Live Well: Toxic Worry

Live Well_ Dont Worry“How would your life be different if… you stopped worrying about things you can’t control and started focusing on the things you can? Let today be the day… you free yourself from fruitless worry, seize the day and take effective action on things you can change.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

 Dr. Edward Hallowell, psychiatrist and author of Worry, argues that while “Worry serves a productive function,” anticipatory and dangerous worrying – which he calls “toxic worry” – can be harmful for your mental and physical health. He claims that “Toxic worry is when the worry paralyzes you,” whereas “Good worry leads to constructive action” such as taking steps to resolve the issue that is causing concern.

 Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo states that “being concerned is one thing, but if you’re like many perfectionists, it’s easy to take worrying to a toxic level! Toxic Worrying not only poisons any happiness in your life – it’s behind many unwanted health problems, including: depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder, phobias and paranoia.”

  Worry is meant to guide us not to control us. If we allow ourselves to relax and look at a situation from all sides, we can begin to break it down into smaller components.  Allowing ourselves the time to distinguish between what elements are in our control and letting go of the ones we cannot control or change can help reduce our stress level and help us make more informed decisions.  

 Developing a plan: self-care and self-awareness are essential for our overall wellbeing and help us to stay focused on our goals. Staying in touch with our inner self helps us to recognize our triggers and the resulting physiological symptoms. Some techniques that can help address the symptoms are relaxed breathing, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation and other mindfulness exercises.

 Once you are feeling relaxed and focused consider completing a Worry Thought Record available on PsychologyTools.com. This thought record helps you to identify the situation, the resulting worrisome thought, your predictions, emotional intensity, what evidence you have to support your predictions and allows you to rate how likely your predictions will occur based on your beliefs.  PsychologyTools.com also provides a number of worksheets to help address some of the unwanted health problems mentioned earlier in the article.

 It is also very important to remember that you do not have to face this challenge alone.  Asking for help is a sign of strength, we are, after all, only human and therefore have limitations as to what we can handle based on our own personal experiences.  It is very important to grow your support system. The Saint John Human Development Council provides a list of community resources and support services on their website (sjhdc.ca). Jennifer Fudge-Marsh BA, MACP.    0008