In this video, I discuss anxiety and worry. Although these are common symptoms in life, excessive worry is not. Worry is like blood pressure: you need a certain level to live, but too high a level can hurt you. When worry becomes toxic, it ceases to serve as the useful built-in alarm system nature meant it to be and becomes instead a painful problem in itself. As a car alarm system that won’t shut off, our human alarm system can drive its owner crazy – and get him or her into trouble – when it won’t silence itself.
In order to set fear far enough aside for us to be able to act creatively and boldly, we need to find a method, other than denial, for doing so. So what do we do? What is a reliable non-medication method for controlling toxic worry? The 3 steps outlined in this video are something we can all use.
- NEVER WORRY ALONE! Toxic worry is rampant because people are so disconnected. We’re connected electronically, but we’re disconnected inter-personally. Our prime antidote to toxic worry is another person.
Remember that everyday with my just released “Never Worry Alone” mug.
Watch the video for Tips #2 & #3 and to learn more about anxiety and toxic worry.
Worry Hope and Help for a Common Condition offers the perfect antidote to fear, nervousness, and prevalent feels of anxiety.
Remember: All worry is not bad. Identify all the things you worry about and separate out the toxic to your health worries from good worry. Good worry amounts to planning and problem solving. Toxic worry is unnecessary, repetitive unproductive, paralyzing and life-defeating. If you’re suffering from toxic worry, in addition to consulting with your family doctor, be sure to consult with experts in other fields. Some options below:
The Hallowell Centers treat: Anxiety (worry, panic attacks, headaches), depression, phobias and more.
Learn more about Depression here.
Anxiety–or what I call “toxic worry”–is rampant among children these days. Ask any school teacher and she or he will tell you that kids are worrying far more than they did just a decade ago. Not necessarily rising to the level of a diagnosable anxiety disorder, like obsessive compulsive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, toxic worry nonetheless is really bad for a child’s health, school performance, and sense of well being and security in the world.
These kids really do need help. Aside from obvious signs, such as a child sharing many worries with others, or complaining of various somatic complaints or missing school due to minor illnesses, here are some less obvious signs that your child–or any child–may be suffering from toxic worry.
1. The child just “isn’t himself” or “herself”. Nothing specific, but the sparkle has left the eyes, and the usual buoyancy has sagged. The once-happy child has been replaced not by an obviously unhappy child, but a child who is not the formerly overtly happy child.
2. The child is not sleeping soundly, and wakes up tired.
3. The child is unusually clingy, not wanting to be left alone when normally he or she is fine alone, and has trouble going to bed without being tucked in or read to.
4. The child asks many questions about the state of the world, the health of parents and relatives, the health of the family pet, and the state of parents’ marriage (when normally the child does not ask these questions).
5. You notice little cuts, bruises, and other marks that could be the result of the child picking at his or her skin, or you notice fingernails bitten down to the quick.
6. The stories the child writes for English class at school reflect a dark or apprehensive tone or describe impending doom or bad times.
7. In repose the child looks worried or apprehensive. When asked what he or she is thinking, the reply is, “Oh, not much.”
8. The child develops various superstitions, not to the level of OCD where the superstitions have to be obeyed, but just little new habits, like wanting to triple check that the doors are locked at night or that the toothbrush is thoroughly rinsed out.
9. The child spends inordinate time in escapist activities, like on-line games, fantasy literature, or science fiction movies.
10. The child does not volunteer for new activities, new trips, new adventures, or even to try a new restaurant, wanting instead familiar people, places, and routines.
What a parent, teacher, or other caring adult can do is follow these three steps, which are my carry-it-with-you-everywhere first-aid kit for toxic worry:
1. NEVER WORRY ALONE. This motto should be emblazoned on every person’s brain, regardless of ago. Connecting with a trusted other is BY FAR the best immediate remedy for toxic worry.
2. Get the facts. Toxic worry is usually rooted in lack of information, wrong information, or both. Do whatever you need to do to get the actual facts.
3. Based on those facts, and with the person you turned to to worry with, MAKE A PLAN. When you have a plan you feel more in control and less vulnerable. Toxic worry derives from feeling low on control and high on vulnerability, so when you reduce feelings of vulnerability and increase feelings of control, you reduce toxic worry. Making a plan does this. If the plan does not work, you revise the plan. That’s what life is all about, revising plans that didn’t totally work.
Learn how the Hallowell Centers Can Help You.
While a healthy level of worry can help us perform efficiently at work, anticipate dangers, and learn from past errors, excessive worry can make an otherwise sane person seem crazy, devoid of sound judgment, peace of mind and happiness. So how do you curb the anxiety associated with stress and toxic worry?
First, it helps to understand what I call the basic equation of worry. This is a good way to conceptualize where toxic worry comes from:
Heightened Vulnerability + Lack of Control = Toxic Worry.
The more vulnerable you feel (regardless of how vulnerable you are) and the less control you feel you have (regardless of how much control you actually have), the more toxic your worrying will become. Therefore, any steps you can take to reduce your feelings of vulnerability and/or increase your feelings of control will serve to reduce your feelings of toxic worry.
But how do you stay out of the paralyzing grip of toxic worry? If you’re walking through a minefield, how do you not feel so afraid that you can’t take another step? You need a plan. When you have a plan, you can turn to the plan for guidance, which immediately makes you feel as if you are less vulnerable and more in control whether you are or not. So whether the danger you perceive stems from the poor economy, a concern about your children, or a mole on your forearm that you think might be melanoma, you need a method to keep your fear from running wild so you can systematically dismantle the problem and take control.
10 Tips for Controlling Worry
- Never worry alone. When you are alone, toxic worry intensifies. So talk to someone you trust – a friend, your spouse, a colleague, a relative. You often find solutions to a problem when you talk it out with someone. The mere fact of putting it into words takes it out of the threatening realm of the imagination and puts it into some concrete, manageable form.
- All worry is not bad. Identify all the things you worry about and separate out the toxic to your health worries from good worry. Good worry amounts to planning and problem solving. Toxic worry is unnecessary, repetitive, unproductive, paralyzing, and life-defeating.
- Get plenty of vigorous exercise. Exercise is an anti anxiety agent and reduces the accumulated noise and helps relax you.
- Repeat the mantra “I’ll fix what I can and, then I’ll put the rest out of my mind,” when you feel anxious thoughts emerging.
- Add structure to your life where you need it. Often disorganization, poor time management creates anxiety. To help get you on track and calm your stress, consider hiring an organization coach. BLUBERYL.org empowers individuals to identify, organized and master their organization skills. The National Association of Professional Organizers is another resource for finding coaches.
- Reality – test your worry. Regain perspective. Share your worries with someone who should know if what you are worrying about makes sense or if you have exaggerated it. So many of our problems are the result of overactive imaginations.
- Use humor. Make friends with amusing people, watch a Marx brothers movie, tune into Comedy Central or a humorous sit-com. Humor restores perspective; toxic worry almost always entails a loss of perspective.
- Get plenty of sleep. One good way to fall asleep naturally is to focus on counting your breaths. Inhale on 2-3 counts and exhale on 5-6 counts. This relaxes you and gives you something neutral to think about.
- Avoid watching too much TV or reading too many newspapers and magazines.
- Get regular doses of positive human contact (connect – the other vitamin C.) Avoid doses of negative human contact. In other words, try, as much as you can, to be around people who are good to you and not be around people who are not.
Listen to Dr. Hallowell’s Podcast discussion on Worry.
For a dose of optimism, listen to Dr. Hallowell’s Podcast on “If You Believe It, You Can Do It!”
Adapted from: Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition
Edward M.Hallowell, MD, Ballentine, 1997