4 Steps to Effectively Manage Worry and Anxiety

merry-go-round

Worry is like being on a spinning ride minus the thrill of excitement. Instead worry is  experiencing spinning thoughts filled with what-ifs. One worry leads to another worry with no clear direction of how to stop the dizzying spin.

Worry is not only spinning in circles, but it is also a narrow, negative assumption of future problems. When we worry, we assume we can’t handle something that hasn’t happened yet. Worry makes it hard to enjoy the moment or embrace the way it is.

“Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere.” ~ Glenn Turner

Are you tired of your worry stopping you in your tracks? When you believe your worry is true, you’ll react as if you or someone you care about is  threatened. Humans are the only creatures who can turn their stress response (fight or flight) on by imagining threatening situations in their mind.

4 Steps to Manage Worry & Anxiety:

It’s time to take your mind back. Step-by-step, learn how to manage your anxiety and worry by sorting out your automatic reactions to perceived threats.

Step 1. Slow Down and Reflect: Since most reactions are outside of our awareness, first slow down and reflect on how you got yourself so worked up. When you notice your heart racing, head aching, or stomach flopping, reflect on what you are anxious about. What are you interpreting as a threat to you or someone you care about? Bringing this into your awareness is the first step to accessing those calmer thoughts.

Step 2. Sort Worry from Reality: People can worry about almost anything and be convinced that their worry is true. It’s important to know the difference between your worry (anxiety = what if) and reality (fact = what is), so you can eventually choose which one you want to think and act on.

For example, your tween daughter comes home concerned about an argument she had with her friends on the playground. You worry that her friends won’t treat her well, and that your daughter can’t handle the problem without your help. The reality is friendships change and you can’t do much about what goes on during recess within your tween’s social circle.

Before you start to give your daughter advice, she tells you how she plans on handling the situation the next day. She just gave you evidence that she is prepared to handle the problem herself, and doesn’t need adults to step in. She just wants you to know what is going on, and needs a warm hug and ear to hear her out.

Step 3. Make a Choice: In this example, you have identified your worry as the following what if: unsure your tween can handle her own problems and wanting to protect her. You also identified the reality as the following what is: your tween has given evidence that she doesn’t need an adult to help her manage the social problems. You could very easily hold onto both of these ways of thinking about the problem,  and stay worried about something you can’t control.

Or you can choose which way you want to think about the problem, so you don’t have to absorb emotional responsibility for something you can’t change in the future. If you choose to only think about the reality of the situation, you will be freeing yourself from holding onto the worry. In that moment, you choose to focus on the facts of reality more than your anxiety about social threats, you set yourself free from worry.

Step 4. Confirm Actions Match Choice: This step can naturally happen once you choose to focus on reality, not worry. But other times, you will need to identify how your actions match the choice in thinking you just made.

For example, if you are choosing to focus on how you think your tween can learn to manage her own social problems, but start giving her advice. Then you just fell back into worry and unsureness. It’s easy to pick a worry back up when your actions don’t match your calm thinking. Instead, identify how your actions can match your thinking about the problem.

Most people skip steps, and try to act less worried. But it is our thoughts and choices that determine how we act and interact. It isn’t until you make a choice on how you think about the problem, that you are able to calm yourself down and liberate the worry.

Which step do you have more trouble with when you try to manage your worry?

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Marci offers face-to-face counseling services in the Kansas City, MO area and is available for coaching via Skype. If you are stuck trying to ask those calm thoughts, so you can manage your worry better, Schedule an appointment today.

Photo Credit: Merry-Go-Round by Ronald Meriales

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