• Anna Dallavalle

Why worrying does not work

We all worry occasionally and some time with good reason. Problems start when worrying gets out of hand and we become prone to imagining the worst possible outcome for most situations.

Anxiety and worry are closely linked. Anxiety can manifest itself in different form and excessive worrying is one of them. Ironically, this consistent worrying generally leads to more anxiety and people end up in a vicious cycle of anxiety – worrying, more anxiety and more worrying.

Why do we have to worry when it seems to make us feel so uncomfortable? Feelings, even very unpleasant feelings such as anxiety, serve a purpose. Anxiety, panic, and worry are all part of the way humans experience fear. Each of these aspects involves the anticipation of danger or threat. Anxiety is defined as a normal, innate emotional alarm response to the anticipation of danger or a threat and worry stimulates us to find a solution to a problem or a way of escaping from the danger.

How do we know when we worry too much? People worry to a different degree and some people will class themselves as “professional worriers” but in general, if our quality of life is compromised by our constant worrying and we seem to be on alert all the time, then it's time to do something about it. Worriers will often report some of the following symptoms: poor sleep: difficulty going to sleep and or staying asleep because of an over active mind; muscle tension and poor concentration which are the some of the typical stress responses; stomach cramps and irritability. Each of these symptoms alone can impact our quality of life but worriers tend to experience more than one symptoms and this can make their life really difficult.

How do we stop the anxiety-worry cycle? The long term solution to this problem is to understand the underlying factors of your anxiety so that you can reduce stress. In the short term, there are a number of strategies which can help address the unpleasant symptoms caused by anxiety and worry: practice relaxation exercises daily. Breathing exercises are particularly helpful and do not take long to practice. This will help both stop your racing mind and reduce your muscle tension. It is important to practice as often as possible and regularly. If the main problem is worrying in the middle of the night, some people find that keeping a note pad by the bed and writing down their worries is helpful. They can then rationally think through possible solutions at some point during the day without losing valuable sleep time.