Are you drowning in your own thoughts?
Are you struggling to sleep, as your mind won’t let you switch off?

Everybody worries from time to time. Perhaps you might be worrying about meeting a deadline, completing a task, whether your child’s strange rash may be something more, or whether you are able to cope with your finances.

How to we distinguish everyday thinking or typical worry from worry that has become frequent, uncontrolled and problematic within its own right?

can't sleep tips worrying

Typical worry tends to be short-term, mild and less widespread. For example, you may worry in response to a particular stressor in your life, such as losing your job. However, the worry subsides once the stressor has passed, i.e. you find another job.

Problematic worry however becomes evident when you frequently review future events, ponder the worst-case scenarios and exaggerate the negativity and severity of those events.

Upon reflection you may just feel you are being cautious; however, it is helpful to check in to see if your worry has become problematic in your life?

Our checklist of Problematic Worrying

  • You feel your worrying is out of control. E.g. lying in bed awake at night, worrying about everything you need to get done, unable to switch off!
  • You chronically worry most days.
  • You worry about many different aspects of your life such as day-to-day tasks, your family’s health and safety, your work/university/school performance, terrorism, world occurrences, checking your child is okay, etc.
  • You find it difficult to concentrate and sleep. You may even feel tense as a result of the constant worrying.
  • It is beginning to interfere with your life. You avoid feared situations and procrastinate on getting tasks done because you are too afraid to face them.
  • You feel distressed, upset and overwhelmed by the constant worrying.
  • You may find yourself engaging in certain behaviours to alleviate your anxiety. E.g., spending countless hours researching options before making a decision, seeking reassurance from others that everything will be okay or constantly check i.e. that your infant is breathing every few minutes when they sleep.

If you have checked these boxes then you would know that after engaging in these behaviours you feel less anxious for a little while. What we know however is that it isn’t long before that sneaky doubt begins to creep back in, “But what if…?”. This in turn then leads to further worrying, researching, reassurance-seeking and checking. What a vicious cycle!

Tips to better manage your worrying tendencies:

  1. Ask yourself if what you are worrying about is something you can control? If so problem-solve, DON’T WORRY! Think of potential solutions then examine the pros and cons of each to determine the best solution to implement.
  2. Ask yourself if worrying for the next 10 minutes about a particular problem will make it any less likely to happen? If the answer is “NO”, there is no need to chase that thought any further. Remember that worrying gives you a false sense of security.
  3. Always remember that you have a choice. You can choose to live your life focusing on the possibility of a catastrophe occurring, or you can find evidence as to the realistic probability that it may or may not occur. Neither will make you safer, but you will feel a lot less anxious focusing on a true probability rather than a false given!
  4. Try setting up a “worry time” (5-20 minutes) each day for you to do all your worrying within. Outside of the “worry time”, practice postponing your worry. This will help to contain your worry. The WorryTime App created by ReachOut can provide assistance with this technique.

If you feel that your worry is out of control and causing interference in your life, think about seeking additional support to assist with managing your thoughts. With the right support, we can help you to effectively gain control over your worrying, so it does not control you. You will be sleeping more soundly, thinking more clearly and feeling less stressed before you know it.

Written by Chantelle Martyn – Psychologist –