I’m sure you’ve had a Sunday night like this: It’s 2:14 a.m. and I’m lying in bed, wide eyed, staring at my ceiling fan circling and circling. Insomnia? Sort of — worry-induced insomnia is more like it. I lay there fretting about my deadlines for the week, wondering when I’ll squeeze in interviews…wait, is this the week the kids’ swimming lessons started? Who has the car this week? I’m never going to get anything done and then…
You probably know where it goes from here — worry is not only a time suck but a happiness suck too. It keeps you from thinking rationally. Or from moving ahead with the more positive parts of your life.
To find out more about worrying and how it affects us, I called Dr. Martin Antony, professor and chair in the Department of Psychology at Ryerson University and author of The Anti-Anxiety Workbook, to find out what we can do about worrying.
“For a lot of people worrying involves a few things going on. One involves negative predictions about things that might happen,” he says. “And the second is an attempt — and an often unsuccessful attempt — to problem solve around these negative predictions to prevent bad things from happening. People will dwell on what they think might happen but also the potential solutions to that problem.”
Antony goes on to explain that how much we worry is dependent on a number of factors including the experiences we’ve had in our lives and even our upbringing. So what to do? Here are his tips for managing the worries:
1. Do a reality check
“So ask yourself the question: what would happen if I was late for that appointment? Because often the outcomes are not as bad as they think they’re going to be,” he says. “These are cognitive strategies looking at beliefs that people had, looking at the evidence for those beliefs, challenging those beliefs and trying to come up with more realistic ways of looking at situations from lots of different perspectives instead of the anxious perspective.”
2. Force yourself to relax
“There’s good evidence that teaching people to relax the muscles of their body, teaching people to breathe more slowly and diaphragmatically, can be a useful strategy for managing worry,” Antony advises.
“There’s also emerging evidence supporting meditation-based treatment, mindfulness meditation that can be useful. (For more on meditation, click here to find out about its different forms.)
As for me, well, jotting my worries down last Sunday did the trick — that said, I love the idea of a reality check as well so I don’t have to keep staring at that fan.
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