what you would do if the most likely case scenario occurs. That way when the worry thought visits you can tell yourself you already have a plan if that thing happens so you don’t need to spend more time thinking about it. If a new step in the action plan presents itself, write it down. Now deliberately come back to the present and choose your focus.

Get Help. If you’ve tried the worry control tips unsuccessfully or your worry escalates to the point that it’s interfering with your personal or professional life, consider getting professional help. You may be experiencing anxiety, a more debilitating condition that worry. If you suspect there’s a physical cause for anxiety see you doctor. A professional counselor can help you cope with anxiety and break the worry habit with tried and tested techniques and support.

Anxiety becomes a disorder when the symptoms become chronic and interfere with our daily lives and our ability to function. People suffering from chronic anxiety often report the following symptoms:

• Muscle tension
• Physical weakness
• Poor memory
• Sweaty hands
• Fear or confusion
• Inability to relax
• Constant worry
• Shortness of breath
• Palpitations
• Upset stomach
• Poor concentration

These symptoms are severe and upsetting enough to make individuals feel extremely uncomfortable, out of control and helpless.

“Anxiety often manifests as a physical

symptom like pain, fatigue, or inability

to sleep, so it’s not surprising that one

out of five patients who come to a

doctor’s office with a physical

complaint have anxiety.”

Kurt Kroenke, M.D.