If you struggle with anxiety, then there is a good chance you will also know what it is like to worry. Whilst the experiences of both are slightly different, they often go hand in hand and it is sometimes impossible to see where one begins and one ends.
Whilst we can have a physiological response to worry (a knot in our stomach for example), worry begins as a form of thinking and just like anxiety, not all worry is bad.
Worrying can be useful and show us where we need to focus our energy for example, you begin to worry about an exam that you have next week. This not only indicates that you care about the outcome, but it also can motivate you to knuckle down and do some more revision.
We can think of worrying as our brains problem solving tool. When we present our brain with a tricky problem, it will resort to worrying as a way of coming up with the most appropriate solution. When the problem is then solved, we no longer need to worry. This is useful worrying as it enables us to be creative and find a solution we may not have previously seen or thought of.
However, worrying becomes problematic when we give the brain a problem it cannot solve. These are usually problems which are far outside our ability to control such as global issues or other people’s behaviours.
When we begin to worry about problems we cannot solve, the brain will still see the problem presented as something that needs fixing, but it is actually powerless within that situation, it will never be able to come to the solution and complete that worry process causing us to be trapped in a worry loop. These are useless worries.
Let’s imagine that you receive a phone call that your uncle needs an operation, you instantly receive this information as a problem that needs to be solved and so your brain resorts to worrying to come up with solutions. Unfortunately, assuming you are not the appropriate surgeon, this problem is outside of your ability to control it and so you remain worrying, frantically trying to solve the problem.
Unfortunately, we often worry about things we have no control over, which makes us feel even more out of control and therefore more anxious. This can create a loop where these different really consuming emotional states start to manifest together.
A great starting point when you find yourself in a worry spiral is to ask yourself is this a useful or useless worry?
If it is useful, take some action and you will find your worrying and anxiety lower. If it is useless, engage in a distraction and focus upon something you can take action on.
If you believe your worrying is getting out of control, please seek some help today. Of course you can reach out to your GP but there are also other resources which can help such as:
•Anxiety UK – www.anxietyuk.org.uk
•No Panic – www.nopanic.org.uk
•OCD Action – www.ocdaction.org.uk
•Employee Assistance Programme - Does your employer have such a thing? If so, you are often able to receive some confidential telephone based counselling sessions.