If you or someone close to you suffers from anxiety, you will recognize the vast assortment of topics that can become a source of worry. From work, to relationships, to health, to finances, to physical appearance… it seems as though everything could become an overwhelming chasm of fear and uncertainty. This post will focus on some of the areas of life individuals dwell on in the case of Generalized Anxiety Disorder or chronic worry. We will provide some examples of the most common sources of anxiety as well as some helpful tips to try and lessen the nerves and remain functional in our day to day lives.
1) Health: a major source of worry for individuals with GAD/ chronic worry, is physical health. It is so common in fact, that “Health Anxiety” and “Hypochondria (unwarranted fear of serious illness)” are recognized terms in the fields of clinical and counselling psychology. Health anxiety can truly overwhelm the mind and lead to feelings of terror, hopelessness, and panic. A good way to work at controlling these debilitating emotions is being proactive; but not too proactive. If you have a tendency to worry about your heath, work on controlling the things you can control, and letting go of the things you can’t. For example, eating well, leading a balanced lifestyle, staying active, and visiting a GP once per year are all known contributors to good overall health. If you stay on top of these things, you are being proactive about your health and this will likely pay off. There are of course variables nobody can control when it comes to health matters, but ruminating on that which we cannot control, serves only to worsen symptoms and sometimes even manifest what we fear the most. We know, easier said than done, but working on controlling this aspect of health anxiety through relaxation exercises, positive self-talk, and certain cognitive behavioural therapy strategies, can be immensely helpful. On the flip side, health anxiety could also have an opposite effect on individuals, by constituting an aversion to visiting physicians or healthcare institutions when there is a clear problem. This is of course also ill-advisable since I’m sure you all know, ignoring a medical problem could lead to it worsening and eventually resulting in a worse long-term prognosis. So, our take-home message here is to be proactive for what concerns the aspects of health we can always control, seeking medical attention when something (truly) isn’t right to increase our chances of a full and prompt recovery, and letting go of the fears we have no control over. We offer a final note; Google is NOT your friend. Avoid at all costs.
2) Relationships: ah, relationship anxiety. We’ve surely all experienced insecurities in relationships; both romantic and friendly, but when it gets excessive, it can get ugly. When your anxiety is the sole factor interfering with the health of the relationship, it can be deemed as excessive. For example, constantly seeking reassurance in your partner’s love and commitment towards you without reason to believe they might be unfaithful, constitutes an unfounded worry that can negatively impact your relationship. Often, relationship insecurity and anxiety is the result of long standing issues with attachment, potential developmental trauma, and cognitive distortions (distorted beliefs about the self and world). It is of course very difficult to break patters that have been present for years, or even a lifetime. This is why seeking professional help for relationship anxiety is often a good idea and leads to much successful long-term resolution. Otherwise, the best way to manage relationship anxiety, as counter-intuitive as it might sound, is by focusing on the self. Introspect and reflect on the reasons you may be feeling insecure, recognize them, and work on them. Focus on the aspects of yourself you are proud of and consider strengths, and remind yourself that these things make you desirable, and lovable. Nurture and take care of yourself. Investing in yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally is a very effective way to find more confidence in relationships and reduce the damaging effects of relationship anxiety.
3) Finances: let’s face it, everybody worries about money from time to time. Well, most people anyway. And if it isn’t worry, it’s ruminating over how to make more of it, keep up with the Jones’, or simply have the freedom to either work less or do more of what we love in our lives. Whatever our relationship with money might be, there are some basic tenants that must be considered for the sake of our financial well-being. Having a budget and living within our means is one of them. Regardless of whether you wish you earned a larger salary or could afford that luxurious vacation, taking care of your basic needs is obviously primary. Sitting down with either a financial advisor or another trusted and determining a realistic financial plan for yourself including a monthly budget and financial goals, can greatly improve the stress one feels about their finances. You would be surprised how many people don’t have a personal or family budget in place, and wonder where all their disposable income went at the end of each month. Once you have established a strong foundation and feel comfortable with your spending and saving plans, you will have a freer and easier mind to work on growing and reaching what you aspire for. Take care of the essentials first, and the rest will follow.
4) The Future: this one encompasses the previous three in a unique fashion as our health, relationships, and finances all represent critical components of the future. But there are other aspects of the future one can worry about independently, and it all comes down to a lack of control. We tend to worry about things we can’t control. This is where the “what ifs” live. “What if I lose my job? What if I can’t get pregnant? What if I lose my hair? What if my parents get sick? … When there is nothing we can do to influence our potential outcomes, what-ifs are toxic. They do not serve to help us problem-solve, but rather, spin our wheels and entertain all the terrible things that would accompany job loss, hair loss, bereavement, illness, pain etc. We imagine ourselves in these terrible circumstances without necessarily positioning ourselves to deal with it, but rather suffer the painful consequences before anything unfortunate even happens. Letting go is again much easier said than done, which is why a professional may need to be implicated in certain cases. So, what if you stopped worrying about the variables in life nobody has control over? You might have more energy and resources to invest in managing the variables we can control.