Worrying is normal; it’s how we assess for potentially dangerous situations. But sometimes worry can take over your life, and leave you feeling overwhelmed. When that happens, you might need some strategies to let go of the worry.
You might see yourself in this story because this could be many of my clients that I’ve worked with in my Annapolis counseling practice who have struggled with worry, stress and feeling overwhelmed.
Francie was always busy. She took care of her home and her family, she worked part time, she volunteered at her kid’s school, and she was always the first one to offer to help out her friends. From the outside Francie appeared to have it all together, but what most people didn’t know was that Francie worried all the time.
She had twin girls and entering middle school, and she worried about them out in the world. She worried about her husband driving to Baltimore County on the beltway each day. She worried about her parents, who might be getting divorced. She worried about her sister, who seemed to like to have a little too much fun. She worried when her house wasn’t clean, or the laundry didn’t get done. She worried when everyone in her family wasn’t happy, and worried when she couldn’t make everything better. She worried that maybe she wasn’t a good enough mother, wife and friend. She worried about worrying too much.
We all worry. It’s part of being human, and worry can serve us well because we are ready for danger when and if it comes. But for some people, like Francie, worrying can take over their thoughts, leave them feeling overwhelmed, and they lose the joy and ease in their lives.
5 Ways To Recognize That Worrying Could Be Ruling Your Life
- Worrying keeps you from falling asleep or staying asleep most nights.
- It feels like your mind is always “on.”
- You rehash conversations, your actions or behaviors over and over again, wondering how you might have done things differently.
- When things don’t go as planned you get frustrated, angry or scared.
- You’re irritable a lot of the time.
All the worrying made it hard for Francie to sleep well. Some nights she fell asleep at 3 a.m., only to wake again at 6 a.m. Her friends and family didn’t know that she worried so much, that she often had trouble concentrating at work, and felt unfocused much of the time. She got frequent headaches and stomachaches. Sometimes she couldn’t swallow food because of the tightness in her throat.
Recently, Francie had an anxiety attack while working at her daughters’ school. She was light headed. Her chest felt constricted, and she could only take shallow breaths. She began to sweat, she saw stars, and she thought she was going to faint. This was the first time her friends knew she was struggling. She was mortified that they had witnessed her in such a vulnerable state. The feeling of losing control prompted Francie to seek therapy.
Counseling For Anxiety
Through counseling, Francie began to understand that her need for control stemmed from her learning at a young age that being in control kept the peace, and it also kept her safe. Over time, Francie revealed that her father had been an alcoholic. Francie had to take care of her younger siblings when her mother was at work. If Francie didn’t keep them under control, her father would yell at her and then at her mom when she got home. This made her mom really sad, and Francie felt she was to blame. When she was able to keep her siblings under control, things were less stressful, and she felt safer.
Counseling also helped Francie understand that her constant worrying was anxiety, and staying busy was her way of controlling it. If she was always doing something, she had little time to think about her worries, and so she filled her days with work, activities and chores.
We discussed the impact that all her worrying was having on her mental and physical health. We talked about why being in control was so important to her, and how hard it was to control everything in life. Together we came up with some strategies to help her more easily accept the natural ups and downs of life, which allowed her to let go of her need to control everything.
5 Strategies To Help You Let Go
- Practice daily mindfulness. Mindfulness means paying closer attention to what is happening right now, with openness and compassion. It keeps you attuned to the here-and-now instead of worrying about past and future events. You can read more about practicing mindfulness and self-compassion.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise releases the body’s natural “happiness” chemicals and hormones. It can also help you sleep better.
- Practice healthy sleep habits. A good night’s sleep can take the edge off, make you less irritable and activate your body’s immune system. The American Sleep Association has some great tips on how to promote good sleep habits here.
- Do yoga, get acupuncture or meditate. These alternative practices can help you relax your body and calm your mind.
- Get support. Talk to friends, family or a counselor. People often feel alone in their struggles. Sharing your experience can help you feel more connected and supported.
Achieving Emotional Balance
Through counseling and some lifestyle changes, Francie has been able to live a more emotionally balanced life. If you would like to live your life with more balance please call or email Progression Counseling for a free 15-minute consultation.
Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-340-8469.