Why do we worry? Why is it so hard to stop? These are the questions I often hear from my clients. They tell me how it affects their lives on a daily basis, how it depletes their happiness and stops them from being all they could be because of their fears. They describe this worry as an endless loop of negative, fearful thoughts that they can't seem to shake or ignore for more than a short period of time. Even when there are joyful times, they say that they can't really enjoy it because they worry about it stopping.

More and more people are worrying excessively and it is causing more and more problems. I have seen clients as young as 6 years and as old as 86 years suffering from being in this constant state of worry. What a way to live your life!

This relentless worry saps all joy and celebration that could be happening in the moment and focuses on a negative future filled with the worse possible scenario. Studies have shown that this worse possible scenario rarely happens, yet for some reason, most of these worriers hold onto their fears, falsely believing that in some way it protects them from some kind of disaster happening. The truth is the disaster is unlikely to happen because of statistics not because they are holding on to the fear, but they don't realize this and think it keeps them safe.

Where does it come from?
If you have had a parent who was a worrier, negative, perfectionistic, critical or anxious (and who hasn't had a parent with some of these issues) than you have been weaned on worry. The more your parents communicated a fearful overcautious attitude, the more the child will come to view the world as a dangerous place. When you learn that the outside world is threatening, you automatically restrict your exploration and risk taking and feel more anxious about what's out there. This also applies to parents who may have neglected you, who had addictions or who discouraged you from expressing your feelings. If you got the message that you must be careful what you say and how you say it; this message could lead to feelings of anxiety as well. As a child you wanted to please your parents. If. however, one of your parents were nervous or worried, chances are, you never completely succeeded in pleasing them which could have made you feel inadequate, like a failure and thus produced the "worry gene". Of course, your parents did not do this intentionally. They did the best they could with what they knew at the time. We are not here to blame these parents but to help you to understand where it came from.

Where else?
Another factor and big influence on creating fearful thoughts, is the world we live in, specifically the media. The media is geared to making you worry and stress. It promotes feeling unsafe and threatened, by the information it chooses to report and publicize. What do you hear on the news, the internet, the tv? Reports of ongoing disasters, murders, viruses, injustices and the probability or hint that if it hasn't touched you yet, it probably will soon. Is it a surprise that the average person thinking 60,000-80,000 thougths per day have thoughts that are mostly negative?

The truth is these anxious thoughts do not protect you. Any fear-producing thought is not a protection, it is sabotaging your happiness and not allowing you to enjoy the pleasure in your present moment. It is focused on the future and no one knows what the future will bring. Why expect the worst? Did you know that 95% of what you worry about never happens. So the people who believe that worrying is protecting them from bad things happening are giving away their joy for nothing, it's not worrying that protects you it is the fact that most of the time nothing bad is going to happen anyway. You need to learn to give up this faulty belief!

Some people call anxiety and worrying "a negative fantasy". the problem does not exist in the present moment, only in the future. Once you are focused on your present and how your life is going now and trust that the future is likely to work out, your worrying will decrease.

Here are some tips that will help:

1. Pick a time to worry, this may sounds silly but it works. Give yourself a worry appointment. "Ok, 7 p.m. tonight, I will allow myself to worry for 15 minutes". Put on the timer and start thinking or writing about all the things you worry about. Usually they are the same things you worried about yesterday, last week and 6 months ago. The challenge is that this is the only time you are allowed to worry, so for the other 23 hours and 45
minutes you have to stop yourself from worrying and say to yourself, I will save this worry for tonight at 7 p.m. People who have done this have found that after a while they don't need to make this appointment any more and can stop the worrying on their own.

2. Deep breathing. If you are taking a relaxing breath, you can't be worrying, because you are focusing on the breathing. Take 4 slow deep breaths in, hold it for 4 seconds, then let it out through your mouth to the count of 6. Do this 3 times and it will calm you down and you will feel better. You need to make this deep breathing exercise a new habit. Do it 10 times a day; in the car, in front of the mirror getting dressed, after your shower, before you make a phone call, before you walk in the house at the end of the day. You will find yourself more relaxed and calmer. People who have done this consistently have told me that they were able to stop their anti-anxiety medication. It is very powerful, if you use it.

3. Distract yourself. Call a positive friend, read a book, watch a funny movie, look at old pictures.
4. Journalling is good. Most people feel relief once they write down their fears and worries.
5. Pay attention to what is going right in your life. This will help you to start focusing on the positive.
6. Listen to music
7. Exercise is another great anxiety relaxer. Take a walk, take an exercise class, walk the dog, dance to music
8. Laugh. Watch the comedy channel, listen to a funny cd or watch a funny movie; it will put you in a happier frame of mind and lower your anxiety
9. Become aware of the thoughts you think. How many of those thoughts are negative? If you are usually feeling sad, mad, worried, nervous, scared ... you are thinking mostly negative thoughts.
10. Get busy. Work in the garden, water the plants, change the lightbulbs, file away your papers, organize your drawers.
11. Avoid caffeine. I know a lot of you need your coffee to wake up in the morning and get going, but the caffine makes you jittery and nervous, try tea instead.
12. If you are lacking motivation to do any of the suggestions, think about your children. They have a 50% higher chance of suffering from anxiety when one of their parents have it as well. It doesn't matter what you tell them or how much you reassure them; your children are sponges. They absorb all the emotions going on in the home. They can feel the tension, fear, nervousness and stress. Their personalities are formed by the age of 7, and are largely influenced by how they see their parents behave and react to situations. Don't let your legacy be a life of worry and anxiety because you weren't motivated or disciplined enough to take the time and energy to deal with your fears, this is an inheritance you don't want to pass on.

The children and young teenagers I see in my practice who are suffering from anxiety and don't know how to deal with it, are choosing some very destructive coping methods. This deeply concerns me and it should concern you as well, if you are a parent or a friend or relative of an adolescent. This generation does not only use the usual bad habits of dealing with worry by self-medicating with alcohol and drugs; they have also raised the stakes and the risks. Now-a-days on top of the drugs and alcohol they have been known to overdose on prescription piils, to develop eating disorders, becoming sexually active at a very young age, as well as to start cutting themselves which can lead to suicidal attempts. If you are concerned about your child's habit of worrying too much and are hoping they will grow out of it, they may or it may become a part of their life or worse contribute to risking their future. Can you really afford to gamble with this?

Please take the time to read this article and if you do have a problem with anxiety or worry, try the tips, they do work. If you need more one on one help, please feel free to contact me at the numbers below

Warmest regards,

Author's Bio: 

Montreal psychotherapist, Rhonda Rabow, has been involved in couple and individual therapy in the Montreal area for over twenty years. One of her specialties is offering short-term counselling with long-term results. Rhonda has a solution-focused approach. Her Montreal therapy sessions do more than offer compassion, empathy and active listening. Rhonda is a strong advocate for empowering her clients. To help them achieve this goal, she offers concrete tools and strategies that enable her clients to better manage their lives and cope with any further challenges they may experience in their lives