If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you probably know firsthand what it is like to live with constant worry. Worry is that feeling of uneasiness that occurs when your thoughts are focused on current difficulties in your life or potential problems that have not actually occurred. For example, these feelings can range from worrying about an upcoming evaluation at work to feeling worried about the safety of family members even when they all seem to be out of harm's way.
Many people who struggle with anxiety-related conditions are negatively affected by their worrisome thoughts. Frequent worrying can be exhausting and often increases your feelings of fear and anxiety. Worry can make it difficult to unwind and relax, even contributing to sleep disturbances, such as insomnia.
Given its link to anxiety, it is no surprise that worry is common among those diagnosed with panic disorder. There are certain worries that are frequently experienced by those with this condition. For example, people with panic disorder often worry about when they will experience their next panic attack. Those with agoraphobia worry so much about their physical symptoms that they are often prone to engaging in avoidance behaviors, finding it difficult at times to engage in their regular activities.
If you find yourself becoming a victim of your worries, it may be time to learn some new coping skills.
Put Your Mind Elsewhere
This tip may sound easy, but it does require some effort to distract yourself from worrying. To get your mind off your worries, try to get busy on something else. For example, you can try walking, watching television, or reading a good book.
To prepare yourself for future worrying, make a list of activities that you can do. Label the list “What I can do instead of worrying” and then underneath write down activities that will may put your mind elsewhere. Try to come up with a long list of your own. Consider what activities you can do when in different situations, such as when you are at home, traveling, or at work. Having many options listed will increase the chance of you using them when you need them the most.
A few possibilities to add to your list include:
- Do some chores inside or around the house, such as laundry or gardening
- Exercise or engage in a physical activity
- Read a book, magazine, or newspaper
- Organize your home or office
- Watch a funny movie
- Engage in a creative activity, such as drawing or writing
Talking with a trusted friend or family member can help you feel more relaxed and supported. Sometimes hearing the perspective of another person can help change your view of your worries. You may want to spend a few minutes sharing your worries with someone, but it is best to not let that be the only subject that you talk about. A good friend can help you get your mind off of your worries and onto something else. Building a support network for panic disorder can take some time and effort. However, having others to lean on may help reduce your worry.
Many people with panic disorder, panic attacks, and agoraphobia feel isolated and often find it difficult to reach out to others. If you are experiencing loneliness or are uncomfortable talking to others, try exploring your problem on your own through writing. Get a journal or simply a pen and some paper and write out your worries. When you have it all written down, you may be able to better see the big picture. Try writing down some potential solutions to your problems. Also, try to balance out your worries by writing down what you are grateful for. Sometimes when we are worried, we overlook the more positive aspects of our lives.
Practice Relaxation and Self-Care Techniques
Learning to relax is a proactive way to work towards overcoming your worries. People with panic disorder tend to have an overactive flight-or-fight response, meaning that they often approach life with a lot of fear and anxiety. Relaxation techniques serve the purpose of improving one’s relaxation response and minimizing anxious thoughts.
There are many ways to elicit the relaxation response, including progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and meditation. These techniques can be learned on your own and can help you feel calmer. Decide which strategies work best for you and make an effort to practice your relaxation techniques for at least 10 to 20 minutes per day.
Other self-care practices include physical fitness and nutrition, expressing our creativity, tending to our spiritual needs, and developing healthy relationships. Determine which activities you need to practice more in your life. Practicing self-care for panic disorder can help you live and feel healthier, which may help defeat some of your worrying.
Face Your Worries
Sometimes our worries are caused by procrastination or an inability to make a decision. If you are putting something off, worry can serve as a way to avoid facing the issue head on. However, in the long run, worry and anticipation can actually make you feel much more anxious than if you would just take care of your issue. Stop worrying by taking the steps you need to deal with the problem. You may find that by tackling your problems or projects actually decrease your feelings of worry and stress.
Davis, M., Eshelman, E.R., & McKay, M. “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, 6th ed." 2008 Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.