At any given moment, there's probably at least a handful of things you're worried about: your job, your relationships, your safety, your health, the President, global warming, your bank account, whether or not you left your straightener on — just to name a few.
Worrying can be totally normal, and you may feel like it's almost ingrained in your personality. But there's a fine line between worrying because that's how you deal with stress, and being so worried that it affects your daily life. Knowing the difference is key to feeling a little less tense.
If you worry all the time, excessively, or to the point where it interferes with your day to day life, then it can be a sign or symptom of something bigger, such as an anxiety disorder, explains Ken Goodman, LCSW, member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. People with generalized anxiety disorder will worry constantly about things that most people don't worry about, and feel like they're unable to control their worries, Goodman says. For example, you might worry so much you can't sleep or eat, or your worrying might start to mess with your relationships, says Amy Morin, LCSW, a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.
Interestingly, many people tend to dismiss their own anxiety as harmless worrying, Goodman says. "They think of themselves as 'a worrier,' and that it's just who they are and who they'll always be," he says. In some cases, people might try to ignore their symptoms or minimize the impact it has on their lives, according to Morin. Many people with anxiety wait years — decades, even — to get help, but anxiety disorders are actually the most treatable mental health issue, she says.
So, how can you stop worrying so much? Well, cognitive behavioral therapy can be hugely beneficial, because it helps you identify unhealthy thinking patterns and teaches you strategies to reframe your thoughts, Morin says. For example, if you're someone who tends to ruminate about "what if" scenarios, that can reinforce your anxious thoughts. Through therapy, you can learn how your mind typically drags you into the future or creates worst-case scenarios, Goodman says. And ultimately, you'll learn how to stay in the present instead of convincing yourself that your worries reflect reality.
But it can also be helpful to accept that you have anxiety, because many people worry about worrying, Morin says. "They think if they're worried that something bad might happen, it must be a sign that they're doomed," she says. The truth is that anxiety is a normal emotion, and sometimes you need to be reminded of that. "It's meant to keep you safe — if you didn't have any anxiety at all, you wouldn't look both ways before you crossed the road," she says.
For some people, it can be productive to literally schedule a chunk of time in their day to worry, Morin says. "Then, when they have anxious thoughts outside of that time, they remind themselves they'll worry during their scheduled time only," she says. This might seem ridiculous, but it can be a helpful technique that prevents worrying from wrecking your entire day, she says.
So, if all this information now has you worried that maybe you're worrying too much, take a moment to accept it and figure out how you're going to find some relief. It's possible — don't worry.