Untangle Your Web Of “What Ifs”
Worrying happens sometimes. But when it begins to consume your thoughts, it’s time to take action. Learn about different anxiety disorders and how proper planning, positive reminders, and medication can help.
Worrying can be a good thing.
It can motivate you to make changes or accomplish an important task. But if you find yourself tangled in a web of “what ifs” spun out of concerns, anxiety, and negative thinking, you could benefit from some advice on how to stop worrying.
Here is an eight-step plan that will help anyone who worries too much. You may not use every step, but every step should at least be considered in order to learn more about ways to reduce anxiety.
- Identify a pattern or diagnosis. Look at the forest instead of the trees. Is there a pattern to your worrying? For example, do you worry all the time, even when others tend not to do so? Do you often explode at others when you worry? If so, your worry might fit a specific diagnosis.
- Educate yourself. If your worry leads to a specific diagnosis, such as generalized anxiety disorder, learn as much as you can about that condition.
- Trump negatives with positives. Talk to yourself in a positive way. Most worriers talk to themselves in half-phrases of imagined doom. Telling yourself, “I know I can complete this project as soon as I sit down” is more effective than saying, “I never seem to be able to finish anything!” If you start thinking negatively, do something to distract yourself, such as whistling or singing.
- Plan away your worry. As worry sweeps over you, take action rather than sitting on your hands.
- Create a plan to address your worry by evaluating the situation and formulating a response. Since worry comes from feeling vulnerable and powerless, ask yourself how you can reverse the situation. For example, if you worry that you might not be able to find a job, sit down and write out a specific plan for doing so.
- Connect with people and with Mother Nature. People with ADHD often feel isolated, and that can add to worry. Talk with or visit family and friends, volunteer with an organization, get out into nature — connections that will make you feel a part of something larger than yourself.
- Shake up your brain. One way to reduce worry is to change the physical dynamics of your brain. Exercise, listen to music, breathe deeply, pray, get more sleep, write a letter, make a list, make love, or meditate.
- Consider medications that help worrying. Medications for anxiety and worry can be effective. They are not a cure, but they can be potent tools in a treatment plan.
- Consult a counselor. The key to using psychotherapy for worry is to choose the right kind of treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy works best for anxiety, while eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy is helpful for worry caused by trauma.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):
A pattern of constant worry and anxiety over many different activities and events.
Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD):
Excessive anxiety regarding separation from home or from people to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment.
Social Phobia: Irrational fear of situations that may involve scrutiny or judgment by others, such as parties or other social events.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations, or behaviors that make one feel driven to do something.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Anxiety occurring after one has seen or experienced a traumatic event.
Paranoia: A psychotic state in which an individual cannot distinguish between the imagined and the actual.
Excerpted from Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition (Ballantine Books).
Updated on June 24, 2021