Signs your anxiety could be making you miserable

January 29, 2015

Some amount of anxiety is normal. In fact, anxiety in healthy amounts can be useful because it propels people to address issues and problems. However, anxiety should not incapacitate you and continually keep you from living your life. Ask yourself three questions about the nature of your anxiety to discover if it is making you miserable, and take action today.

1. Do you fret over "what if" questions and issues that you cannot solve?

Example: You are in perfect health but constantly worry about dying, to the point where you rarely go out.

It is possible you are using this type of worry as an avoidance technique, so you can bypass difficult action on actual, solvable problems. It is also possible you worry about unsolvable issues because you think it helps you be more in control of situations that you have no control over. However, this kind of worrying is not effective.

Write down possible scenarios in which the issue(s) you worry about may occur and the likelihood of them taking place. Then detail which situations are more realistic and more likely to happen. Write about whether this worry is helping you and what advice you would give a loved one who has this problem.

2. If your worries are solvable instead of far-fetched, do you just continue to worry instead of taking action?

Example: You cannot sleep and your work performance is suffering because you have skipped house mortgage payments for the past few months. You dwell on a fear of being kicked out, yet you do not try to contact your lender to work out a solution. You also do not explore other living options.

It is often easier to worry than to take action. Worrying is contained to your head, while taking action often makes a problem feel more tangible, solid and real. Start taking action today. List each and every potential answer to a problem. There is no need to be a perfectionist; do not censor your brainstorming. Analyze your list and formulate a proactive approach to your problem. Then do something about it.

3. Do you worry in black-and-white extremes, following strict standards for yourself?

Example: You get one answer wrong on a test, and while you still earn an A, you label yourself a complete failure.

In such situations, keeping a "worry diary" may be helpful. Get your worries off your chest and let the diary carry their burdens. Socialize with people who make you feel good about yourself, and decrease time with people who sap your energy and stress you. You may also need to better assert your needs and set firmer boundaries with certain people.

Part of decreasing excessive anxiety is identifying it. While it does not go away overnight, reframing problems in more realistic terms helps. Counselling is also valuable.

Signs your anxiety could be making you miserable
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