Am I Anxious … or Do I Just Worry a Lot?

by Sally R. Connolly, LMFT and John E. Turner, LMFT

How do you know if it is anxiety or an overdeveloped habit of worry?

Sam's worry is about his marriage and that his wife may find someone else more interesting or attractive, even though there is absolutely no reason to think that. Tom's worry is about his son and all of the possible problems that he might, and many that he might never, experience. Helen's worry centers around her relationship with her boss and constantly expects to be fired by her.

While these might be normal concerns for some people, for Sam, Tom and Helen they are worries that often keep them awake at night or cloud their thinking during the day.

Worry and anxiety, in their simplest form, are useful because they help people prepare for real or imagined fears, losses or difficult times ahead. When they becomes overwhelming, then it is time to think about doing something about it.

Medication may be the first thing that many people think about; however, if the anxiety is not crippling (losing work, school or a lot of sleep) then learning some anxiety management techniques might make a big difference and provide the opportunity to manage the worry on your own.

9 Strategies for Handling Anxiety and Worry

1. Educate yourself about anxiety. There are quite a few good websites that have a lot of good information about anxiety, is one. Recognizing that some of what you experience is normal is a step towards finding ways to caring for yourself.

2. Shift your thinking from your body and your worry to other things. Take a walk, read a book, watch a movie, call a friend.

3. Slow down on any caffeine through coffee, tea, chocolate, etc. These substances increase your heart rate and affect ability to remain calm.


4. Find a way to incorporate 30 minutes of aerobic exercise into your daily routine 5-6 days a week. Research has shown many psychological benefits to raising and maintaining an elevated heart rate.

5. Practice deep breathing. Take slow, deep breaths and slowly let them out. Notice the relaxation in your body as you do so.

6. Put your fears down on pape
and identify any that are irrational. Write replacement thoughts that are more realistic. Any time that you notice the irrational thought, change it to a more realistic one.

7. Develop some coping thoughts that you can use when these thoughts intrude into your mind like “I have made it through tough times before and I can make it through this.”

8. Stay in the present as much as possible. Pay attention to what you are seeing, hearing and smelling in the present.


9. Write in your Gratitude Journal every day. Put down three things that you like and really appreciate about your life just that day … and what you did to make a difference.