Is your worrying habit, more than just a habit?

Is your worrying habit, more than just a habit?

“Worried about missing your flight every single time? Constantly thinking about deadlines or things to do? The thought of unexpected guests turning up at home sends jitters down the back? Or is there a constant sense of nagging of something not going right all the time?”

Most of us tend to worry about something or the other- something or the other, ‘not everything’. As per the Cambridge English Dictionary, “to worry is to think about situations in an unpleasant manner that makes a person unhappy or frightened”. Everyday incidents from our life can be a cause for worry. And it is but natural to worry. After all, a little amount of worry or concern, as it can be more aptly said, is crucial for survival. For example, a student appearing for his / her board examinations will be worried about their performance and results thereafter. A wife whose husband has not returned home at the usual time without any prior information is going to worry about his whereabouts. However, the problem occurs when one finds themselves worrying all the time. For example, the student appearing for his board examination is always thinking only about his/her exams, to the extent that they stop enjoying family time and is not able to even concentrate on studies. A wife whose husband works a long commute away from home and often gets stuck in traffic gets worked up about his whereabouts even with a 10-minute delay.

Worrying, as already implied above, is a common trait exhibited by all of us at some point or the other, but if one finds themselves worrying about anything and everything under the sun, it is probably more than just a “habit”. The basic difference between a “worry” which can be labelled as “concern” versus worry, which is debilitating and borders on being labelled anxiety is the functionality/dysfunctionality of that thought. When the worry is excessive and unwarranted for a particular situation, it is time to probe further.

The mental health condition to consider if there is a pattern of worrying is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It is a condition where the anxiety or worry is due to an apprehensive expectation about something going wrong, for instance, leaving lights on at home while away at work, reaching work late, missing an appointment, luggage getting lost in transit while travelling, etc. The worry is also associated with physical/emotional symptoms such as restlessness, being on the edge, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, mind going blank, irritability, muscle tension, disturbances in sleep & appetite, etc. It is also extremely important that the individual is unable to control the worry, even if they understand that this worry is misplaced. 5.8 % of the Indian population suffers from GAD (Trivedi & Gupta, 2010). Research by Sahoo & Khess in 2010 found the GAD rates to be 24.4% amongst young Indian men. These stats sound alarming but reflect the grim reality of the prevalence of generalized anxiety in our country and yet not being recognized!

How to, therefore, decide when to seek professional help for worrying? Here are some quick questions to ask

1. Am I worrying more in days than in a week/month?

2. What are the things I am worried about? Is it logical to worry about them?

3. Am I constantly worrying about something, even when I shouldn’t?

4. If the thing I was worried about turns out to be fine, do I find something else to worry about?

5. When I try to control this worry, am I successful?

If the answer to any of the above questions is in the affirmative, it would be advisable to visit a mental health professional. The professional will help you in developing healthy coping strategies to deal with the constant worries, apprehensive expectations, improve logical thinking and much more, using research-backed therapy techniques.

There are several things that one can do by themselves to control the tendency to worry excessively:

Relaxation strategies:
Time & again the efficacy of relaxation methods has been reiterated as the best way to counter a worrying tendency. Just 20 minutes of deep breathing is effective enough to help control worries and anxieties. Mindfulness as a way of living and mindfulness meditation is very beneficial as well.

Worry time:
It helps if we schedule a designated time in the day to worry about whatever it is which is troubling the mind. This way, when thoughts randomly strike throughout the day, one can just remind themselves that the thought will be addressed later.

Be busy:
It is said that an empty mind has the worst thoughts. So get going…be busy both physically & mentally.

Any kind of physical activity releases the happy hormone- serotonin, which is an antidote to the stress hormone- cortisol (the culprit behind all the worries).

While sometimes worrying may be out of one’s control, if it has become a habit, then it is time to assess the severity of this habit and take some actions. A stress-free happy mind is a healthy mind!

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