As my home country, Jamaica, recently celebrated 57 years of Independence I celebrated with them – putting on some Bob Marley music that the whole world knows and loves. One of the songs (Three Little Birds) had lines therein that inspired the title of this post. He sang, “don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing is going to be alright”. For so many of the clients I see who experience high levels of anxiety (the emotion), there is often the accompanying experience of worry (the thoughts). The combination of the two often leads to the individual’s experience of significant levels of distress and can result in a number of serious mental health concerns.
In psychology, there are different ways in which we understand the nature of anxiety and worry thoughts and there are as many varying viewpoints on how we treat with them. Anxiety is most simply defined as an internal experience of stress, which may involve feelings of nervousness, fear, worry and apprehension. It is also important to know that Anxiety is a future-based emotion – meaning that the focus is always on something that has not happened yet. You may reflect, for a moment, on an experience of anxiety (it can be recent or one further in the past) and notice that while it may have been triggered by something in that moment it was really about something that you believed was going to happen or that you believed could happen.Anxiety is an emotional experience created and made stronger by the nature of the thoughts that we have and usually these thoughts are negative.
But, is all anxiety BAD?
The truth is, some amount of anxiety can be useful in that it gives us information about things in the future that are important to us. Take a job interview, for example, and the anxious feelings about that which may arise. First, we acknowledge that the anxiety is present in this situation because of our thoughts about the future (we might be concerned about whether we will get the job). Secondly, it is giving us some information, which is that this is a job you really want, or it is important to you. Some anxiety can help us to perform well, but too much anxiety can get in the way of us being our best selves in the present.
Worry takes a toll!
Worry tends to go hand in hand with anxiety and it is the thought process, the self-talk that keeps running on a loop in our mind when we are anxious. Anxiety can also result in physical symptoms and these tend to vary across different people. Noticing what happens in your body is an important first step in coping with anxiety, because you can be alerted to the warning signs of when you are becoming anxious.
Get out of your worry loop and back into your body
To get out of the mind, sit or lie down in a quiet place. Close your eyes and feel your body – focus on where the sensations are and bring awareness to them (you do not have to do anything about them, all you have to do is notice them). Even though these sensations are not pleasant, rest assured, they want to go out. Take deep breaths. Draw the air down into the pit of your stomach, then easily and slowly release it again.
Dealing with anxiety and worry can be a challenging experience and there are different approaches and tools that can support you towards living a better quality of life. If you believe you could use support in terms of managing your own experience of anxiety and worry, contact our team at Drop of Life Psychology Clinic.
By: Matthew McKenzie, B.Sc. (Hon.), M.Sc. (Dist.)
Registered Psychologist, Drop of Life Psychology Clinic