When I was 10 years old, one of my favourite authors, Jaqueline Wilson released a new book named The Worry Website. The story centred around a website created by a primary school teacher that aimed to replace circle time and act as an anonymous place for the children to share their worries and concerns.
And whilst The Worry Website is a book aimed at children and tweens, a lot of the worries divulged by the characters are applicable to adults too. The book explores changes to family dynamics, social and domestic issues and the grapples with the relentless pursuit of being liked and accepted.
I, like many kids my age really enjoyed the book (Though my favourite JW book will always be The Illustrated Mum FYI) and I resonated with it especially so because I can be a real worrier. I can very easily tie myself up in knots with worry, leapfrogging from worry to worry, daily worries, monthly worries, yearly worries, worrying for the sake of it worries.
I know I’m not the only one though…But why do we do this to ourselves?
“Worry is the interest you pay on a debt you may not owe.”
After all, circumstances beyond our control will happen anyway, worrying about what could or might happen only costs us unhappiness, nevermind the other unpleasant side effects such as poor concentration, lousy quality of sleep and irritability. But yet we still consume ourselves with worry, getting caught in a perpetual cycle, torturing our minds with what if’s and maybes. Many people are hard-wired to always resort to the worst-case scenario, others are low-level worriers, everyone is different.
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Personally speaking, I have over the years, tricked my brain into thinking that if I worry about it, I’ll have less of a shock if the worst happens and I have prepared for all eventualities. I also have in the past, had some kind of superstitious feeling that if I worry about something, I’m showing someone… WHO?! I don’t know, that I don’t want the thing I’m worried about to happen. It’s all very irrational, I know.
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
How is mental health being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
With many people facing losing their businesses, have been made redundant, or are at threat of redundancy, worrying about our financial situation is probably up there with the top anxieties of 2020. In the year of coronavirus sweeping the world and devastating families, peoples health, jobs and the economy, I can only imagine that we are all worrying a lot more than we normally would – I certainly am.
In a lot of cases, the global situation has also caused people who have never suffered before, to face poor mental health for the first time, grappling with the frightening symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. According to health.org, during lockdown: “The most common issues affecting wellbeing are worries about the future (63%), feeling stressed or anxious (56%) and feeling bored (49%). I have recently been thinking more so than ever about harnessing my nature to worry. Here’s what I’ve been doing…
4 practices to try and worry less
Like many things in life, if you want to make a change, it’s going to take practice, every day. Some days you’re going to feel like you nailed it, other occasions not so much.
- Acknowledge you are worrying
It sounds silly, as the reason you’re probably reading this post is because you fully acknowledge that you worry, but hear me out. When you are consumed with worry, try to consciously acknowledge it, really sit with it a moment and only think about the worry(s). Become aware of why you are worrying, then give yourself the opportunity to think logically about why worrying won’t bring tomorrow nearer, or bring the problem to a resolution any quicker. This little exercise helps me gain that golden notion, perspective.
2. Practice living mindfully and in the present
Throughout the UK lockdown, I have kept a gratitude journal. Every day I note down what I’m grateful for, what my goals are and what my obstacles are. I have kept up to it strictly. And of course, it hasn’t guaranteed ‘magical protection’ from the knock-on effects of the pandemic such as potentially losing my job, or actually catching the virus, but it has helped me to stop spiralling out of control when I’m feeling worried. Thoughts gathered neatly in one place, is a big step for me who has a noisy brain.
3. Accept Uncertainty
Throughout the course of our lives, bad things are unfortunately going to happen to all of us. It is rational to understand that life is uncertain and crazy curve-balls will pop up when you least expect it. I try to do good, be a nice person and do all that I can to not attract negativity or bad vibes into my life, but of course, lots and lots of variables and situations are well out of my control. Life isn’t always rosy and you have to adapt and pivot to what’s in front of you.
4. Work with hard facts and react from there
It’s so easy to over catastrophise the slightest inconvenience, many of us have done it. What’s important is to review the hard facts in front of you and the ‘What you definitely do know’ points and remember that is all you can work with at present to alleviate your worry. You may find it puts an end to your spiralling and you can process things more rationally.
When I was younger, I’d write down my worries and put them in an old tissue box which I called my ‘Worry box’ it helped me to separate my worries from the present moment, almost putting them away to ‘deal with them later’ – it worked, often by the time I revisited my worry box, I’d moved on to a new worry and the old one, was history.
There’s plenty of advice out there on the internet about dealing with worry, this is just my personal outlook, but I hope it may have comforted you in some way.
Worriers – We got this!