Although most of us wish that we could live a stress free life, the truth of the matter is that some stress is good for us. The brain is biologically hard-wired to be anxious under the right conditions. This anxiety is a safety precaution for us to understand and do something about imminent danger, plan for the future, or make bad situations better and so on. The trouble chronic worriers face happens because this delicate balance is off kilter causing them to be anxious all the time, or anxious at times when they really shouldn’t be.
Some people are natural worrywarts
Have you known people who if they had nothing to worry about would find something to worry about? Some of these worriers are suffering from mental disorders such as general anxiety disorder, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or panic attacks. Other worriers are just neurotic and need to calm down.
Excess worrying leads to anxiety and stress and effects us not only psychologically, but physically as well. Constant worry triggers the release of stress hormones such as cortisol, GH and norepinephrine into our bodies. These hormones trigger biological responses that can make us feel ill, vomit, and even mimic a heart attack (chest palpitations).
How to tell if you are worrying beyond what is considered a normal reaction to life’s stressors
If you find that all you do is worry, or that your constant worrying is preventing you from doing the things you want to do in life, or is actually taking over your life, you are worrying way too much. Worry should be an emotion that rarely happens and is triggered by a major life stressor such as worrying over a child that has not come home at the designated time and you do not know where you child is at the present moment. Worry in this situation triggers the response of looking for your child; a perfectly healthy response.
If you have panic attacks, you are worrying too much. The symptoms of panic attacks include feeling terror, feeling like you are going to die, rapid heartbeat or pounding in the chest, a feeling of heaviness,in the chest, chest pains, clammy hands and trembling body, tinkling in the hands and feet, and feeling lightheaded.
You are worrying too much when you seem to worry about every single detail in your life. This generalized anxiety is debilitating; preventing you from remaining calm and enjoying life. Excess worrying can sap all the energy out of you and make you feel tired and or sick all the time.
You may have tried deep relaxation techniques or stress management techniques that you have learned from friends or found over the Internet. Sometimes these self help techniques are all that you need, but sometimes they don’t seem to be enough. The answer may be that it is your thinking that must be changed in order to avoid stressing out all over again.
This is where cognitive psychologists, therapists, and counsellors can help you. Mental health professionals can help you by designing a program unique to your specific needs.
Anxiety reducing techniques widely used to help worriers calm down and cope with life’s stressors
Cognitive therapy trains the worrier to recognize the importance of the way they think about the situations that happens to them. It also teaches them to recognize when they are worrying, and to differentiate between what is a real concern or rational worry and what is an irrational worry. For example, if your ten year old son is missing for 5 hours that is a rational worry. However, if your 10 year son is with a responsible adult that you trust and is late by 10 minutes then in this situation the worry is premature and therefore an irrational worry. Things happen in life and people can be late. Cognitive therapists will help you to see the difference between rational and irrational worries and help you to stay calm most of the time.
Behavioral therapy controls the ways the body reacts or responds to worry. This approach teaches deep muscle relaxation. Muscles tend to constrict when a person is anxious or worried. Behavioral therapy will teach deeps breathing to relax the muscles. Behavioral approaches will help lower elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
Relaxation therapy combines behavioral therapy with our thinking processes. It trains worriers to divert their attention from their worries unto pleasant things, such as thinking about a favourite memory, or a relaxing scene.
Desensitization techniques are used as part of behavioral therapy techniques. Desensitization is important for people who suffer from phobias and people who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. Sufferers are gradually exposed to what worries them so that they can eventually overcome their fear. For example, people who are afraid of going outside of their home, may first learn to open a window and look out. They then might learn to open their door and just stand there. The next step might be to walk to the end of their driveway and back, then walk down the street and back and so on.
Finally, anti anxiety, antidepressants, and psychotherapy may be needed in the most extreme cases.