4 September 2021
We’ve all got used to spending a lot of time at home, without the comfort of our usual routines. We’ve spent almost two years changing how we behave and avoiding social contact. Now, as we go back into living our lives as they were before, we may still be worrying about Corona. Add to that the usual worries that come from day to day life and before we know it, we can end up spending time dwelling on what might happen. It can feel as if our minds are constantly on high alert asking “what if…?”
Some of us may have other worries too, such as how we’re going to pay our bills, if our jobs and businesses are safe, about everyones health and our children’s future.
But, the more we worry, the more we end up feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
If you’re struggling with overwhelm check out five ways to escape overwhelm.
We don’t really know what our lives will be like as we come out of the pandemic. So much is unknown, and it makes it hard to plan what to do. Above all, our minds like certainty, so facing this strange, new situation can leave us feeling stressed and anxious. And, that often makes us worry more.
It’s normal to worry when things go wrong. But spending a lot of time worrying can give the worry a life of its own. Once an idea gets in your head it can get escalate into something much bigger. What starts as a thought about, for instance, forgetting to wash your hands, can end up as believing all your family will get sick and you won’t be able to cope.
As a result, it can feel as if the same worries are repeatedly running through your head on a loop. You may find yourself worrying about getting the virus, or giving it to others, having it without knowing, not being able to work, what will happen if this carries on for longer, what will happen if…
Constant worrying has physical effects too. It can leave you feeling restless, unable to concentrate or sleep, with headaches, stomach problems and tense muscles. So, you may end up taking your frustrations out on the people closest to you, especially when you are together all day. Or, as a result, try to avoid the feelings by eating and drinking too much.
For more on the effects of stress on your body, read fight or flight – how your body responds to stress.
There are ways you can stop worry from having such a hold over you. It’s possible to learn how to cope better with uncertainty.
When I work with clients who can’t stop worrying, we develop strategies to break the worry habit.
We work in partnership to look at the role worry has in their life. While going at the clients pace, I take time to support clients to develop the skills they need to make changes. Similarly, we explore ways to relax and recharge and let go of unhelpful beliefs and habits so they can enjoy their lives.
Take Emily, for instance, a 31 year old surveyor who had just started her own business.
Emily came to see me because she was spending a lot of her time worrying and it was affecting her business and her life.
Her mind would go round and round thinking about how she would cope in different scenarios. She was also spending a lot of time worrying about what people thought of her.
Emily was finding new situations particularly difficult. More and more, she was avoiding going out in case something happened and she couldn’t cope. She was even struggling to make phone calls to her clients in case they didn’t go well.
Emily’s was starting to withdraw from more and more areas of life. She was paralysed by the “what if…” thoughts going round in her head, thinking she wasn’t good enough and frightened of making a mistake.
To avoid her thoughts, Emily was constantly busy, always trying to achieve more. Because she worried so much about getting things wrong, she was spending more and more time at work. This left her feeling exhausted and guilty about neglecting her friends and family, making her extra anxious.
We worked together over a number of weeks to help Emily to manage her worrying thoughts and anxious feelings. Now, Emily no longer spends her days worrying. She spends less time working and finds she achieves more.
These days, Emily focuses on doing the things that give her life meaning and she no longer feels anxious all the time. Emily has discovered the less she worries, the easier it is to focus on what she’s doing and the more she enjoys herself.
In Emily’s words
I was extremely impressed with the level of detail in the consultation I had with Celia.
This enabled her to personalise my sessions which had an amazing impact on me. I have suffered from severe anxiety and at one point struggled to even leave my house.
Celia helped me to identify the key thoughts and bodily sensations that occur when I start to become anxious and establishing coping mechanisms to prevent the anxiety from leading to a panic attack. She was great in explaining how these thought processes work in a simple and understandable way.
The tools that Celia has given me have transformed my mind and I am now finding my confidence again. The hypnotherapy sessions helped as I could imagine myself doing things differently and it’s great that recordings are provided so I can revisit.
I have come on leaps and bounds and cannot recommend Celia enough.
I have had medication, CBT and counselling in the past and I can honestly say that I feel this has been the most successful treatment for me.
For many of us, worrying about things that scare us is often a way to avoid feelings we don’t like. We can’t change the fact that Covid-19 is here, or other situations going on in the world today. What we can do is recognise that we’ll have a lot of anxious thoughts and feelings and try to accept them.
It’s natural to feel sad about losing our normal way of life, and to worry about our jobs or how our kids are coping.
Furthermore, research shows if we avoid our emotions, it only makes them stronger and last longer.
Breathing slowly and deeply can help you to accept any feelings or sensations you are having right now.
First of all start to breathe deeply. While you inhale and exhale, try to imagine you are a curious scientist observing what is going on inside your body. Notice the feelings, thoughts and sensations you don’t like. Try and view them with curiosity and describe them as if you are observing them for the first time. Finally, let them go.
Also, check out the benefits of body awareness for more.
Worry time doesn’t stop you from worrying, rather it helps keep it under control.
Here’s how to do it:
Helpful worries are those you can take action on right away. For example, if you’re worrying about coronavirus, making sure you wash your hands and wear a mask are most certainly helpful things to do.
Unhelpful worries are those where you can’t take action. So, thinking “What if I’ve given coronavirus to someone, what if I get ill” are unhelpful because there’s nothing you can do about them.
Firstly, decide if your worry is helpful or unhelpful. Then, if it’s a helpful worry, think of all the possible actions you can take. There’s no need to find a perfect answer, but rather to focus on what you can do, not the things that are beyond your control. Then, once you have a list of options, you can make an action plan.
Maybe actions you can take right now could include exercising, eating well, learning something new and spending time with your family. Usually, taking action helps us to feel better.
When you find yourself caught up in a worry cycle, try and interrupt the anxious thoughts so you can give yourself a break.
As soon as you notice yourself worrying, first of all, get up and get moving. Exercise releases endorphins, and as a result it relieves stress, boosts energy, and helps you feel better.
So, by focusing on how your body feels as you move, you can cut short the constant worries running through your mind. You can still do this if you’re self isolating. You could dance around the kitchen, run up down the stairs or do some housework.
Usually, the more structure and routine we have, the less we tend to worry.
All our daily activities have changed, so we need to find new ways to organise our time and boost our wellbeing. As a result, it maybe helpful to spend some time thinking about how you want to look after yourself, those you live with, and also your community.
So, as you plan your new daily routine, also try and include activities that give you a sense of achievement, ones that help you feel connected to others, and things you enjoy.
Because we spend so much time worrying, anxious thoughts can become so automatic that we don’t notice our worry anymore. Rather, it’s as if we are hypnotised by our thoughts. Mindfulness is a way we can learn to “dehypnotise” ourselves.
Mindfulness has been used for centuries as a way of stepping back from worrying thoughts. It can be done anywhere. Mindfulness involves noticing how your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, how your emotions change, and the thoughts that drift across your mind.
Meanwhile, if you get hooked by a thought, simply bring your attention back to the here and now.
Certainly, it takes a bit of practice, but it’s a skill you can learn just like any other.
Here’s how to do mindfulness.
As you focus on your breathing, you’ll probably also start to notice your worries. Rather than try and push them away, just try and acknowledge them and then let them go. Similarly, try and simply observe your thinking, without reacting or judging.
You’ll probably notice that when you don’t try to control the thoughts that pop into your mind, as a result, they soon pass.
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