When I was invited to be a blogger for PBS.org, as part of the upcoming series This Emotional Life, I was so honored and excited. Once those feelings wore off, I found myself obsessing about what to write. I want to sound professional, but not full of jargon, yet not condescending. I want it to be relevant and helpful. Oh my goodness! What should I write about?  So, of course, I did what many of us cyber extroverts do. I updated my Facebook status with this news and asked people for suggestions of topics for my first post.

When I was invited to be a blogger for PBS.org, as part of the upcoming series This Emotional Life, I was so honored and excited. Once those feelings wore off, I found myself obsessing about what to write. I want to sound professional, but not full of jargon, yet not condescending. I want it to be relevant and helpful. Oh my goodness! What should I write about?  So, of course, I did what many of us cyber extroverts do. I updated my Facebook status with this news and asked people for suggestions of topics for my first post. A wide range of ideas came in, but there was one common thread: worry.

Worry is so prevalent in our society. It feels like every decision is some kind of deal-breaker, from where to send your kid to school, what food to buy, and even what color wood finish the kitchen cabinets should be. We get overwhelmed. These are things you ACTUALLY have control over. Imagine when we don’t have control, such as with the economy, terrorism and swine flu.

Why do we do this? Worry is the mind’s way of having the illusion of control. It is like the mind says “Well, I can’t do anything in this situation, let me worry about it so at least I can feel like I am doing something.” We think worrying somehow keeps something on our mind so we can solve the problem. Well, guess what? Worrying drains you to the point where you have less emotional, mental or physical resources to actually generate solutions. Obsessing about the flu won’t keep you from getting it, but washing your hands just might. A little bit of stress can lead to optimal performance, while too much is damaging.

For many people, the solution may be more lavender bubble baths, prayer, meditation, exercise, vacations or decreasing caffeine. For those struggling with a true anxiety disorder, these activities may help, but not provide full relief.

You know what happens to your mind and body when you come close to being in a car accident and avoid it by inches? Your heart is racing, your chest is pounding and you worry about what could have happened. You may think about it later in the day, but generally, after a bit of time, gratitude may come over you and we move on. Someone with an anxiety disorder may spend much of their life feeling that way. Imagine how exhausting and scary that would be? How much would it interfere in your life?

People with anxiety disorders can have a more difficult time with decisions. They can’t seem to stop the tornado in their head, despite wishing they could. It can affect their sleep, appetite, job performance and relationships. In an attempt to medicate these feelings, anxiety can ultimately lead to compulsive behaviors such as drinking, overeating, overspending, hoarding and drug use, which then create their own set of problems.

The good news is that most anxiety disorders respond well to treatment. A combination of therapy to look at thinking patterns and relaxation techniques to quiet the mind and body can be soothing. Sometimes medication is needed. Ultimately, becoming aware of our thoughts, challenging anxiety, provoking assumptions and learning to be in the present is the goal. Anxiety keeps up focused on the past and worrying about the future. Staying in the present, connecting to the here and now and taking action are powerful antidotes.

Sometimes worry or anxiety is a red herring, distracting us from what we are trying to avoid. A good question to ask yourself is: If I weren’t worrying about this, what would I be thinking about? It may be that you’re feeling disconnected from your spouse, stuck in a job that feels meaningless, or not sure why you are here in the world. These are issues worth exploring. Obsessing about what others think of you – not so much. Sometimes, I find myself saying to patients what I myself most need to hear. In this case, I’ve written a whole blog post about it.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve always known that worry

    I’ve always known that worry can have physical effects but comparing it to the physical and mental stress of nearly having a car accident helps me clarify the impact that stewing all day on something can have upon me physically.  Why would I do that to myself and what am I really avoiding?  Thanks for the clarity, Paula.  Now, off to my bubble bath.

  2. Thank you for the comment! It
    Thank you for the comment! It is amazing how depleted we get from stewing. Hope you enjoyed your bubble bath!

    Paula Bloom

  3. My only expertise in offering
    My only expertise in offering a comment is 30 years of treatment for schizophrenia. The onset of my illness was an anxiety and drug abuse combination that triggered my body into reacting as it did or does.
    A lot of my problems have been related to strong memory(photographic). I needed to learn to”let go” of many things in my memory that would trigger delusional thinking.
    In a very similar way, worry triggers anxiety, by recalling and hanging onto similar triggers of “inappropriate thought.” These triggers, in my mind, set off a physical, muscular, set of reactions that reinforce the brains worry. If the physical reaction is curtailed the mental part would be easier to overcome, if one is properly trained to do so.

  4. I, and 7% of people, have a
    I, and 7% of people, have a social anxiety disorder called avoidant paruresis. People who find it difficult or impossible to urinate in the presence of others, either in their own home or in public facilities” probably have parresis. “people who have difficulty under the stress of time pressure, when being observed, when others are close by and might hear them, or when traveling on moving vehicles” also have it. This is mainly due to too much planning ahead, or worrying, on when to go to the bathroom, or what might happen when in the public restroom. For something this extreme, that affects 7% of the population, it’s strange how nothing is being done about it. All of the quotes are from paruresis.org.

  5. Oh my gosh…reading this has
    Oh my gosh…reading this has just made me realize that every problem that I’ve had over the past few years are due to constant anxiety. This has allowed me to see that I have a disorder. I’m always worrying, my eating habits have been constantly fluctuating, and it has been next to impossible for me to keep any kind of regular sleep schedule, no matter how hard I try to make one. I finally feel as though I have some control in my life…thank you.

  6. In a few short paragraphs,
    In a few short paragraphs, you have described the anxiety and worry problems to a T! I have been medicating for chronic anxiety for about 4 years now, and the meds work (thank you, modern pharmeceutical science!!).

    I have a friend who worries, and your blog helped me understand her daily state of mind.

  7. I wanted to thank you for
    I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it.Cheers for the info!!!! & This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic.
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