Self Help Tips
The need to try and control and be in control coupled with an inability to tolerate uncertainty plays a huge role in anxiety. Most people with anxiety struggle with being able to cope with doubt or unpredictability, needing to know with 100 percent certainty what is going to happen. Worrying is seen as a way to predict what the future has in store, a way to prevent unpleasant surprises and control the outcome. The problem is, it does not work.
Thinking about all the things that could go wrong does not make life any more predictable. You may feel safer when you are worrying, but it is just an illusion. Focusing on worst-case scenarios will not keep bad things from happening. It will only keep you from appreciating the good things you have in the present. So if you want to stop worrying, start by tackling your need for certainty and immediate answers.
Try asking yourself the following questions to the situation you are worrying about.
- Is it possible to be certain about the outcome?
- What are the advantages of requiring certainty, versus the disadvantages?
- Do you tend to predict bad things will happen just because they are uncertain?
- Is this a reasonable thing to do?
- What is the likelihood of positive or neutral outcomes?
- Is it possible to live with the small chance that something negative may happen, given its likelihood is very low?
Create a worry period
Learning to postpone worrying can help you to distract from the worrying thoughts. Create a “worry period.” Choose a set time and place for worrying, It should be the same every day and not too close to bedtime. During your worry period, you are allowed to worry about whatever is on your mind. The rest of the day, however, is a worry-free zone.
Postpone your worry. If an anxious thought or worry comes into your head during the day, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone it to your worry period. Remind yourself that you will have time to think about it later, so there is no need to worry about it right now. Save it for later and continue to go about your day.
Go over your “worry list” during the worry period. Reflect on the worries you wrote down during the day and use the questions above to challenge those worries. If the thoughts are still bothering you, allow yourself to worry about them, but only for the amount of time you have specified for your worry period. If the worries do not seem important any more, cut your worry period short and use the extra time to enjoy the rest of your day.
Postponing worrying is effective because it breaks the habit of dwelling on worries in the present moment. As you develop the ability to postpone your anxious thoughts, you will experience a greater sense of control.
Try not to do the following
All-or-nothing thinking: Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground i.e. If I fall short of perfection, I'm a total failure.
Over generalisation: Generalising from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever i.e. I didn't get hired for the job; I’ll never get any job. Jumping to conclusions: Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader i.e. I can tell she secretly hates me, or a fortune teller i.e. I just know something terrible is going to happen.
Catastrophising: Expecting the worst case scenario to happen.
Emotional Reasoning: The way you feel reflects reality i.e. I feel scared so I must be in danger.
Mental Filtering: Focusing on the negative while excluding the positive i.e. noticing what went wrong instead of what went well.
Labelling: Labelling yourself based on mistakes and what you did not do i.e. I am an idiot, a loser, a failure etc.
Personalisation: Taking responsibility for things that are outside of your control, i.e. it's my fault that the accident happened to my daughter I should have known it could have happened and warned her.