Dear Chronic Worrier,
It’s time for another one of my “love letters” to the world. I’ve written love letters before about giving up one’s addiction to being busy and making sure you put the oxygen mask on yourself first . This love letter is written in the same vein. Just like being busy all of the time has harmful effects on your health, so does chronic worry.
I have lived my entire life with a woman who is a self-admitted chronic worrier. Hi Mom ☺ I tease her that her love language is worry.
While I can be more lighthearted about it now, that was not really the case when I was growing up. My mom’s worrying about everything takes its toll not only on her, but on those around her as well.
Thus, it is with love that I ask you to examine your worry. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you worry every day?
- Do you tend to allow your worry to take over your thoughts so that you have trouble concentrating on other things?
- Do you find yourself worrying about things that other people don’t worry about?
- Do you feel that if you worry about something it means you care?
- Do you find yourself trying to control other people through or because of your worry? (This one may take a while to accept. And you may want to ask your loved ones what they think…)
If you answered, “yes,” to more than one of these (or perhaps even just one) you are at risk of being a chronic worrier.
And now it is time for me to say: STOP THAT!!!
I know, easier said than done. But, here are a few reasons why:
Chronic worry can lead to the same ill health effects as high anxiety:
- Raised heart-rate
Chronic worry releases the same stress hormones as high anxiety, such as Cortisol. According to Web MD (How Worrying Affects Your Body), heightened cortisol release can lead to the following:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry mouth
- Fast heartbeat
- Inability to concentrate
- Muscle aches
- Muscle tension
- Nervous energy
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Trembling and twitching
- Suppression of the immune system
- Digestive disorders
- Muscle tension
- Short-term memory loss
- Premature coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
If that lovely list is not enough to get you to think twice about how much you worry, how about this?
Your chronic worry can (and most likely does) affect everyone around you. Your loved ones and friends often suffer the emotional and physical consequences of stress caused by your worry. I have seen chronic worry end marriages, estrange parents from children and mar friendships.
Here’s an example from earlier in my life. My mom’s chronic worry became a way of life for me as well. But, I’m not naturally prone to worry. I learned it from her. In fact, she can still get very upset with me if I am not worried about something that she is worried about. I’m 47-years-old at the time of this writing – at this point in my life I have a good handle on what to worry about and what not to worry about ☺
While I may have that understanding now, earlier in my life I relied on my parents to teach me about worry and to model healthy, or as the case may be, unhealthy, ways to deal with worry. By the time I was an adolescent I was a Class-A worrier, just like my mom! And I had the anxiety and depression to go with it!
So moms and dads who are reading this. Please think about your own health when it comes to worry. But, also think about the health of those around you. Especially, your children.
Now my dear, sweet readers, that you are hopefully reconsidering your attachment to worry let’s talk about what you can do instead of worry!
Remember, Peaceful Living Wellness, is all about Mindfulness and Mindset. So, let’s look at some mindfulness and mindset tools:
SBT: Stop, Breath, Think
One of my amazing teen clients came up with a wonderful tool that she uses on a regular basis. It is called SBT – Stop, Breath, Think! When you start to worry you can stop the chattering in the brain by taking a few deep breaths. Then, think about the following questions:
- Is what I am worrying about something that I can control? If not, then there is no point in worrying.
- If yes, then ask yourself how you can take action in the least stressful way.
- For example, if your teen is struggling with a subject in school a parent will most likely worry. If you decide that the way you can control the teen is to yell and threaten them with punishment you may get the desired result of a higher grade, but you will be causing yourself and your child an inordinate amount of stress. By talking supportively to your teen and coaching them in how to have better study skills, or to seek the help of the teacher, you will have a much lower stress impact.
- Is what I am worrying about something that has to do with someone else? And if so, is it my business to be worrying about it?
- If your answer is yes it has something to do with someone else, but no it really not my business, then please just leave it alone. Send that person good wishes and be done with it.
- If your answer is yes it has something to do with someone else, and yes it is my business, figure out the least intrusive and mindful way to talk to the person about it. For example, if you have a colleague who is struggling with issues at home you may be worried about him AND it’s affecting your workload. Sit down with that colleague (and perhaps with a manager) and have a mindful conversation about how you can all work together to support him in being successful in the workplace.
These are just two examples of how to use the Stop, Breath, Think technique. But, there are many more! How can you apply this to the worries in your own life?
When I was working on my doctorate, and incurring the debt to go with it, I lived in the land of “SHOULD!” It’s a very ugly land to live in. My “shoulds” & “should nots”
- I “should” have gotten a real job and not gone straight into grad school!
- I “should not” be incurring debt to get more education!
- I “should” be putting away money for retirement and buying a house (I was in my early 20s)!
The screaming and crying in my head went on and on…
Thankfully, I very wise therapist intervened and said, “stop shoulding all over yourself.” She explained how the word should is a very loaded word and that I was burdening myself in an unnecessary way.
She suggested that I put a hair band on my wrist and snap it gently every time I think or say the word “should” to or about myself. This is a reminder and is NOT supposed to be painful! After I gently snapped the hair band to catch my own attention, I would then say a positive affirmation to myself instead of the negative condemnation of the should-statement!
For me, the combined technique of the hair band reminder AND the positive affirmation – which is one of my favorite Peaceful Living Wellness techniques – really worked to help me break my “shoulding” habit!
If you are a chronic worrier, or even just worry more than the amount that you need to get out of bed and get going every day, try out these techniques!
And don’t worry – LOL – I have lots more if these don’t work for you! Give me a call our drop me an email or PM/DM if you would like to schedule a coaching consultation to explore if Peaceful Living Coaching can help you drop your worry habit and learn easy techniques for living a life in balance and peace!
I love, love, love your comments! So, please comment away!
And as always, I am grateful for your shares!
Love & Light,