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9 Steps to End Chronic Worrying

Experts explain how to reduce excessive worrying that can have mental and physical effects. By Denise Mann WebMD Medical News Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD Are you a worry wart? A nervous Nellie? Do you constantly fret about everything and anything from your health to how you are perceived at work to whether or not a terror strike is imminent? If this sounds like you, then you may be worrying your life away. This e cessive worry doesn!t "ust affect your mental health# it also can wreak havoc on your physical well$being. That!s why %eb&D spoke with e perts about the reasons some of us worry e cessively'and ways to break this cycle and regain your life.

Who Are the Worriers?


%hy are some people so prone to (what if disease,( while others merely worry about something when it happens? There are several reasons, e plains )obert *. *eahy, +hD, the author of The Worry Cure: 7 S e!s o S o! Worry "ro# S o!!ing $ou and the director of the American Institute for ,ognitive Therapy in New -ork ,ity. (There is a genetic component,( he says. (There are also nurture or non$nurture factors.( .or e ample, people who come from divorced homes are /01 more likely to have generali2ed an iety disorder'characteri2ed by chronic an iety, e aggerated worry, and tension. 3verprotective parents tend to raise worriers as well, he says. ()everse parenting may also play a role.( This occurs when the child is taking care of the parents because they are not functioning well. (There is probably is a biological component to chronic worry, but there is also an early environment component,( agrees 4andy Taub, +syD, a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in %ilmington, Del. (The feeling of safety that !my mother will keep me safe! should be internali2ed and grow along with you so that, for the most part, you feel secure,( she e plains. (5ut if you had a mom who was not as available and not consistent, you can develop the mind$set that the world is not such a safe place.( Divorce and overprotection can also gnaw away at a person!s feelings of internal safety and security.

What Ma es !s Worry?
4o now we know who worries, but why do they worry? (+eople worry because they think something bad will happen or could happen, so they activate a hypervigilant strategy of worry and think that !if I worry I can prevent this bad thing from happening or catch it early,!( *eahy says. +ut another way6 If you didn!t worry, things might get out of hand. The worrier!s credo is that if you can simply imagine something bad happening, it!s your responsibility to worry about it. And all this worry can affect your physical as well as your mental health. %orriers tend to be overutili2ers of the health care system, meaning they see their doctor for "ust about every ache and pain, *eahy says. (%orriers are more likely to have irritable bowel syndrome, nausea, fatigue, and aches and pains,( he says. In addition, 781 of people with generali2ed an iety disorder also have an overlapping psychiatric disorder such as depression, according to *eahy.

"o #ou Worry $oo Much?


%orrying doesn!t always deserve such a bad rap. 4ometimes worry is a good thing, says 5ruce *evin, &D, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in +lymouth &eeting, +a. (If there is an actual threat then there is something to worry about,( he says. (If you run into a bear in the woods, you have something to worry about.( In these cases, (not worrying may be more of a problem than to worry.( 4o how much worry is too much worry? (It depends on the degree to which that disproportionate worry affects you and how much you are suffering and how much it limits you,( he says. (If it!s posing interference in your life or is enough of a problem or nuisance that you are distressed, the good news is there is help.(

9 Worry%&usting Steps
'o. (. Ma e a list of your worries. Identify what you are worried about, says *eahy. 'o. ). Analy*e the list. (*ook at whether your worry is productive or unproductive,( *eahy says. A productive worry is one that you can do something about right now. .or e ample, (I am going to Italy, so I may be worried about making plane and hotel reservations,( he says. (This is a productive worry because I can take action now by going online to make reservations.( 5y contrast, an unproductive worry is one which you can!t do anything about. (It is more of a proliferation of !what ifs,! over which you have no control and there is no productive action that will lead to a solution,( *eahy says. .or e ample, losing sleep and worrying about whether or not you will get cancer is unproductive. 'o. +. Em,race uncertainty. 3nce you have isolated your unproductive worries, it!s time to identify what you need to accept in order to get over them, *eahy says. -ou may need to accept your own limitations or it may be a degree of uncertainty that you need to accept. .or e ample, you very well may get cancer some day as no one really knows what the future holds. (&any worried people e9uate uncertainty with a bad outcome, but uncertainty is really neutral,( he says. (%hen you accept uncertainty, you don!t have to worry anymore. Acceptance means noticing that uncertainty e ists and letting go and focusing on the things that you can control, en"oy, or appreciate.( 'o. -. &ore yourself calm. ()epeat a feared thought over and over and it will become boring and will go away,( *eahy says. If your fear is dying of cancer, look in the mirror and say, (I may die of cancer. I may die of cancer.( 4ay it enough and it will lose its power. 'o .. Ma e yourself uncomforta,le. (%orriers feel that they can!t tolerate discomfort, but if you practice discomfort, you will accomplish a lot more,( *eahy says. (The goal is to be able to do what you don!t want to do or things that make you uncomfortable.( %orriers tend to avoid new things and situations that make them uncomfortable, such as parties or public speaking engagements. The preemptive worry helps them avoid discomfort, but if you force yourself to do the very things that make you uncomfortable, you will rely less on worry as a coping strategy. 'o /. Stop the cloc . (%orried people often have a sense of urgency,( *eahy says. (They think, !I need the answer right now and if I don!t get it then something terrible will happen.!( *ook at the advantages and disadvantages of demanding such urgency. ()ather than focus on the sense of urgency, instead focus on what you observe right now,( *eahy says. (Ask yourself, !%hat can I do in the present moment to make my life more pleasant or meaningful?!( he says. (-ou can either focus your mind on getting an answer right now or focus on improving the moment.( The latter is the better strategy. Take a deep breath, read, or listen to music to stop the clock and curtail your an iety. 'o 0. 1emem,er that it2s never as ,ad as you thin it will ,e. An iety or worry is all about anticipation. The !what ifs! are always way worse than how you feel when something actually happens. (%orriers tend to worry about things that even if they happen, they can handle it,( *eahy says. (%orriers are actually good at handling real problems.( 'o 3. Cry out loud. (The emotional part of the brain'the amygdala'is suppressed when you worry,( *eahy e plains. (The emotion kicks in later with gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue or rapid heart rate. :se your emotions# don!t try to get rid of them because when you are crying or angry, you are not worried.( 'o 9. $al a,out it. 5eside the cognitive therapy techni9ues mentioned above'which can help change troublesome behaviors' talk therapy can also help chronic worriers worry less by getting to the root of their issues. 3ften talk therapy and cognitive behavior therapy can work together, Taub says. (;ach individual needs to understand what causes their an iety or what it is related to,( she says. (If you dig deep enough and go back to the early bases, it goes away because you have gotten to its roots.(
43:),;46 )obert *. *eahy, +hD, author, The Worry Cure: 7 S e!s o S o! Worry "ro# S o!!ing $ou # director, American Institute for ,ognitive Therapy, New -ork ,ity. 5ruce *evin, &D, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, +lymouth &eeting, +a. 4andy Taub, +syD, psychologist and psychoanalyst, %ilmington, Del.

&lissing 4ut5 (6 1elaxation $echni7ues $o 1educe Stress 4n%the%Spot


8f your hectic lifestyle has got you down9 experts say relaxation techni7ues can ,ring you ,ac into ,alance:some in five minutes or less. By %enny S a#os &ovacs WebMD Medical News

Reviewed By %ona han L 'el(and, MD The kids need a ride to school, your husband can!t find his shorts, your boss has "ust scheduled an online meeting, and your best friend des!era ely needs your help'all at the same time. Is it any wonder that you can!t find a minute for rela ation? In fact, if you!re like most women, you may have even forgotten how to rela . And while e perts say that so#e stress is good for you'it can sharpen your senses and your mind'too much stress is bad for your mental and physical health. At the same time, rela ation can do wonders to restore balance in your life'and may even reduce some of the health risks associated with stress. %eb&D talked to the e perts to learn more about rela ation'and how to attain it. %hat follows are <0 on$the$spot techni9ues you can use'any time and almost anywhere'to reduce the tension in your life. (. Meditate If you!re thinking meditation means twisting your body into an uncomfortable position and uttering (oohs( and (omms( for an hour, guess again. Any repetitive action can be a source of meditation, says =erbert 5enson, &D, author of The Rela)a ion Res!onse anddirector emeritus, 5enson$=enry Institute for &ind 5ody &edicine in ,hestnut =ill, &assachusetts. This includes walking, swimming, painting, knitting'any activity that helps keep your attention calmly in the present moment. %hen you catch yourself thinking about your "ob, your relationship or your lifelong to$do list, e perts say to simply let the thought escape, and bring your mind back the repetition of the activity. Try it for "ust > to <0 minutes a day and watch stress levels drop. ). ;icture #ourself 1elaxed Is your mind too talkative to meditate? Try creating a peaceful visuali2ation, or (dreamscape.( To start, simply visuali2e anything that keeps your thoughts away from current tensions. It could be a favorite vacation spot, a fantasy island, that penthouse in New -ork ,ity'or something (touchable,( like the feel of your favorite silk robe or co2y sweater. The idea is to take your mind off your stress, and replace it with an image that evokes a sense of calm. The more realistic your daydream'in terms of colors, sights, sounds# even touch and feel'the more rela ation you!ll e perience. +. &reathe "eeply .eeling stressed evokes tense, shallow breathing, while calm is associated with rela ed breathing, says &ichael *ee, author of Turn S ress in o Bliss and founder of +hoeni )ising -oga Therapy in 5ristol, ?ermont. 4o to turn tension into rela ation, he says, change the way you breathe. Try this6 *et out a big sigh, dropping your chest, and e haling through gently pursed lips, says @oan 5orysenko, +hD, director of =arvard!s &ind$5ody ,linical +rograms. Now imagine your low belly, or center, as a deep, powerful place. .eel your breath coming and going as your mind stays focused there. Inhale, feeling your entire belly, sides and lower back e pand. ; hale, sighing again as you drop your chest, and feeling your belly, back and sides contract. )epeat <0 times, rela ing more fully each time. -. <oo Around #ou A&indfulness is the here$and$now approach to living that makes daily life richer and more meaningful,B says ,laire &ichaels %heeler, &D, +hD, author of *+ Si#!le Solu ions o S ress. It!s approaching life like a child, without passing "udgment on what occurs. &indfulness means focusing on one activity at a time, so forget multi$taskingC 4taying in the present$tense can help promote rela ation and provide a buffer against an iety and depression. +ractice it by focusing on your immediate surroundings. If you!re outdoors, en"oy the shape and colors of flowers, hear a bird!s call or consider a tree. In the mall, look at the details of a dress in the window, e amine a piece of "ewelry and focus on how it!s made, or window$shop for furniture, checking out every detail of pattern and style. As long as you can keep your mind focused on something in the present, stress will take a back seat. .. "rin =ot $ea If you!re a coffee$gu22ler, consider going green. ,offee raises levels of the notorious stress hormone, cortisol, while green tea offers health and beauty, says Nicholas +erricone, &D, author of 7 Secre s o Beau y, ,eal h, and Longevi y,hamomile tea is a traditional favorite for calming the mind and reducing stress. And black tea may be a stress$fighter, too, researchers from :niversity ,ollege *ondon report. +articipants who drank regular black tea displayed lower levels of cortisol, and reported feeling calmer during si weeks of stressful situations than those who drank a placebo with the same amount of caffeine. /. Show Some <ove

Induce the rela ation response by cuddling your pet, giving an une pected hug to a friend or family member, snuggling with your spouse, or talking to a friend about the good things in your lives, says psychologist Deborah )o2man, +hD, co$author of Trans(or#ing S ress. %hen you do, you!ll be reducing your stress levels. %hy? ; perts say social interaction helps your brain think better, encouraging you to see new solutions to situations that once seemed impossible, she says. 4tudies have also shown that physical contact'like petting your dog or cat'may actually help lower blood pressure and decrease stress hormones. 0. $ry Self%Massage %hen your muscles are tense and you!ve no time to visit a pro, try this simple self$massage techni9ue from Darrin Deer, author of Lover.s Massage and /((ice $oga- )ela , and travel straight to Den$land. +lace both hands on your shoulders and neck. 49uee2e with your fingers and palms. )ub vigorously, keeping shoulders rela ed. %rap one hand around the other forearm. 49uee2e the muscles with thumb and fingers. &ove up and down from your elbow to fingertips and back again. )epeat with other arm. 3. $a e a $ime%4ut Adults need time$outs, too. 4o when you sense your temper is about to erupt, @eff 5rantley, &D, author of "ive 'ood Minu es 0n he 1vening, suggests finding a 9uiet place to sit or lie down and put the stressful situation on hold. Take a few deep breaths and concentrate on releasing tension and calming your heartbeat. Euiet your mind and remember6 Time is always on your side, so rela . The stress can wait. 9. $ry a Musical "etour &usic can calm the heartbeat and soothe the soul, the e perts say. 4o, when the going gets rough, take a musical stress detour by aligning your heartbeat with the slow tempo of a rela ing song. And you might want to make that a classical tune. )esearch shows that listening to 80 minutes of classical music may produce calming effects e9uivalent to taking <0 mg of ?alium. (6. $a e an Attitude &rea Thirty seconds is enough time to shift your heart!s rhythm from stressed to rela ed, )o2man says. The way to do that6 ;ngage your heart and your mind in !osi ive hin2ing- 4tart by envisioning anything that triggers a positive feeling'a vision of your child or spouse, the image of your pet, that great piece of "ewelry you!re saving up to buy, a memento from a vacation $$ whatever it is, con"uring up the thought will help slow breathing, rela tense muscles and put a smile on your face. )o2man says that creating a positive emotional attitude can also calm and steady your heart rhythm, contributing to feelings of rela ation and peace.